Writing a Novel in 30 Days

Aladdin Steiman-Cameron will share strategies for completing NaNoWriMo, which challenges writers to produce an entire novel in 30 days. On Saturday, Oct. 20, from 2-4 p.m., he'll be speaking in Meeting Room 1 at the Long Beach Library, 101 Pacific Ave. To RSVP for this free workshop, emaillauren.nguyen@lbpl.org. In advance of the event, Long Beach Literary Arts Center board member Margo McCall asked Aladdin to talk about his previous experiences with NaNoWriMo.

How many times have you participated in NaNoWriMo?
This year will be my fourth year participating. I have participated every year since 2015.
How would you describe the experience?
NaNoWriMo is a worldwide event where participants begin with a blank page November 1st and finish the month with a 50,000-word novel. One of the hardest parts of novel writing is just doing it, sitting down and putting letters together into words, words into sentences, and sentences into chapters. NaNoWriMo is a chance for you to get that done.
What was the biggest challenge for you?
There are two big challenges that I always struggle with every year. One is simply finding time to write. In order to hit 50,000 words by the end of the month, I have to meet a daily word count goal of 1,650 words (roughly) a day. That's a lot of words! The other challenge is turning off my "internal editor." It doesn't matter if the paragraph I just wrote is no good—I can fix it in December. It's all about getting words on the page.
What advice do you have for those trying it for the first time?
Make sure you give yourself time every single day, no matter what, to write. Even if you're not feeling the inspiration, write. Write write write. Know what distracts you and ban it from your life for a month. Close your web browser, put your phone on silent, lock yourself in a quiet room, and WRITE. Don't get discouraged if your writing sucks; everyone's first draft is terrible. That's why it's a FIRST draft. You can fix it later.
Are there any NaNoWriMo resources you found particularly useful?
The NaNoWriMo site has a great word count tracker tool, and it allows you to make "writing buddies" whom you can encourage and get support from. It also has the official NaNoWriMo forums. If you go on YouTube and search "Background Music," there are videos that are just relaxing, instrumental music for three or four hours, which helps me get focused. There are Facebook groups for writing "sprints," where you compete to see how many words you can type in an allotted amount of time, such as 20 minutes. And last but not least, coffee. I cannot write without coffee. Find your writing vice, be it tea, chocolate, classical music, your favorite bathrobe, or a beanbag chair, and exploit it as much as you can. (9/29/18)

--Margo McCall