Write a novel in 30 days? Sure, says McKim

November 02, 2008|By CHRIS COPLEY

Whitney McKim is not a writer by trade. But last year, she finished a 50,000-word novel. In less than 30 days.

"It was awesome," McKim said by phone from her home in Lovettsville, Va. "I could not believe it. The creativity, the excitement. Getting out a novel in a month."

In November 2007, McKim, 28, joined more than 101,000 other writers from around the world in trying to write a 50,000-word novel within 30 days. The program, called National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo, as it is affectionately known, is intended to encourage ordinary people to write a novel.

McKim is organizing a kick-off for this year's NaNoWriMo at Beans in the Belfry, a coffee shop in Brunswick, Md. The kick-off will be from 9 a.m. to noon Saturday, Nov. 1. The event is free; the public is invited.


The key to NaNoWriMo's success is providing writers with a crucial bit of managerial support: a deadline.

"NaNoWriMo is all about the magical power of deadlines," says the Web site of the National Novel Writing Month on its frequently asked questions page at "Give someone a goal and a goal-minded community and miracles are bound to happen. Pies will be eaten at amazing rates. Alfalfa will be harvested like never before. And novels will be written in a month."

McKim said she convinced a close friend from Connecticut to write with her last year.

"We don't see each other very often, but we were on Facebook almost every night, 'Oh, my god, let me tell you what my character just did,'" McKim said.

"I never thought I could write a novel, but I did it last year, my first year," she said. "People tell me they don't have time to write a novel. I have a full-time job, a part-time job, I volunteer in my community. You don't have to have time. It just happens."

McKim said her writing routine took two forms. Whenever she and husband Steve would go somewhere in the car, she took her laptop and wrote as much as possible. Her other favorite writing spot: bed. She said she would tap on her laptop. Her husband role-played some of her plot's turns and twists.

"I would ask my poor husband, 'OK, what would you do if you were in this position?'," McKim said. "He'd act it out and I'd be writing at the same time."

McKim's 2007 novel was based on bank robberies. McKim said she ignored the boilerplate advice given to authors to write about what they know.

"I don't know anything about bank robberies," she said, with a laugh. "I'm the most law-abiding person you'll ever meet. But all my ideas were about people breaking the law."

McKim finished her 50,000-word novel by the deadline last year - one of 15,335 participants to do so - and thereby "won" the event. All writers who reach the NaNoWriMo goal of 50,000 words are considered winners. There is no overall prize, no promise of publication - simply the satisfaction of having written a novel.

"They say no one is going to read your novel. I thought, 'Well, that's silly. Why would I write this if no one's going to read it?'," McKim said. "But it's a big self-gratification. It makes you feel so great to think you can do something like that."

Anyone who wishes to follow McKim's progress on this year's NaNoWriMo novel can read updates on her blog at

How to participate

WHAT: National Novel Writing Month

WHERE: The program is Web-based, but writers work on paper or computer at home or wherever they choose.

WHEN: Begins at 12:01 a.m. Saturday, Nov. 1, and ends at midnight, Sunday, Nov. 30.

COST: Participation is free; donations are requested.

CONTACT: For complete information or to register, go to

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