Tips to keep in mind when writing your first novel during National Novel Writing Month

Posted on Nov 2 2017 - 7:59am by Sarah Smith

Writing a novel in a month is a feat for anyone, but busy college life can make it that much harder. Rolling through the aspiring novelist’s mind, it’s hard to figure out how to succeed when you’re focused on the “how.” In honor of National Novel Writing Month, here’s a list of how to get started with that first draft.

By Emily Hoffman

Places to write

Aside from the spots one generally goes, if time permits you, find another place to write. It can be beneficial to the writing process. J.D. Williams librarian Alex Watson calls this place a “third place.” Finding a writing spot that works for you and fits the feel for your novel helps. Try to find the locations that bring you joy and creativity. Watson suggests coffee shops and, of course, the library.

Keeping up with characters

Keeping up with the characters in your novel and what is happening is difficult, which is why Watson suggests keeping an “encyclopedia entry” to track everything about your characters, including what is happening in the story and things about the world you’re writing about.

This is as simple as getting a notebook and writing down everything about your novel, from the shade of a protagonist’s bedroom color to more complicated entries. It’s about having a singular resource to go to learn anything you want about the characters you’ve created, even the things that aren’t necessarily important to the book – they might be important to building the world you’re story in written in. 

Time management

Brittany Abbott, second-year senior majoring in Spanish and journalism, said she writes in her free time, in between classes, and while waiting on transportation. Any time she can stop and focus to write, she does. 

“Write in the little nooks and crannies that you have: before class, on the bus, if you have a few minutes here or there,” Watson said. “Set aside more time when you can. I prefer to write before bed, but I know some people prefer to do it first thing in the morning. Even if you’re doing something else, you can think about characters and scenes. Trust me, I’ve never been more productive as a writer than the times I should’ve been doing something else.”

Corey Davis, sophomore English major and author of “Ollie Way,” said that its tough to find time to write in college, but sometimes she has to put off school work and just spend a little time writing if things become fairly severe writing drought.

“Writing a novel is a slow process, just don’t stop and don’t give up,” Abbott said.

University of Mississippi Grisham Writer-in-Residence, Catherine Lacey has similar advice. Lacey said that just because you can’t finish in a month doesn’t mean you’re not a writer – it just means that’s not the way you write. Don’t get too hooked on doing things how people tell you to, but more focus on what works for you as a writer, she said.

This isn’t a get rich quick scheme – it’s a novel, so writing it will take time beyond the month of November. Don’t get discouraged and remember that the road to writing a book is a long one. Planning and recognizing the small pieces in between classes and staying focused on your writing goals will help get a draft of a novel written in a month. In the end, remember that writing the first draft is the first step to becoming the novelist you one day hope to be.