Advice for succeeding in NaNoWriMo

Written by Scarlett Ruggiero & Asli Shebe

November is celebrated as America’s National Novel Writing Month. NaNoWriMo runs a community challenging participants to write 50,000 words in the 30 day month. SCAD professors and students alike have participated in the challenge of writing novels, both during this month and throughout their careers; some of which offered advice to those participating in this month’s literary pursuit. 

Student’s Advice 

Fourth-year writing major, Sydnee Brashears, who has participated the challenge three times — including last year said, “You really have to plan for it, you really have to make time in your day to do the thing, because if you don’t you’re going to get behind.”

“After having written over fifty-thousand words on one story in under a month, I think it’s fair to say I am no longer afraid of anything,” said Tessa Hart, a fourth-year writing major. “It is always stressful because keeping a break-neck pace at writing and allowing yourself to write without judgment never becomes easy, really.”

Professor’s Advice

Establishing a Routine:

SCAD writing professor, Dr. James Lough, author of four books, gave very specific advice as to creating a writing routine. “I recommend starting with 30 minutes, and extending that to 45 minutes, and then an hour,” he said. “And if you do that for a year, you’ll have over 700 pages of writing.”

Published author and writing professor, Jonathan Rabb, just finished his last book tour, which took almost three years to research and write. “Day to day, you need to be at it for 4-5 hours,” Rabb said, “There is no perfect routine as long as you have discipline and commitment.”

A Lack of Inspiration:

To the dilemma of writer’s block, Lough said, “Inspiration is a special gift; it can’t be demanded. I have actually found that writing that came during inspiration is no better than writing that came the old-fashioned, hardworking way.”

Writing professor and author of two novels, George Williams responded, saying, “Gosh, just read. It could be reading a good novel or a news-writing. I remember reading a writer saying ‘Whenever I am ready to give up, that’s just when something is about to happen;’ so maybe if this person doesn’t feel inspired, maybe they’re not sitting at the desk long enough.”

What to Write About: 

When discussing writing about things without much prior knowledge, each professor eloquently expressed similar thoughts.

Lough, a non-fiction author, said, “I strongly recommend you write about matters that interest you, though. When you know a subject thoroughly, it’s much easier to write about it, and maybe you will become known for your expertise.”

Rabb, a writer of historical fiction, “Of course. You simply have to be in love with it. It’s not ‘write what you know.’ It’s ‘write what you love.’ And if you love it, you’ll want to know everything about it.”

Advice to Aspiring Novelists:

Lough: “Read and write, read and write, read and write. And write every day, and set your mind on learning and improving your craft, and find a mentor if possible, and write and read and write and read and write and read.”

Williams: “Read and write as much as you possibly can.  I think to read the best writers from the past and see what they were doing, and steal what you can steal from them, or let yourself be influenced by them.”

Rabb: “Think in terms of the small moments, not the big ideas: those will follow.”