The 30 – Day Novel, Fact or Fiction

[image error]Is it possible to write a novel in thirty days?  Those at Nanowrimo sure seem to think so! Nanowrimo hosts National Novel Writing Month annually from November 1st to November 30th. The idea is to enjoy or endure, what Nanowrimo refers to as “Thirty days and nights of literary abandon!” 
So then, how do you successfully participate in Nanowrimo? Well you must write, and write and write and write and write, until you reach a word count of about 80,000 words, which is basically the length of a novel.
But does that really do it? After you write for thirty days and reach a word count of 80,000 words do you indeed have a best-selling novel (or forget best-selling, really any kind of novel) on your hands?
Unless you are a literary master or genius, I am betting the answer to that question is no, not really.What you have is a barely comprehensible manuscript that needs a tremendous amount of work.  This is called a first draft. Make no mistake about it, there are about fifty-leven steps (which is to say a lot) that a writer must take to move from his first draft to a finalized manuscript. This is where writing coaching, from an expert writing coach like me, can come to the rescue and take you to the finish line.
Often times, I have clients who hand me their first drafts and say, (with great pride),  “Okay, Amber Lisa! Here is my novel! (or nonfiction book) I just need you to edit it!”  But then, when I take a look at the document, I quickly realize, Oh, wow, this is really just a draft.
Next, I have to tackle the unpleasant task of figuring out how to very gently inform my client that they are not ready for an editor.  I have to tell them that, they are nowhere near the editing stage andwhat they actually need is a writing coach who can move them from their first draft, to a second draft, and maybe then, if they are very lucky to a third and final draft.
What most people don’t realize, (until they have written a book or two) is that writing – all writing- is a process. And not just any kind of process either. It is typically a very long and labor-intensive kind of process.  Your first time around, it will probably take, at the very least, a year to move from the first draft to a final publishable version of your manuscript.
Because of all of the work that is required, beginning writers often get very discouraged when I take a look at their first draft and let them know the truth…ummm, you actually have a great deal of work to do, so let’s get to it!
But they shouldn’t be discouraged. They should just realize that this is just a part of the process. Most importantly, beginning writers should learn to enjoy the process. We should enjoy the process because when you get to the other side of that process, you realize that the process yields tremendous benefits!
I’ve been teaching writing at Northern Virginia Community College for eight years now; and what I’ve realized from my teaching experiences is that writing, is connected to thinking. When you learn how to write clearly, you learn how to think clearly and clear thinking is priceless. It is the ultimate victory.
Writing begins with thinking. Good writing is the result of extraordinary and powerful thinking. Strong writers are exceptional thinkers, which is to say they are smart; and here is what the intellectual snobs and greedy power mongers will not tell you and simply do not want you to know – anyone can be an exceptional thinker. You simply must learn to read and write well. This is where it starts; and anyone can do it.
Reading and writing are simply skills, like any other kind of skills. They may not come to you naturally, but the more you practice these skills, the stronger these skills become. The stronger your skills become, the easier it is to read and write well. Strong reading and writing is the product of clear and powerful thinking; and thinking is a workout for your brain.
Every time you read and write, your brain is going to the gym, or maybe even the spa (it just depends on what kind of writing you are doing.) For example, when I ask my students or clients to engage in “dream writing” their imaginations take them to some pretty luxurious places; and so that is like a mind trip to the spa.
But when I ask my students to tackle the typical college-level research paper, I am challenging them to compete in an Iron-Man triathlon. Their brains must engage in at least three sequential mental endurance disciplines. Their brains are doing the mental equivalent of swimming and running and bicycling, all back-to-back.
Some types of writing, like a research paper, require that you complete a lot of tasks, back-to-back. And, I am well aware, that at least one of the tasks is not going to be your favorite event. But, you do it anyway, because you want a fit brain, because you want to rise to the occasion. You want to meet the challenge. You want the victory!
So, back to the thirty-day novel. If writing a research paper is like a triathlon, then writing a novel or a book is a writing marathon. When it comes to “brain-events” and mental disciplines, writing a novel or a book is by far one of the most difficult and strenuous of them all. You don’t just wake up and write a book or a novel. You have to warm up with the essay or short story. You have to train for it, with a first draft.  You have to do your mental push-ups and sit-ups and calisthenics, by dealing with structural issues in the second draft. You have to jog, before you can run- you will have to tighten up your sentence structure, familiarize yourself with all the funkier components of punctuation and the rules of English grammar. You have to do some mental yoga, for flexibility which is to say you have to read the entire manuscript and figure out which scenes, characters, settings and timelines are working and those that are not. You must move text around, because you have to revise various storylines and conflicts. You have to make the overall conflict arc work. You have to, in short, go through the process. You can go it alone, but it helps to have a coach.
And then, here’s is the thing, after your go through the process, pick up the skills, and do all the work, you realize that you’ve learned so much. And no one can take that from you. All of these amazing things that you have learned have made you a much smarter and stronger thinker and writer; and those skills will spill over and benefit other areas of your life.
And after you’ve run that first marathon, it just gets that much easier to run another and another and another. Look at masters like Stephen King, J.K. Rowling, James Patterson, Danielle Steele, John Grisham and E.L. James, they pop out books like pinballs. That is because they have mastered the process, a process that anyone can master with a bit of time, effort and mental training.
So, is it possible to write a novel in thirty days? Maybe, if you’ve mastered the process. But for most of us, writing a novel is going to take a bit of time; but that is not to say you shouldn’t do it. As a matter of fact, this is the reason you should do it. Nothing that is truly worthwhile comes easily. Most creative, time-consuming, labor-intensive efforts are well worth the wait. So novel-writing, it is the mental Nike (not the shoe, but the Greek Goddess of Victory). A final and polished novel manuscript is victory – so just do it!

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