Writing my 30 day novel. How I cheated and let the characters do it for me.

If any of you saw my post back in October, I said I was going to enter the 30 day challenge, which is called NaNoWroMo, which means write a novel in the month of November.

It does seem daunting. I mean, 50,000.00 words? That works out to 1,666 words per day, and I mean every day. There can be no days off unless you drink major quantities of caffeine and fire off 5,000 words one day so you can coast the next day.

So how did I do it? Well I had help, yes and I hope the folks at NaNoWriMo don’t find out that I cheated, because you’re supposed to do it alone. What I did was put together an outline first – no that’s okay – that’s not cheating. And then I put together a list of the characters, and all the things that they do, and what they look like – again many authors do that and it’s okay.

But when I got three chapters into the book, which is called CIRCLING THE DRAIN, I found this amazing thing. The characters started to interact. They were talking to one another and all I could see were scenes that they were in. I couldn’t see words I needed to write, I could only see scenes that needed words added to them.

Everyday I woke up at 6am, and I was in my chair by the window, overlooking this lovely golf course pond in Palm Desert in my rental unit, and from 6am until around 10am I would pound out my scenes.

Sometimes I woke up earlier. I told my wife that my characters were bugging me – wanted to get to the next scene to get some things resolved. Some of them had issues with one another. They just needed me in the writers chair to give them life – to put them on the page.

Sound a bit crazy? Well it does, but if you ask many writers who write on a regular basis they will tell you the very same thing. Sometimes we have to take control, because we see a character wanting to go off in a direction that we don’t think suits the outline we gave them.

Sometimes we just let the character go off and explore, and we see if we like where they’re going. Kind of like what you’d do with your child, only hope they weren’t making a bee line for the road or the water. Yes, it is kind of like that.

So, there you have my confession of how I wrote my book in 30 days. I wish I had learned this several years ago, as all my previous books, such as Dolphin Dreams, Polar Bear Dawn, and Pipeline Killers were words that became scenes. Each of them took so much longer to write.

I will now go into the wonderful world of edits, where every author must dwell in the grueling task of ensuring each sentence means something, and everything is spelled correctly, and more importantly if the facts are straight.

This is also a great time for me, as I get to see all my characters again. I will be hanging out with this entire crew until you get to see this new book in print in about 3 months from now. But please don’t tell anyone I cheated in the competition…let’s keep it between you and me.






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Lyle Nicholson is the author of four novels, two novellas and a short story, as well as several articles published in Canadian Magazines and Newspapers. His path to his writing was first as a terrible actor in a Johnny Cash movie, called Gospel Road. He played Andrew the Apostle and apologizes to all who see him in the movie.
He was also a disobedient monk for several years and left the monastery to work at several jobs he’d was highly unsuccessful at until he started his own sales agency, where he finally had success. This was to the delight of his wife and his mother.
He retired in 2011 and took up writing full time. He now lives with his lovely wife in Kelowna, where he writes, cooks and indulges in fine wines.