November is national novel writing month, an initiative that encourages aspiring writers to produce 50,000 words in thirty days. This is really more novella size than novel, but nevertheless it’s a huge undertaking in such a short period of time. Personally I can’t imagine anyone able to produce a novel worth reading in only one month, and I can’t agree with the website’s tagline The world needs your novel. It really doesn’t. What would perhaps be more accurate for participants is I need my novel. The world will most likely never see it, but mine is important to me, to complete at least, in a form I can be proud of.
So while I didn’t sign up to the event when I read about it last year, it did get me back into writing the book that I’d neglected for months, mostly because of an article in the Guardian called How to write a book in 30 days. If you follow the programme you won’t really have a finished book by the end of it, but you will have a pretty good skeleton of one that you can flesh out later. It shows you what’s important when writing a novel, such as developing realistic characters, thinking about the settings, how to construct a plot, pointing out that everything you write should drive the narrative forward. It helped me to get my rather flabby book under control, and taught me to focus on what was important to the story I was trying to tell and discard things that were irrelevant to the overall plot.
I didn’t finish the book in a month and a year later I’m still editing it, but now at least I think there’s a chance of it becoming something readable when it’s finished.