30 stories in 30 days: Unpacking No Novel November 2019

No Novel November is officially over! Here’s my debrief of the challenge, plus my personal takeaways and future plans.

A wild abstract design coming from the quill of a writer's pen - I am writing you a poem by archann via Deviant Art

I can’t believe I did it, you guys. 30 stories in 30 days (read them all here), and I only got behind once.

I learned so much.

So buckle up, kiddos, because it’s time for a debrief.

…not that kind, put your pants back on.

How it started

If I could produce a drawing every single day, maybe I could parlay that structure into writing.

The idea for No Novel November came to me during Inktober, when you do one drawing a day for a month. I tried it as a fun thing to do with my actual-artist sister-in-law, but not expecting anything from myself. About halfway through, I realized, “Hey, I can actually do this.” And I did!

The whole experience shifted my perspective of what’s creatively possible. Since choosing the stay-at-home-parent life, I’ve struggled mightily to continue even thinking of myself as a creative person, much less to generate any actual work. But if I could produce a drawing every day, maybe I could parlay that structure into writing.

November is traditionally National Novel Writing Month, but I knew my toddler-bound schedule wouldn’t let me write 1667 words each day to win. I had to find something else.

I considered drabble and six-word stories but found them too restrictive. Standard short stories were too long for daily production; same for flash.

Microfiction, though, had promise. Shorten it to 250 words (a page in editing terms), add a prompt list to springboard from, and it actually sounded doable.

I fished for interest on social media and was surprised so many people wanted in. NaNoWriMo can be daunting, and I appeared to have hit a vein of writers itching to stretch their muscles but who, like me, weren’t able (or motivated) to novel.

And thus No Novel November was born!

The challenge

I never expected so many people to play along, much less dedicate themselves to the challenge so wholeheartedly.

Perhaps the most surprising thing about how this went down was how many people jumped on board. I expected a handful of friends to join, but we wound up with 65 in the Facebook group and a handful more Twitterers—almost all people I don’t know!

When I realized that interest was way higher than anticipated, my Type 1 brain kicked in, and things shifted from “casual writing thing” to “official community event.” I wrote a miniseries about writing microfiction for the FB group, made shareables, created a couple hashtags, and even spooled up the ol’ dusty newsletter. Srsbzns.

All told, we had nearly 20 regular contributors, and several opened themselves up for critique. Reading everyone’s stories each day was by far my favourite part of the challenge. While I’d originally planned for that, I hadn’t planned on providing feedback for everyone who asked. Which I did. Daily. It was a hell of a lot more work than I bargained for, but truly a joy; the stories were so good and the writers so invested that I couldn’t not.

In the end, roughly 10 people “won” No Novel November. I never expected that many people to play along, much less dedicate themselves to the challenge so wholeheartedly. Even those who fell off the wagon along the way are insanely precious to me. The challenge was about just doing the dang thing, and they did! I’m bursting with den mother pride.

What I learned

If I could spin an entire world with characters and plot in 250 words in under an hour, what other projects could I undertake?

This challenge took the revelation I had with Inktober, slammed it down on the table, and demanded another round from the bartender. In October, I realized I could create something every day; November opened my eyes to the larger implications of reliably generating new, complete stories every single day within strict limitations. If I could spin an entire world with characters and plot in 250 words in under an hour (and not always all at once), what other projects could I undertake?

I could write mini posts every day.
I could write a microfic once a week.
I could write a flashfic once a month.
I could finish Apple of Chaos in a year.
I could do all of those things at once.

Whoa.

For the past 60 days, I’ve done what I’d thought was impossible. This challenge showed me how I’ve been limiting myself and opened up a world of possibility that’s both tantalizing and daunting. Rather than diving in headlong, like I usually do, I’m taking my time to see what develops. It’s all too glorious to look at directly.

Also, doing 30 days of feedback for 4-6 people was like boot camp for my consultation and editing skills: grueling at times, but oh so satisfying in the end. I loved the puzzle of each story, looking for its gems and pitfalls, then presenting them to the author in a loving, yet professional way; I loved their delight at finding the potential in their own work even more.

What was most revealing, though, is that I never got tired of doing it. I seemed to have boundless patience and energy for reading and critiquing, asking questions and finding answers. And if I’ve learned anything about finding your path, that’s the neon sign pointing you in the right direction.

Going forward

I can do more. I can write more. And I’m going to.

You might have noticed that I failed to post three of the 30 stories here on the blog and missed even more social media. Never fear! Those stories will have another life in the near future. I can’t say more because I promised the newsletter crew they’d hear first (so get on it if you want to hear secrets), but it’s gonna be good.

I’m also spending some time meditating on what to do next. I love the idea of a Fiction Friday here on the blog, and y’all know how I feel about Apple of Chaos being undone. But there’s also a part of me that wants to do spiritual writing. I know there’s a place for all of that somewhere; I just don’t know where yet.

What I do know is that I can do more. I can write more. And I’m going to.


No Novel November 2019 WInner Badge

PS: For those of you asking, YES, this will be an annual thing. No Novel November will ride again in 2020! I bought the URL and everything.

ALSO: I suspect we’ll do another microfiction challenge in March or May for alliteration, so stay tuned.

Author: Ellie

Uppity stardust. Will eat (almost) anything.

5 thoughts on “30 stories in 30 days: Unpacking No Novel November 2019”

  1. Cheers Ellie,

    That is all good. I found it difficult to write the story every day (as far as time and energy goes). I started late and I still have stories to do, but the challenge kept me inspired and motivated during November. I am interested in taking part in further challenges. I only found the site by accident, but I am happy I did.
    I lead a busy life, as I also have been doing art for about 20 years and crafts most of my life. I run a writing group, and this year we published a group book. ‘Colours of the Goldfields.’

    1. You’ve done a marvelous job of the challenge, Lesley! Thank you so much for your dedication and persistence. You were such an encouragement to everyone! Looking forward to seeing you in the next round.

      1. Cheers Ellie
        I am looking forward to the next round of ‘no novel.’ It was a really good idea on your part. Thanks again.:-) I will keep writing in the meantime, when I can get back to it. I have been delayed by other arty interests at the moment.
        Lesley N.

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