Blank to 50K: Why write your novel in 30 days?

http://lorilrobinett.comIf you’ve always wanted to write a novel, but can’t seem to get it done . . . National Novel Writing Month may be for you. But there is a caveat to that. You don’t HAVE to sign up for NaNoWriMo. You don’t HAVE to do it in November. The things that make NaNo work for so many people can be tweaked for your personal situation to help you reach your goals.

Quantity over Quality

Don’t get hung up on this point. The idea is to take one month to get your first draft finished. Your goal is to have a beginning, a middle and an end. If you get too focused on crafting perfect sentences, you’ll never reach those two magical words: The End.

Write Wherever

NaNo teaches you to write wherever you’d like: at your desk, at a write-in, or in short little bursts wherever you happen to be. I’ve been known to work through lunch at work . . . but take 15 minutes to send myself an email with a few hundred words for my work in progress.


If you sign up for NaNo, you’ll have overwhelming support from the entire NaNo community – from the Office of Letters and Light, your Municipal Liaison, and your Region. If you don’t sign up for NaNo, you still need to elicit support from friends and family, as well as the writing community. Find a writing group or at least a critique partner.

Take the Time

The biggest hurdle writers face is finding the time to write. Give yourself a deadline, tell others you are writing a novel . . . then DO IT.

If I Can Do It, You Can Do It

Both of my novels were drafting during National Novel Writing Month. Check them out and see what is possible, and support a fellow writer at the same time:

Denim & Diamonds

Blank to 50K: Why do you want to write a novel?

In all seriousness, think about this question and it will help you find your way. There are all sorts of reasons – and you have to identify them in order to make your dreams of writing a reality.

Move past WANTING to write a novel.

Let’s discuss why you want to write.

WHY do YOU want to write a novel?

  • To entertain people?
  • To inform people?
  • To get rich?
  • To get famous?
  • To get the voices in your head to shut up?

Take twenty minutes and free write your answer. Bonus points if you do it in longhand with an elegant fountain pen in a worn leather journal. Then let me know in the comments what you discovered.

Have you signed up for my mailing list yet? If not, pop over to the box and enter your email. I don’t send many newsletters, but I offer freebies a few times throughout the year.



Blank to 50K: Everyone wants to write a book (#MondayMotivation)

Everyone wants to write a novel.

OK, not everyone, but about 80% of the U.S. population, according to a survey (by the Jenkins Group). So, it’s a dream for 8 out of 10 people. Lots of people have dreams, though, and very few make that dream a reality. Like, I dream of winning the lottery. I really need to start playing the game if I want to make that dream a reality.

A VERY small percentage of the population actually writes a book.

With the advent of Createspace, Lulu and other business models, the dream of seeing your book in print is greater now than ever, yet it is still a DREAM for most people. Forcing yourself to sit down, write words in a coherent manner, with a well-paced plot and compelling characters is only the first step. Very few people make the jump from wanting to write a book to putting words on the page.

Even after you write the book, there’s still editing, rewriting, proofing, querying, market research, and . . . well, the list is nearly never ending.

Writing takes dedication, perseverance and a bit of insanity.


Dedication? I spent nearly all of last summer holed up in the house with my laptop making changes to a manuscript requested by editors (my publishing house had several editorial changes, so I made changes for each editor). Yup, that’s dedication for me. I’d much rather have been floating in the pool drinking a cold one and reading the latest Tawna Fenske book.

Perseverance? Yeah, all those changes I made for that manuscript? I jumped through all kinds of hoops for that publisher. I polished, edited, rewrote . . . it was a long, grueling process. Finally, my editor emailed with a positive email, saying she loved the changes I made but the manuscript had to go through a series screener (because the manuscript was submitted for an ongoing series) and that I would hear back in a couple of weeks. The following day I received a brief form email. Rejected.

Cue the sad trombone <SIGH>.

Which left me dejected.

That’s where perseverance comes in. I polished that manuscript more, removed all references to the series it was written for, and published the book.

Insanity? Yeah, that applies to me, too. Characters chatter in my head all the time, sometimes at rather inopportune times. When I’m deep in writing mode, everything else falls to the wayside. Laundry? If it passes the sniff test, I’m good to go. Hygiene? Yeah, I’ve been known to wear the same t-shirt through the entire first draft process. It can stand up on its own by the end of the month, but by golly, I’m not going to mess with my groove once the words start flowing.

On a personal note, I’m focusing on getting fit and have been doing the Couch to 5K program. As I run, I realize that it’s a very similar process to learning to write. Going from Couch to 5K is like going from Blank to 50K. 50K is what it takes to win National Novel Writing Month. If you can write a first draft of 50K words, that’s a darned good start. It gives you the bones of a story that you can edit, rewrite and polish.

So, that’s what I shoot for every time I sit down to start a new novel.


50,000 words.

I’ve done it. So can you.

If you want to make your dream a reality, join my list and we’ll make it happen together.

Here’s proof – this is the book I mentioned above (you can buy it in paperback or Kindle):

How to Write a Novel: The First Draft

Blank to 50K(1)I’ve been writing for a long time – semi-seriously for over 10 years. I spent years on the first draft of my first novel. And it’s still not finished. So, how did I break through and finally FINISH a first draft?

  • Recognize that a first draft is an imperfect grouping of words, sentences, paragraphs. It is perfectly simply because it exists. It’s not supposed to be perfect.
  • Declare your intentions. You need to be accountable. You don’t have to tell the world, but tell a good friend. And have them check your progress.
  • Decide what method to use. There’s the snowflake method, or Holly Lisle’s index card method, or you can just fly by the seat of your pants. It doesn’t matter what you use this time. This time is all about learning and experience. If it works, use it again. If it doesn’t work, try something else next time.
  • Treat writing as exercise. Writing is like a muscle. Do it daily, and it will get easier.
  • Start. You can sit and think forever, but that doesn’t get that first draft written. You have to actually sit your butt in the chair, put your fingers on the keyboard and type.
  • Slog through. The middle is mucky. You’ll get stuck, the forward movement will be slow. Just keep going.
  • Finish. Find a way to wrap things up. It doesn’t have to be the perfect ending. You’ll polish it later.
  • Finally, put it away. Give the draft time to percolate and let yourself get some distance before you go back to revise. And celebrate. You did what very few people actually do.

Winning National Novel Writing Month (reminiscing . . . )



In honor of NaNoWriMo and all those who are currently returning to the real world, I thought I’d share something I wrote in 2009 after winning. I hope you enjoy it:

I don’t know why I’m surprised that December is nearly half over. It happens faster and faster each year. I used to think it was because I was getting older and quit looking forward to things so much (you know, when I was a kid I couldn’t wait for Christmas but it seemed to take forever to get here . . . the watched pot never boils – like that). But now, I think the world is just spinning faster. I can almost hear the wind whistling past my ears.

Oh, wait . . . that was just the cold, December wind. Never mind.

It has been 21 days since my last post.

Oh, wait . . . I’m not giving my confession.

Sorry. My NaNo fried brain isn’t functioning quite right just yet. What I wanted to tell you is that (drumroll, please . . . ahem . . . really – make that drumroll sound or drum your fingers on your desk, whatever works best for you) . . . I WON!!! That’s right, you are now looking at (sort of) one of the proud winners of National Novel Writing Month 2009. I finished with a grand total of 50,629 words. (OK, I’m bowing now . . . thank you, thank you . . .).

What was my secret for success?

1) Write every day. My goal was to write 1,667 each day. (Some days I made it, some days I didn’t.)

2) Don’t read.

3) Use every available moment. If you work, eat at your desk and write yourself an email. Carry a notebook with you. If you commute, carry a handheld recorder. You don’t have to dictate your story, but you can talk to yourself – what if this, what if that, how can you screw with your main character’s life . . .

4) Bribery. I want a Nook so bad I can taste it. So, I promised myself that if I win, I’ll buy one. Now, I’m just waiting for the money to appear. (wait! what the? there’s no prize $$ for winning NaNo? Dang!!)

And how do I feel about my winning story, Gateway to Hell? My story is just getting wound up, just started at about 47K words, actually, and part of me really wants to finish it. But first, I need to get through the holidays. I’ve got a house to decorate, Christmas cards to make, dinner rolls to make, gifts to buy. And since I’ve only got 2 weeks ’til the Big Day, I think I’ll take a break from writing and focus on the holiday and family. Probably should, since I kind of neglected the fam last month. So, my plan is to smother them with attention for the next two weeks, and then start a serious rewrite of Denim & Diamonds. Those characters have been talking to me again (and so have my characters from NaNo ’08. I hope this doesn’t mean I’m schizo. Then again, for a writer, is that a bad thing?), which is like slipping into my favorite pair of faded Tommy jeans on a Sunday morning. It feels right. Who knows, maybe with a touch more suspense and a dash more sex . . . it might end up being a whole new book!

So, that’s how I did it and those are my writing plans now that NaNo is over and I must return to the land of mortals . . . what are yours?