Can you write a novel in 30 days?

I recently discovered that November is National Novel Writing Month, the idea being to write an entire novel in 30 days. The internet project (at NaNoWriMo.org) allows fellow writers to sign up to the challenge, mark their progress, track how many words others have written and, if they’re competitive, try to churn out more words than anyone else.

I’m sure the idea behind this is to inspire people to unleash their creative side, but the suggestion that decent novels can be written so hastily annoys me somewhat. Imagine the awfulness of a story typed out in a constant, unthinking stream; novels (and any form of writing, for that matter) require much thought and planning, as I’m sure many authors would agree.

There are some acclaimed novels, however, which were apparently written just as hastily. A few years ago my brother recommended Jack Kerouac’s On the Road to me, a novel which Kerouac claimed to have written in three weeks, typing onto a continuous scroll of paper with no paragraph breaks. Despite my brother’s usually-good taste in books, I just didn’t get it. It was rambling nonsense to me. Thankfully, I’m not the only one to think so. The author Truman Capote gave a nicely succinct critique of On the Road, which has become one of my favourite literary quotes: ‘That isn’t writing; it’s typing.’

Sara Magness, Editorial Administrator

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