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I Wrote My Novel In 30 Days And Here’s How You Can Too

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By Mayur Didolkar:

There is a buzz in the fiction writer’s community as the National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) is upon us. Every year in November, many aspiring writers take the challenge of completing a minimum 50,000 word first draft of their novel in one month. This challenge has produced success stories like “Water for Elephants” by Sara Gruen and “The Night Circus” by Erin Morgenstern.

I know what you are saying: “I want to write a novel too, but 50,000 words in one month? Come on!”

I know exactly how you feel. I took over five years to finish writing my first novel, “Kumbhpur Rising” but changed gears and finished the first draft of my second novel “The Dark Road” in exactly 30 days (though not in November). Since then my writing pace has picked up a bit. Here are some things that I have learnt along the way on how to soldier on to finish your first draft in 30 days.

1. Shut That Door

In his excellent book “On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft”, Stephen King talks about the willingness to shut the door on the rest of the world before you begin to write. It need not be a physical door. What I think he means is that you should be willing to make a gesture, symbolic if needed, to signal that you are now taking all other distractions off the table and focusing on your writing alone. In my case, my colleagues at work (when I am writing in my office) or my family members at home, know if I have my laptop open and the earphones in my ear, it is a signal that I am writing. Symbols play an important role in writing, so decide what is yours.

2.Think Of It As A Job

As counter-intuitive as it may sound, but to finish 50,000 words in one month, you have to approach it as a task that needs to be chipped away on a daily basis. When I work on a novel, I write every day for 6-7 days followed by a day’s break, but in an uphill challenge like NaNoWriMo, perhaps you should be prepared to write for at least 15 days on the trot followed by one break. Using this formula, if you are writing for 29 days, your task is about 1700 words per day and that is exactly how you need to achieve it. Whether the book you have in mind is a short one like “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” or a 1500+ page tome like “A Suitable Boy”, every novel is written one word at a time.

3. Remember That Speed Is More Important Than Accuracy

Yes, you read that right. Most people find the 50K words in a month target daunting because they automatically assume it is 50K words of the finished product. It is not! What you will have at the end of the month is an unedited, rough, first draft of your novel where your primary goal was to finish telling the story in a stipulated time. If you have publishing aspirations, you have to accept that the first draft is at best about 1/3rd of the overall work. I finished writing “The Dark Road” in a month, but from there on, till its publication, I rewrote the story at least four times with the help of my editors.

4. Resist The Temptation To Share

I am part of a number of writers’ communities on social media and sharing excerpts from the work-in-progress seems to be the “in” thing these days. As writers, we all crave validation from our peers and sharing your work with sympathetic friends is a good way to get rid of those persistent pangs of self-doubts that all of us go through while writing. But resist the temptation. For an amateur writer who is writing for the pleasure of it alone, it is very easy to lose focus. And one of the easiest ways to lose focus is by allowing yourself to get a little bit of gratification that comes from sharing excerpts. Think of the project like rice cooking inside a pressure cooker! You are not helping the process by constantly letting some steam out by sharing excerpts.

5. Think Of It As The First Draft

There is always the danger of the dirty first draft being too dirty. You don’t wish to produce 50K words of unintelligible gibberish, do you? So what are the things you need to get right the first time? To me, the old Hollywood adage of ‘Movie has to be there in the first cut’ applies, meaning your underlying theme and the main story needs to come through clearly even in the first draft. While writing “The Dark Road”, the underlying theme was about how a teenage girl’s life is changed forever when she wakes up one night to find her parents have disappeared without leaving a message for her. And when I remember the first draft, as messy, unorganized and untidy as it was, the basic theme was there to see.

6. Prepare An Outline Before You Begin

I don’t write the outlines of my novels before I start writing. I know plenty of good writers who don’t and plenty of good writers who do. This is your basic writing style preference that you would do well not to change for the sake of NaNoWriMo alone. However, if you like to write the outline of your story, you might wish to get that out of the way before the month begins so that all days of November are available for writing alone.

Finishing a long fiction project is one of the most gratifying and motivating experiences of a writer’s life and if moments of self-doubt or frustration come along the way, trust me the end is worth it. A challenge like NaNoWriMo is an excellent way to put your resolution of writing a novel to test.

Go for it!


Mayur Didolkar runs a financial services business in Pune. A fan of popular fiction, he has published one novel and several short stories. He writes for ‘Swarajya’ and ‘The Quint’and has run two full marathons.

Read Mayur’s novel and short stories here.

Stay motivated, join the Juggernaut Writing Community Facebook Group!

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

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Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

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Find out more about the campaign here.

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A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

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A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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