Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Book Review: "How to Write 50,000 Words in 30 Days ..." (Mike Coville)

Ever heard of NaNoWriMo?

If you're a writer, and you don't mind working under pressure, and you like being challenged, it's time you heard about it.

November is National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). To acknowledge the month, and to encourage writers to get something written, there's a challenge: spend the 30 days in the month of November writing 50,000 words of a novel (or a 50,000-word novel, your choice).

Thousands of people have participated for years since the challenge's creation. Author Mike Coville, who participated in the NaNoWriMo 2013 challenge, is one among them.

After he survived his first NaNoWriMo experience, Coville wrote a brief handbook called How to Write 50,000 Words in 30 Days and Survive to Tell Your Story. It's written in an easy, conversational style; picture meeting Coville over a cup of coffee at your favorite local hangout to shoot the breeze for a couple of hours about his experience and what he wants to impart to you for yours.

That's really what his book is about: imparting encouragement, guidance, wisdom, and insider how-to tips for not only surviving but also truly thriving during the NaNoWriMo experience. He answers common questions --- "Do you have to write a novel during NaNoWriMo?" --- and offers advice on setting goals, who to deal with distractions, what comes after NaNoWriMo, and a hindsight-is-20/20 overview of each week of the challenge and what to expect.

Speaking as someone who has participated in NaNoWriMo or one of its offshoot Camp NaNoWriMo opportunities for a couple of years now, but never completed a work in its entirety or met my personal word count goal, I was cheered by the practical recommendations Coville provides, especially about setting goals.

For instance, Coville says, if every time you reach a certain number of words in your total word count, you reward yourself with something that you enjoy, then you'll have something to look forward to as you work. Anybody in business, who has ever been an employee or who has overseen employees, knows that incentives help drive performance. It's that simple.

My only critique of the work is that subsequent editions (in case Coville intends to reprint it in the future with more tips from any future NaNoWriMo experiences) need an extra proofread before publication. Misspelled words and misplaced commas made up the bulk of the errors, and while they weren't on every page, they were frequent enough to be a distraction in some chapters.

Coville's book is kind of a combination memoir (of his own experience) and how-to writing book (for readers interested in the challenge). I thoroughly enjoyed its contents, and would certainly recommend it without hesitation to anyone seriously considering NaNoWriMo.

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Title: How to Write 50,000 Words in 30 Days and Survive to Tell Your Story
Author: Mike Coville
ISBN: 978-1500565657
Purchase here:

Disclaimer: I received this book free from the author in exchange for an honest, though not necessarily positive, review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.


  1. Thank you for the kind words. I am pleased that you enjoyed the book.

    1. A pleasure -- it was a delight to read! I love when I pick up a book and learn something from it.


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