How did I write a novel in a month? NaNoWriMo challenge that will also be held this November


It all started two years ago when I decided that just living a nice life was too wasteful and started a year of impossible challenges.

It was a year with 12 different challenges. And the last one was in November 2014 NaNoWriMo writing challenge. A 50,000 word story in one month. Or one small novel.

To make it more impressive, let me use a trader's trick and divide this number by days and hours:

If you're not lazy, that's 1,667 words per day, or 1.7 words per minute, with eight hours of sleep.

...Yeah. Quite a lot.

Why did I decide to try my hand at writing a novel in such a short time?

The idea for this challenge, like other impossible challenges, came at the very last moment. Yes, it was such a spontaneous year.

After finding out on the penultimate day of September that my October test will be get to know 100 people in the Czech Republic, I immediately knew what I would do in November.

Since October is the month of communication... I can end this year with a calmer activity that is more usual for me and, for the sake of my writing career, more purposeful. For example, I can write my first book.

Because that's who I am - a bit of a shut-in, who likes the quiet of the house and, when I'm lucky, adores the tapping of the keyboard. So why not?

True, I immediately planned additional entertainment for November. Since I'm going to write like this, then... Why don't you try to push away all the people who want to communicate with me?

So, I took advantage Mustachioed November 1 occasion and I started growing a mustache. The same ones that have become my trademark.

A photo of Daniel showing off his curly mustache against an obviously photoshopped background

It could be photoshop. However, it may not be, and I certainly was at the Battle of Thermopylae in 480 BC. Ask the historians.

So how did I manage to write a novel?

I will tell you soon what came out of my challenge. But first, I'll retrace my journey so you know how it all went.

Before the challenge...

Since I came up with the goal at the beginning of October, a month before I started writing, I started slowly preparing for the test. It wasn't something very new - I tried earlier in the year...

...I started writing every day.

No romance, no - the rules forbid it. However: letters to the girl I was in love with, thoughts for myself, some secret articles for friends and similar experiments. I didn't show those texts to almost anyone.

This little preparation for the challenge only required me to write at least 50, 100, 200, 400, or 600 words each day, increasing each time if I managed to write my goal for four days in a row. 2

And yes, even the highest threshold in the last week of October, 600 words, is less than the 1,667 words I had to write during the actual November. But it was a practice to get used to writing to prepare for the actual creation of the novel.

One week until November...

About a week ago, I started what follows the rules of NaNoWriMo 3 I could spend all of October. I started thinking...

...And what, under the thunderstorms, do I even want to write?

It's a good question when you're going to put together a 50,000 word story and you don't have thirteen years to do it.

My inner dialogue was:

  • I: I need to figure out what to write. What would I like to write?
  • The other me: Write something Murakami style. You like Murakami!
  • I: Hey, cool idea! It will be very mystical, slow and earthy. Very natural and many words. ...And what is the story about?
  • The other me: ...You will make up the story as you go. "Let your characters make the story," as the saying goes. So, start writing first, then we'll think about it.
  • I: Okay, inner me! God, you are clever.
  • The other me: Thanks, I know.
  • I: Haha! ...So... When would you like to go on a date?
  • The other me: ...
  • I: ...
  • The other me: ...You do realize you're talking to yourself, don't you?
  • I: ...Oh yes. I'm sorry.
  • The other me: Joe, go to sleep. And stop with your weird jokes.

Well, or something like that. 4 I don't really remember what I was thinking then, but here's what I'm thinking now:

...What the hell was I thinking then???

Seriously. Starting an affair without any plan? Without even knowing who my main characters will be or what the setting will be? ...Am I a jerk? Did I fall harder than I thought from that apple tree? 5

Yes, it turns out I was such a jerk. While not planning seemed like a genius idea, along the way I saw HUGE flaws in this approach.

I came up with the heroine of my novel in the last hours of October, about seven hours before writing. I also decided that the action will take place in Kaunas, Šilainiai. The other had to be thought of on the fly.

And then suddenly November came!

...Which repeats for 30 days according to the following routine:

  1. I wake up.
  2. I remember that I have to write a 1667 word sequel to the story today. I mentally (or out loud) groan and curse.
  3. All day I study, I read nothing on the Internet, I design the Cloud that you see now, 6 and otherwise I procrastinate writing.
  4. Around one o'clock in the morning, I realize that I can't put it off any longer.
  5. I sigh and go down to the first floor of the Erasmus student barracks, and after breaking through the Spaniards who never sleep, I buy cocoa from the coffee machine.
  6. I'm starting to write part of the day. I don't go to bed until I finish.
  7. Around 3-5 am (or morning?) I fall into bed. I sleep until ten or eleven o'clock.

Some days I write in the library until eleven o'clock at night, when it closes. But there was nothing more to this challenge. I just tried to write the necessary volume of the story every day.

"So did you manage to finish your novel?" Did it work?” – You might be asking at this moment

...Yes, I guessed!

And I'm proud of myself.

Yes, it was difficult. Enduring the noise of the roommate's 3D printer and tragic coffee in the library every day, creating the day's scenario while sitting in construction engineering lectures... It's tiring.

But I did it. Maybe out of blind stubbornness.

"And will you show her?" Have you published your book yet?'

Eh... And that's not such a nice question. No, I won't show it. And no, I'm not going to release it, make it public or otherwise show it off.

Because my novel was terrible. For one fat reason: one learns to write novels only by writing them. And the first experiment is unlikely to be successful, at least for any author.

Lithuanian writers often talk about such experiences!

On this occasion, I recommend:

What did I learn in a month with NaNoWriMo and what advice can I give you?

Here is what came to my attention: 7

First: You only learn to write novels by writing novels.

You'd think - hey, since I write this blog and its articles, I have been writing every day for a month and I like to read a lot of books - it really should be easy. That's what I thought at first. But I was wrong.

Writing a long story is very different from writing an article that answers a few interesting questions.

This is quite different from writing on a Facebook wall. It is different than telling a friend a funny and interesting story.

Second: ...And this is very good news for you.

Because if you want to write your own novel, you don't need special skills. You don't need to take courses, read books, or perform magical writers' rituals with whiskey and smokes. 8

You just have to start and see what happens. Knowledge comes from trying. Guaranteed to get something. Maybe not the best novel in the world, as I failed to write a really interesting piece, but it will be a novel.

And how many grandparents can tell their grandchildren that they once wrote a book? Whatever it is?

Third: Good ideas come from walking and eating kebabs.

This should be the slogan of some kebab shop: "Lack of ideas?" Have a bite of kebab!". 9 I experienced this during night walks in the Czech Republic to the kebab shop and back.

If you lack ideas - get distracted.

Watch some anime, go to the theater, learn how to fold an origami crane, or go get some socks. It doesn't matter. It is important not to beat yourself up if there are no ideas - let the ideas come by themselves. It worked for me, so I'm sure it can work for you too.

Fourth: If you miss a day, don't stop and keep going.

It happens. Happened to me too. But missing a day or missing five thousand words a week before the end of the challenge doesn't mean you've lost.

You can write a book in a week. You'll probably have to sleep less.
It is possible to write a book. And a few days missed due to illness, a relative's wedding or any other distraction is not the end of the adventure. continue

In fact, 50 thousand words is not even a lot - the average full novel is about 100 thousand words, and thick novels (like Dostoyevsky's bibles) can reach 300 thousand words each. 10

Fifth: Want to write fast? Don't look at the text.

Reduce the best type of text to such a size that you can no longer see what you are writing on the screen. That way, you won't be tempted to correct and keep interrupting yourself. I set my text to 4 pt size. Almost invisible.

Because do you really want to extend your daily hour-long writing to five hours, because every few words you need to correct something?

If you write on paper, 11 you can also write quickly, close the written pages and put them in the closet or... Just write on smaller pieces of paper - it won't be on your eyes, you won't want to correct an unfinished work.

It's a pity that I can no longer find this Lithuanian novelist and writing coach Sandra Bernotaitė interview, but she told how she considers her books strictly "sketches" during the writing process. She first writes out the entire book and only then thinks about whether she wants to correct, cut or add something. Because you can edit only when you see the complete work.

Sixth: Have a plan. Because a book without a plan is without connection.

Even though I wrote 51.2 thousand words... They didn't have much in common. Yes, it was one story - it had a beginning, middle and end... But I don't know what to keep from it. What the story says.

And that was a mistake I made.

What happened at the beginning became irrelevant at the end. And what happened at the end was strangely unrelated to the beginning. And my plot, which was not very much, 12 finally got out after the first few days.


Try to have a plan. It is not necessary to write everything down to the letter, at least a short outline is enough. Ideas. Areas. A unifying feeling.

The plan is the skeleton of the work.

A few moments until the end of the novel!

You can write a book too!

There is plenty in Lithuania authors writing books. And NaNoWriMo doesn't ask you to publish your book or show it to anyone. Don't even ask me to write a good book at all!

All you have to do is join the NaNoWriMo challenge this November and try to write. If you don't try, you don't know what you will get.

  1. This November. But if you want, you can start at any time of the year.
  2. Official Rules on the NaNoWriMo page.
  3. But the point is: 50 thousand words of fiction in 30 days.
  4. Join the Lithuanian NaNoWriMiečių group on Facebook!
  5. Or join amateur writers club, where we talk about writing all year long. Well, except as we write.
  6. If you need an ass-kicking, write me personally and I will help 😉
  7. No coercion here! Just a fun challenge! ✍️

If you have any questions, tips for writers, or want to join us, just leave a comment below!

  1. in Lithuania Bearded, because we're probably still afraid of mustaches?

  2. I like to play around with my challenges, for one I publish a 1% longer article every day, and in others, as you can see, I count lucky days in a row and so on. Why? Because it's fun!

  3. Although they weren't really that strict during the challenge - they were almost non-existent...

  4. You can already sense how the dialogues looked at the beginning of my first attempt at writing a novel.

  5. Apples, which I told you about here: "Unexpected Changes in Life, or the Story of the Origin of the Cloud".

  6. Yes, I built it 100% myself. Of course, I used WordPress for the base with all its advantages + now I also use Thrive Themes plugins when I need to throw something that I will want to change often.

  7. Yes, this sentence is specifically so wooden. I can play the poet, can't I?

  8. Although it is true, it is possible that nicotine helps to focus and activate the brain. There are indications that smoking is not good, but nicotine itself (one of the components of smokers) helps. Of course, do your research before you start smoking.

  9. So, I'm already waiting for your offer.

  10. Of course, it depends on the language in which they were written. It is easier to memorize more words in English than in Lithuanian. But the difference is not very significant.

  11. And that's not a bad thing, some NaNoWriMo participants write the entire novel this way; choose the most convenient method for you.

  12. It was basically a story about a girl who is looking for her missing parents. On the way, he gets into a car accident, meets a doctor, something happens, he seems to find his parents. Or not. The end.

  • Question, Daniel. Why so much and so much of it "crazy"? In such a quantity, the word itself loses its true meaning and becomes very similar to the parasitic "in that sense". Don't be angry, this is just a friendly observation - advice.

    • Thanks Dan! It's just that those years with challenges were called that, I wanted to emphasize in the introduction that there was not one separate test, but a series of others - already a bit tired of everything.

      Anyway, I will pay attention in the next article!

      PS What is there to be angry about? 😉

  • Hello. I am really very young and I already wanted to participate in nanowrimo last year. Unfortunately, I found out about this challenge too late. Now I've been waiting for a whole year, I waited until I realized that writing "non-stop" requires effort, it takes time. Now I'm afraid to miss or write complete nonsense, but I'll try and maybe it will work? Thank you so much for sharing your experience and advice 🙂

    • It doesn't matter if you manage to come up with a plan this year or not - go for it! There are a variety of us in the Facebook group. Some are planning (I will start more, Debesylieta Milena Koles is also planning), others are not at all (for example, there is one 48-year-old father whose name I keep forgetting).

      It will take time. But here my trick "don't go to sleep until you write" will work. It's weird, but it works.

      …because the draft is the most important thing. In order not to do half the work 5 times in a row, like Monika above.

      • I would also like to ask a stupid question (:D), is it possible to write in Lithuanian there?

  • Dear Daniel, I "subscribed" to you a long time ago, but only today, when I opened the mail, I clicked on the link. And I hit hard. Good text, regardless of how many times you added "crazy" in it. 🙂
    I have started at least five large texts. And I didn't extend any of them, because, as you said, I keep reading and correcting, and while correcting I strive for ideality (red waves are rolling under my ideality, but I like fancy words). And I can't do anything about myself. Sometimes I think that the perfectionism that comes out in my writing will never allow me to write a book because I can't just write in a flow. I end up deleting everything anyway. I'm not asking for your advice, I'm just telling you how things are sometimes 🙂

    • A trick to reduce the font size to almost unreadable helped one Clouder a lot. When you can't see grammar mistakes, you don't care about them and write.

      And for example, I work together with Alex Monaco. And he doesn't correct anything at all when writing texts - he looks at the content, not the grammar. The latter is already being corrected by the editors.

      Literally, I'll be expecting you this year's Nano or maybe already writing today!

  • I have already written 1 novel (but not published, it's just floating around on the blog). And now I'm trying to write the second part of it (but not in the form of a continuation, but rather as a new story, but with a similar main essence).
    I don't like planning and I've read that there are 2 types of writers - those who plan and others who don't. But it is not that some write better than others. Of course, I also faced the problem of not planning something in the plot. But my book is such that there may be disagreements about the idea itself. 😀 And as much as I tried to write while planning, I got bored of that idea very quickly and didn't want to continue writing.

    • Yes, I read about this observation too. I myself am probably more of a planner. Haruki Murakami or Stephen King, I've heard, are more relaxed. This is the most important thing here, as is most convenient for you, Aiste :3

  • The idea of a novel has been in my head for a long time. I know very well what the end of my novel will look like, I have written the beginning of maybe 10 pages, but I have no idea how to connect the beginning with the end I planned so that the reader is not bored... 😐

    • Are you bored by yourself, Evald? if so, the problem is not with the "reader" (erm, this word is spelled differently, I guess), but with you. Write what is fun for you! Splash it out, Evald! After all, the work is yours! 😉

  • Hello,
    great write up as always useful ideas.

    The idea of experimenting with writing came up more than once, the senior classes of school, the beginning of the university were short texts - it was a long time ago 🙂

    But as soon as I try to "generate" some idea, plot, I hit the wall "it's already been heard or read somewhere". And the more you read, the stronger this feeling becomes...

    So the question is probably this - how to discover an original idea, plot, story?

    • And what's wrong with an old idea written in your voice, Rimvyd? For example, DEBESYLA is a completely unoriginal blog - self-education blogs written by one self-taught fellow are abundant in Lithuania alone, and what to speak of the wide Internet. I am not the first to tell you about Nanowrimo.

      …But you do read the blog, right? Comment, right? You are reading this comment, right? 😉

      Not the point in originality. Originality is overrated. YOUR voice is much more important.

      what do you feel What do you experience? In what nonsensical way are you talking? For example, I tend to talk a little and talk to myself. I like my voice. It's me writing a lot of nonsense and talking to an imaginary interlocutor. You get what you get! :))

      Originality is not so important.

  • Daniel, you are the best advertisement in the world! You should be a millionaire in no time! And what about NaNoWriMo - I'm glad you decided to participate again. And I invite all others who promise to try and participate to join the group NaNoWriMo Lithuanians.

    • Yes! Nanowrim's Lithuanian group is especially cool. The coolest, of course, during Nanowrim. Thanks Virginia for making it and supporting it! <3

  • Wow! A really good challenge and a good article - I didn't even notice the repetitions of "insanity" that happened to several people. Since I'm a "deadline person", I'll probably need to do such a challenge after the exams (to keep my head at ease) - the idea of the book has been floating around in my head for a long time, something is being created and I really hope that by the summer the thoughts will not fade away, but will be organized into a plan for the novel. Thanks for the motivation, Daniel!

    • You probably didn't notice the "crazy" one, Karolina, because I got it sorted and out of the way. I am constantly editing the articles, because every time I write something, I learn something new. For example, repeat less :))

      How are you doing at the moment? Look, it's summer! I say take it and try to write. Whatever to! 😛

  • Great! It was an absolute pleasure to read, and the inspiration came for the story that I currently have to continue. I am very glad that you wrote the book and achieved your goal!
    For those who are just starting to write and want to test themselves, accept criticism, and know that they can just stop at any time, I suggest the app - Wattpad, it is clearly mostly teenagers like me, although there are also adults. Not only does this app help me personally to improve, to find new ideas, but your readers can provide criticism or motivate you to keep writing!
    Thank you Daniel..

  • It's a great food to start cooking yourself 🙂 To cook a not perfect, but kind of story. Everything sounds so beautiful and looks fearless... Maybe I'll have to try it. This month.

  • hello
    Thank you, Debesyla for the inspiring text. I have had the idea of writing a book for a long time, but as I started, I found more interesting activities. This time, although I will start on November 8, I promise to catch up and take on the challenge of writing a book!!!

  • This is about the third time I've read this post and I'm dying to write! Why, I don't understand well myself, but so much positivity arouses ideas and the desire to create!!

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