Writing a Novel in Thirty Days

Hello, all!

Happy December! It would seem that we are in the midst of the holiday season, and so here’s wishing you the best.

In my previous blog post, I talked a lot about my recent move to Virginia with my husband. Since then, we’ve been settling in and falling back into the groove of life. Admittedly, this proved more difficult for me than I imagined it would be.

Without getting into the nitty-gritty details, I have been without a day job for a while now. A filing error at my previous place of work hindered my ability to transfer into a new position in the company I had worked for on and off since I was sixteen. At first, the issue seemed like it would be fixed promptly, but one week became two, and then four, and then past that.

I made a tough call to cut my losses and look for work elsewhere. This brought me back to the drawing board with finding a job that would allow me some say in my hours, especially because I hope to get back into college next semester without having to sacrifice work. I am fortunate to have a husband who understands the situation and is more than happy to support me during all of this applying and waiting around. I haven’t found anything yet, but as I keep reminding myself, the perfect job is out there for me, I just haven’t bumped into it yet.

The good thing about this overabundance of free time is that I could dedicate that time to writing. I had a short story of mine picked up by a literary magazine and had the chance to really do some searching to find more opportunities for publication for the other pieces that I would like to see published in the future. Not only that, but the extra writing time also helped persuade me to take a crack at NaNoWriMo this past November.

NaNoWriMo, or National Novel Writing Month, is a writing challenge that was started originally in 1999. Since that time, it has grown into an international event that 402,140 participate in every November (number pulled from the 2017 statistics). The goal of the challenge is to write 50,000 words in thirty days.

My mother snapped this photo of Ashlynne in high school, writing her NaNoWriMo novel. November 2014

NaNo has always had a special place in my heart. In 2013, during my freshman year of high school, I tried my hand at the challenge for the first time as I attempted to write my first full-length novel. The book has yet to see the light of day since then, but it proved to me I was capable of doing crazy things with my writing if I put my mind to it, and that lesson has stuck with me.

I’ve tried to do NaNoWriMo annually, but these last few years I definitely slacked off. I would start the first few days with every intent to finish a book, but much of my time was being eaten up by Haywood Micaye, and I had trouble justifying starting a new project when I had work to be done still. That, coupled with life generally getting in the way, meant I didn’t do much with NaNo at all for a long time.

I had toyed with the idea of participating all October. In an earlier post, I mentioned that I had started work on my second novel. I began work at the start of the summer and had several false starts on it as I tried to determine where the best place to start would be, how to start it, how to make my characters interesting… The typical first draft stuff. It had been a while since I had worked on a long-form project and the touch and go feeling left me a little disheartened and wondering if I would ever get the darn thing done.

Two days before the start of November, though, I made the commitment to NaNo. I took the time to do some more research I had been putting off for Novel #2. I did some reworking on the novel’s outline, and on November 1st sat down to start writing.


A gift from the Hampton Roads NaNo group: my very own Plot Bunny, to help inspire me as I write.

I had more fun in November than I had had in a long time. It took a few days for me to fully relax into the groove of the book, but once I did, the writing followed. There were days when I did not want to work but forced myself to hammer out a thousand words anyway, and there were days when the words flowed like mad. This year, I took the opportunity to go to an event or two a week to meet up with other people in the area also participating in NaNoWriMo. The events encourage writers in the same area to meet up and encourage one another as they write, so I joined the NaNo Writers of Hampton Roads this year and wrote with them. We met in cafes, libraries, and occasionally churches, alternating between word sprints (seeing how many words you can write in a set amount of time) and working a little more leisurely, all the while making new friends.

The diversity of the people I met really amazed me. I met full-time authors, people who were still new to writing, and everyone in between. It was fun to be surrounded by so many other people who were passionate about their projects and writing in general.

I hit 50,000 words on November 16th, a wonderful achievement in and of itself, but even at 50k my novel was nowhere near done. I dedicated the rest of the month to try to finish the whole project.

November 30th came and went, and while I made it closer to “The End”, I’m not quite there yet.

At the end of the day, I am proud of the work I have done. Even if the book isn’t done, I am a lot closer to having a first draft than I was a month ago. I’m going to work hard and hopefully have the draft done by mid-December as a late estimate, at which point I’ll take a break from it to get ready for editing in January (2020! where has the decade gone?!).

I’d like to give a special thanks to all of the folks in my life who have encouraged me through this project, particularly my husband and the NaNo writers here in the Hampton Roads area. The encouragement has not gone underappreciated.

I’ve got a good idea of what direction I want my career to go in the next year and all of them afterward. This month, especially after I finish this book, I want to take some time to thoroughly work on not only my website but also my social media presence in general. I feel like my brand is overdue for a makeover, and I want to do more to be more active and intentional with my writing. I’ve got a lot of ideas for potential content, and topics I’ve always wanted to write more in-depth on.

I’m pretty much happy with the way this year is closing out. There are things that I would like to change for the better, but I know that some of that will take time. I’ll do more reflection in a New Years’ post a little closer to the end of the month, I imagine. Even so, I’m looking to 2020 with optimism, and hopefully, so are you all.

I’ll see you all then.