3 Things Writing Novels Taught Me About Writing Code


I’m writing a 50,000-word novel this November. This is an annual tradition for me, as it is for thousands of people around the world who participate in National Novel Writing Month (or NaNoWriMo). It may seem silly at first—a novel written in 30 days can’t be very good, can it? But the point isn’t to end up with a good novel so much as it is to end up with a novel—something that many people dream of doing but never actually get around to. This novel-writing challenge teaches valuable lessons about how people work and how we tackle large projects, and the lessons I learn each November are ones I can apply to web development projects as well.


There is a common cause of novel-writing paralysis, and that is the realization that sometimes (and when it comes to 30-day novels, most of the time) what you’re writing could be better. The trouble is, if you keep on scrapping your novel and starting over, or rewriting the same sections over and over, you never actually move forward, which sets you up for failure when you’re trying to reach a deadline. 

This can bog down development projects, too—things like scope creep and over-engineering can be symptoms of this. When it comes to writing, it’s important to remember that a first draft is just that—a draft, which can be edited later, and often with better perspective once the big picture has been realized. When it comes to websites, an advantage they have over novels published with paper and ink is that they can almost always be changed.


At the end of November, the novels written for National Novel Writing Month don’t all get shipped off to the printers. NaNoWriMo – or the rough first draft – is really just the first step for most novels, but it’s not a step that can be skipped. One of the strengths of National Novel Writing Month is it provides a deadline that is easy to comprehend—one month—and hopefully at the end it gives participants a sense of having finished something. 

At Ascedia, our workflows are based on the principles of Agile development, which also values the idea of breaking development into chunks of work that are completed in predefined chunks of time. This gives us multiple, more conceivable deadlines within the bigger deadline of a whole project.


Some people put a lot of work into their novel before they write anything, doing research and creating outlines. Others have an idea and jump right in, figuring it out as they go along. Some people like to write in a quiet place while others like to be around people. In web development, too, people have different preferences in how they work and the tools they use. While your ideal work situation may not always be achievable, it helps to know what factors affect your productivity so you can try and shape your work habits around them.

These bits of novel-writing wisdom are not really about writing so much as they are about human nature. By setting realistic goals and good work habits, it’s easier to follow through on these big projects that may seem daunting without the right perspective.

Want to talk web development (or novel writing)? Contact our team today.

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