NaNoWriMo: Write a whole nonfiction book in November

Traditionally, NaNoWriMo stands for “National Novel Writing Month”, and it takes place every November. The online writing race started back in 1991, and writers around the globe compete to write and finish a 50,000-word novel within 30 days. But the No could also stand for “nonfiction”. So let’s look at whether it’s possible to write a nonfiction book in November!

Can you write a book in 30 days?

Simple answer, yes! More complex answer: it depends on the individual author, their lifestyle, and their other commitments. Some authors spend months or even years writing their nonfiction book because that’s what works for them. Others write it in just a few weeks because they want to get it done and dusted ASAP. Writing a book is not a “one size fits all” kind of thing, but it’s certainly doable to write a book in 30 days and many authors have done so during NaNoWriMo.

Do you have to complete it in 30 days?

It’s definitely possible to write a nonfiction book in 30 days, but don’t put too much pressure on yourself if you have a full-time job and a family to look after. The aim of NaNoWriMo is not to burn yourself out or to feel overwhelmed by the amount of things on your plate. It’s to set yourself an exciting challenge and get started with the book you’ve always wanted to write. If you only manage to write half of it, that’s a great start. Just commit to finishing it soon, rather than forgetting about it.

How many hours do you need to dedicate?

If you decide to give NaNoWriMo a go, figure out a challenge that works for you. Look at how much free time you actually have and whether you can free up more time this month. It might mean committing to fewer social engagements than normal (which isn’t too difficult with lockdown in place) or unplugging your TV for a month. Maybe you can dedicate half an hour a day, or perhaps you have a spare three-hour slot once a week. It’s about what works for you.

Does it have to be 50,000 words?

While the aim of the official NaNoWriMo is to write 50,000 words, I recommend adjusting this for nonfiction. In fact, if you plan to self-publish your nonfiction book, then it’s better to aim for a word count of around 30,000 words, give or take 5,000. As people have less spare time for reading and long “TBR” (to be read) lists, word counts have been reducing. Plus, it’s better to write a concise, non-repetitive, and compelling 20,000 words than 50,000 words of waffle, repetition, and filler. 

What do you need to get started?

To start writing your book, you need a document to write in. Most authors go for Microsoft Word because it makes the editing stage easier, but you can use Google Docs if you’d prefer. Steer clear of book creation software at the moment (such as Scrivener) because it makes editing much trickier, especially if you hire an editor. Aside from that, you need a mindset of excitement about your challenge, so go and look at your favourite books on the bookshelf and get inspired! 

How do you keep yourself motivated?

It’s true that 30 days can seem intense if you’re not used to writing regularly, and this is why it’s important to figure out a challenge that’s reasonable for you. The best way to motivate yourself is to remind yourself of your reasons for writing a book and the goals you want to achieve. Keeping that “why” in mind (or even writing it on a Post-It note above your typing station) is great motivation. That’s why next week, we’ll be focusing on the top five goals for writing a book to find yours.

What do you do when it’s finished?

When you’ve finished writing the book, put your feet up and congratulate yourself! You’ve written a book (or part of a book) in just 30 days. Give yourself some time away from the book and celebrate, then get back into it. The next step is editing, then design, and finally proofreading. You can find our step-by-step guide to self-publishing here. You can also hire us to critiqueeditdesign, and proofread your book—or get in touch if you’re not sure what services you need.