The Art of the One-Month Novel

College application personal statement

One Way Out of Gym, the mystery of a murdered gym teacher, is not a timeless classic. It’s a novel that spent zero weeks on The New York Times Bestseller List. There’s only one copy—I published it myself. Few care about Detective Charley or the gym teacher’s demise. But that doesn’t matter. These are my characters, in my novel—I care.

They exist thanks to National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). Every November, people worldwide struggle to write a 50,000-word novel in 30 days. I was 15 then, and had written maybe 50,000 words in my entire life. Writing so much in a single month seemed impossible.

Yet I was attracted to the challenge. So, in late October, I toted a notebook wherever I went, making flowcharts of events and lists of characters, planning my assault on NaNoWriMo. This was when I met my main character, Detective Charley, who chased down cheating husbands and the occasional murderer. Charley was fictional, but that didn’t affect our friendship.

When November finally arrived, we really got to know each other. I came home from school each day eager to develop our relationship. I wrote quickly, wondering how he’d solve his case.

After the second week, I began to tire. On some days the words flowed naturally, but on...

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