NaNoWriMo: How to write a novel – advice from Seren novelists

It’s November and that means NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) has begun. If you’re not familiar with it, NaNoWriMo is a worldwide writing challenge, where participants have one month (1st–30th November) to write a 50,000 word novel.

Are you taking on the challenge? Perhaps you’re in need of a little motivation? Or maybe your novel has been in the works for a while now, and you need some guidance to get it finished? Whatever the case, Seren novelists are here to help.

Take a look below for some novel writing tips from the experts. Whether your novel takes a month or a year, we know you can do it.

Bethany W Pope author of Masque1. Start by letting your mind wander where it will. Taking long walks helps. Don’t ever say ‘no’ to an idea, however ridiculous or obscene it seems at first. Every idea is a seed; it’s best to let it grow. (Bethany W. Pope, author of Masque)


Jayne Joso author of My Falling Down House2. Don’t begin until the ideas preoccupy your thoughts, until you have read and researched to a point of exhaustion, until your mind is full of the world of the book, and the characters inhabit it freely. Things will change and move, grow, and diminish, and some will brutally be cut, but if you begin with a world that you can see, characters that you are beginning to know, then, when you settle down in the quiet to write, the world of your novel will begin to emerge as though by itself. Research more as you go, as you need to; sleep well, exercise and eat well, and always have something else to read. Stay with the world of your book in your mind, and switch off when you need to, sleep some more, run or swim some more. Then write and write, with fight, with joy. (Jayne Joso, author of My Falling Down House)

Bethany W Pope author of Masque3. Eventually you’ll spot your characters. Once you’ve seen them, the best way to capture what they’re like on the page is by inhabiting them, mentally. Use the actor’s method. Wear the skin of the role that you’re playing; write as if you are them and the writing will breathe. This is easier than you might think — after all, you are them, really; or they are aspects of you. Even the bad guys. Especially the bad guys. They’re parts of your psyche that you never let out. (Bethany W. Pope, author of Masque)

Jo Mazelis author of Significance4. There are two ways to approach a novel: some writers plot the whole work in advance, others begin with a vague idea, character or situation, then plunge in allowing organic development to occur. Neither is right or wrong, but there are certain advantages to both, every writer will discover along the way which works best for them. (Jo Mazelis, author of Significance)

Bethany W Pope author of Masque5. When it comes to the actual writing, do it wherever you can. By this, I mean that you should write wherever you can actually produce work. My top two choices are at the gym (I think best whilst moving — the stepper is my friend) and while sitting in my (empty) bathtub with a budgie on my head. There is no ‘should’ when it comes to writing. If it works for you, do it and give no thought to what other people think about it. You have to if you want to finish the job at hand. Once the story starts coming it will continue to come. If you love it, you will finish it. That which we cannot live without is that which we love. (Bethany W. Pope, author of Masque)

Jayne Joso author of My Falling Down House6. Drink whiskey, drink tea. Plan, don’t plan. Write. Tear it up. Start again, as you like… but finally, remember, there ain’t no way round but through, so just write the darn thing! (Jayne Joso, author of My Falling Down House)


Bethany W Pope author of Masque7. Do not worry about proofreading or editing until after the first draft is finished. Get it out, as fast as possible, even if it’s rough. It’s much, much easier to edit a finished manuscript than a few measly pages. But once it’s out of your head, for the love of God, go over it with a fine-toothed comb. Remove all the nits and every last tangle before sending it out to meet the world. It’s your child, after all. It deserves a clean face. (Bethany W. Pope, author of Masque)


We hope these helpful tips from our talented authors give you the push you need to get that novel finished – however long it takes.

‘I love deadlines. I like the whooshing sound they make as they fly by.’
– Douglas Adams





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