Milinda Jay Recommends Writing a Book in a Month!

New Love Inspired Historical author Milinda Jay’s first book–Her Roman Protector–is just out! She’s taking a very interesting time period for historicals–and particularly for Inspirational titles–and written a compelling story. And just look at that fantastic cover! Here’s some advice she gives on how to write quickly and well!

Why  Writing a Novel in a Month Works

I’ve always been a writer, but I never knew exactly how to get a novel published until I studied creative writing as a graduate student at Florida State University.

Trudging up the stairs to my office in the Williams Building after a depressing novel writing workshop critique session, I saw an ad for National Novel Writing Month. “Write a novel in a month” it promised.  At that moment, I didn’t believe I could write a novel in a lifetime.

Each chapter I wrote for my workshop was like a test I knew would be scored without mercy at a table filled with aspiring novelists, two of whom had already published New York Times bestsellers.

I copied down the nanowrimo.org website and hurried to my office to find out more. “The World Needs your Novel,” the website told me.  The words were a salve to my discouraged soul.  Writers testified to not only being able to write a complete 50,000-word novel in a month, but to enjoy doing so.

Reading their encouraging words, I had that same heady feeling I got standing at the finish line of a 5K, watching humans pushing themselves past the boundaries of what they thought possible.

All of that adrenaline pumping is infectious.

Nanowrimo gave me permission to write heedlessly, without my interior and exterior editors saying no, you can’t do it that way. Nanowrimo said write whatever you can. Your goal is to write 1600 words per day, and it doesn’t matter if the words are any good or not. Save editing for another time.

I loved that freedom. I wrote my first nanowrimo novel in 2007. It was pretty bad. But what I learned was that I could do it. I could write a novel from beginning to end. I wrote my second in 2008, and my third in 2009. I now knew I really could get from Chapter 1 to The End.

I learned important lessons from writing a novel in a month.

-I write faster and better very early in the morning.

-I edit best in the afternoon and evening.

– If I know where my novel is going to begin and end, it’s much easier to get there.

-If I know what my character yearns for (thank you Robert Olan Butler, my Pulitzer Prize winning professor at FSU), I can take my novel the way it needs to go.

Nanowrimo is above all a communal activity, so I taught a Nanowrimo class in November of 2010 for the FSU/PC (Florida State University/Panama City) Writer’s Workshop. Being able to talk with others who were training for our own personal marathon was so inspiring that the novel I wrote during that November ended up being my first published novel, Her Roman Protector ( LIH February 2014).

Of course, the novel required extensive revisions, but in the first draft, what my friend Kathy Holzapfel calls the zero draft, I learned all about my characters. I learned what they did, where they were going, and how they were going to get there.

When I revised the book for my editor, the knowledge that I could write a whole novel in 30 days gave me the confidence to plunge into the revisions knowing that I could complete them successfully.

Nanowrimo is not for everyone. But for writers like me, writers whose greatest fear is that they will not be able to complete the manuscript they’ve begun, Nanowrimo is a beacon of friendly light in the lonely sea that is novel writing.

So get writing!

Thanks, Milinda for all this advice! Check out Milinda’s website, her Facebook page, or follow her on Twitter @MilindaJay 

Don’t forget all the Harlequin Writing Guidelines, but especially the ones for Love Inspired Historical, and follow us on Twitter @HarlequinBooks, @LoveInspired

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    • Hi, Sheila!
      I write 1,000 words per day minimum. Some days I am lucky and write more! They are not necessarily good words. In fact they usually aren’t good at all! But, I do get a sense of my story, and have plenty to revise before submitting to anyone! It’s a time consuming way of writing, but that’s just my process. I write a first draft that is very messy, then rewrite and rewrite some more. Thank you for asking!