Day 7 at Camp NaNoWriMo – You Must Not Try To Write a Novel!

I can’t tell you just how many times people have said to me – “Oh, you are a writer? I have always wanted to write a novel.”

That is the single biggest mistake a writer can make.

Setting out to write a novel. All those words, all those chapters, all of that time spent making the whole thing make sense.

Don’t do it.

ESPECIALLY if this is your first attempt at writing a novel.

All right, all right – I can hear you out there scratching your heads and howling in puzzled frustration. I can hear you wondering just what the heck I expect you to try and write if you DON’T try and write a novel.

Write a chapter.

Write a scene.

Write a sentence.

Write a single freaking word.

Do you understand what I am telling you?

Think about what your mother used to tell you at the dinner table.


“Bite sized pieces,” she’d tell you. “Use your knife and fork and cut it into bite-sized pieces.”

(all right, I couldn’t make up mind about whether or not I wanted to use that dash in “bite-sized”)

So this is for all of you folks out there trying to write your day’s quota at Camp NaNoWriMo – and for all of those folks who AREN’T messing around with Camp NaNoWriMo.

Don’t get hung up on the grandeur and the scope of your project.

Just remember that a novel is generally made up of chapters.

And a chapter is made up of scenes.

And a scene is nothing more than a story.

So when you get stuck and hung up and don’t what to do just remind yourself of that fact and stop and think about what scene comes next and then just sit down and outline that scene with a few well-chosen scribbled notes – Ralph picks up his knife and fork. Ralph cuts up his steak into bite-sized pieces. Or is it bite sized pieces? Ralph feeds the steak to the dog, one piece at a time and goes out to buy himself a hamburger.

Then just write that scene.


You get done writing that scene you are going look at your word tally and realize that you just added another one or two thousand words to that novel you aren’t writing.

And that’s how this game is played. One chapter, one scene, one paragraph – one word at a time.

This ain’t rocket science, boys and girls.


All right – for those folks who are following along with me on my July excursion at Camp NaNoWriMo here is the latest scoop.

I have written 2000 words today – which is a little slow for me but still over my quota of 1612 words per day.

That brings me to 17,300 words total so far.

According to the NaNoWriMo calculator if I keep this daily rate up I will hit the 50,000 word mark by July 21, 2014.

Let’s see if I can do it.

If you want to follow along just watch my progress over at my cabin in Camp NaNoWriMo.

yours in storytelling,

Steve Vernon

11 responses to “Day 7 at Camp NaNoWriMo – You Must Not Try To Write a Novel!

  1. Great tips. This is my 5th nano attempt. Hopefully, I will not loose this time.


  2. Hey there, cabin mate! Rosescentedeals here. Thanks for the tips, they are super helpful. You’re right too, I often get caught up in the “omg I’m writing a novel they take forever to read sometimes who long is this thing gonna take to write I’m gonna die” thought process. But next time in a panic I’ll try to remember to just write a bite!


  3. Very good advice. I write the scenes that pop into my head and then I string them together at the end. If I am stuck, I write a future scene I’m sure of and go back. The end of the K’Barthan Trilogy was almost the first thing I wrote. I’ve changed it, obviously, but it was there to write towards from pretty much the get go.




  4. Exactly. That’s sort of how I am writing this one – in that some of the scenes are already written but not necessarily in the right place and I am just going through filling in the gaps of the manuscript and adjusting the organization.

    Bite-sized pieces. Can’t beat it.


  5. Good advice – I’ve found myself bogged down before by the projected scope of one scene. Will try to remember this (Steve Vernon said so!) when it happens again!


  6. This is such great advice, and not just for writing. It’s so easy to imagine doing anything that’s remotely grandiose as being done in one fell swoop. That attitude can immobilize a person. Bite-sized pieces for any project that’s worth doing. We have a much better chance of success that way. Thanks for the reminder. 🙂


  7. Excellent advice. All novels start with a first word. That first word then turns into everything. Yes, always start small. Because the small things mean the most things! Have fun!


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