NaNoWriMo – What It Is and Why You Should Join In

By Ali Hale

If you’re an aspiring novelist, but have yet to write your masterpiece, you might want to consider joining in with NaNoWriMo.

Say what? NaNoWriMo is short for “National Novel Writing Month” (though, technically, it’s international). Every November, writers around the world join in a fiction-writing frenzy, aiming to produce a 50,000 word novel in just 30 days. This year is the tenth NaNoWriMo, so it’s a great time to get on board if you’ve always wanted to write a novel, but have never quite got around to it.

Are you up for the challenge? You can find out everything you could possibly want to know on the NaNoWriMo website, but here’s the quick run-down for those of you who’re in a hurry…

How it Works

The rules are pretty straightforward. The basics are that:

  • You shouldn’t start your novel before November 1st
  • You can send your novel to the site (it’s not stored anywhere or read, don’t worry) for word count validation
  • You can’t collaborate with someone else to produce the 50,000 words – but if you get your friends involved writing their own novels, that’s great!
  • You can write your novel on a computer or with pen and paper, but you obviously won’t be able to validate the wordcount if you’re using pen and paper…
  • You need to be over 13 to register on the NaNoWriMo site. Under 18s (including kids under 13) can register for the Young Writers’ version.

Facts and Figures

  • 50,000 words in 30 days is 1,667 words a day. If you look at it like that, it’s a challenging but achievable target. Depending on how fast you write, that’s probably 1 – 2 hours work.
  • Last year, over 100,000 people signed up…
  • …and 15,000 “won” by completing 50,000 words by midnight on November 30th.

Ali’s Tips

I did NaNoWriMo last year, along with my boyfriend Paul and our mutual friend Nick. We all “won” by completing our novels by the end of the month. (Though I was the first to reach the 50,000 word target…)

It was a great experience, and I did try to finish and redraft my novel earlier this year, but eventually decided it was better seen as “practice” than a piece that would be worth further work.

I’d definitely recommend:

  • Buy and read the excellent book No Plot? No Problem! by the founder of NaNoWriMo, Chris Baty — it’s a great guide to writing a book in a month, and it’s also incredibly funny.
  • Get a partner, housemate or friend involved. It especially helps if the people who live with you understand why “making today’s wordcount” is more important than cooking dinner…
  • Competing against your friends and loved ones will really spur you on through the tough spots.
  • Don’t worry about the quality of your writing, just focus on getting to that 50,000 word target. (NaNoWriMo is not the best time to work on that wonderful idea you’ve been brooding over for years – try picking something new. If you care about it too much, you’ll get over-perfectionist.)
  • Get as far ahead as you can in the first week … it’s awful playing catch-up later on.
  • If you have a full-time job, try getting up early to write before work (my tactic) or writing through your lunch-hour (Nick’s tactic); it’s a lot easier than trying to pound out words in the evening when you’re tired.
  • If you’re a student, try writing in your library (Paul’s tactic); you won’t have distractions like TV, computer games and the fridge nearby…

Finishing a novel is a fantastic feeling … and it’s something that most people in the world will never do, even those who want to be writers.

Have you ever done NaNoWriMo? How did you get on? Will you be taking part this year?

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17 Responses to “NaNoWriMo – What It Is and Why You Should Join In”

  • Jamie Grove – How Not To Write

    Though I’ve written two novels, this is my first NaNoWriMo. I drafted each of those books in less than 6 weeks, so I know a little about writing fast, and your tip about _just writing_ is excellent.

    Also, if you sign up for NaNo you should try to donate (if you are able). NaNo is a non-profit and runs on donations. The lowest level is just $10 and you get a nifty halo on your profile picture when you give. 🙂

    Great post!!

  • jennifer

    Great post! I’ve been plugging NaNoWriMo on my blog as well.

    I will be joining in this year in the race to 50,000! I finished writing my first novel in September, so I thought it would be fun to go for a second and finish two in one year.

    Good luck to everyone. I’ll see you at the finish line 🙂

  • James Madara

    I signed up for NaNo this year. It’s my first try and I hope I make it. I just started my blog and hope to have time to chronicle my experience as I go. Good luck to all attempting this NaNoWriMo!

  • emmy

    i’ve been wanting to do this for years and i’m so excited i’ve finally signed up.

    good luck, everyone!

  • Harbeer

    Hi,
    This is the first time i have heard of this but i am very excited to join in.
    Hey ! When can we get registered?

  • bsravanin

    I have been postponing for the last three years. I will definitely participate this year, even if I make it to only 10,000. That is more fiction that I usually get done in a month. Though this won’t be exactly “done”.

  • Kimberlee

    Yay! I love Nanowrimo. I tried it a few years ago but didn’t finish. This year is my time to shine. The best part of it is all the friendships you’ll make along the way, just don’t hang out in the forums too long or you’ll never get to writing.

    Anyone who would like to add me as their Nano friend, my name there is kferrell. Hope to see you there!

    Kimberlee

  • C.J. Harley

    I’m in! Never written a novel before, but National Novel Writing Month is as good as any time to start.

  • Susabelle

    This is my sixth year of doing Nano, and I’ve won the previous five years. I highly recommend this exercise!

  • annie

    Great post. Totally agree that it is an experience to be had.

  • Destiny

    I’ve done nanowrimo 2 years in a row and ‘won’ each time and I’ll be attempting to do so again this year. Nanowrimo is a great jumpstart and the community is full of wonderful people.

  • Dara

    I did NaNo last year and found it exciting! I ended up winning with just over 50K (would have been 60 but I had a bout of food poisoning right in the middle of the month that took me out for about 3 days).

    I’m actually working on the second half of last year’s NaNo this time around; it’s the only way it’ll ever get finished 😛

  • Lenin Nair

    NaNoWriMo is indeed cool. I happened to find this resourceful post at the right time. It seems like a month of great activity and cultural interaction. The sheer pleasure of completing a novel in a month with hell a lot of other participants is really invigorating. Here is my take on Nanowrimo: http://cutewriting.blogspot.com/2008/10/buckle-up-for-this-years-nanowrimo.html

  • Lynn Jordan — Authors Tools Blog

    NaNoWriMo is great. This will be my 6th year.

    It definitely helps to have local support. Draft a friend or neighbor. There are lots of local groups scattered around the world. Even my little community on the Oregon Coast has a very active group. A couple of years ago, we finished 3rd in the world for words per person. (Number 2 was one person by himself in Malaysia.)

    Try it! You’ll become addicted.

  • Lounge Daddy

    I had never heard of NaNoWriMo until I read your article the day it was posted (10 days ago as I write this). I sat bolt upright as I read, and then I went straight to the web site to read more.

    The timing could have been more perfect! I signed up that very day, and I am still just as jazzed as I was when I first read your article. Thank you so very much for turning me on to this.

    November I plan on writing the first 50,000 words of a 200,000 word novel. Boo-ya!

  • Ali

    Fantastic news, Lounge Daddy; I’m honoured to have been the one to have introduced you to NaNoWriMo — and trust I’ll be seeing your name on the bookshelves in a couple of years’ time!

    Best of luck, have an utterly fantastic November,

    Ali

  • Kristen Haskell

    This is my first year doing the NaNo and I am having a wonderful time with this. I went to my first write-in last Saturday and met some veteran Wrimos. All great people! I am over 16K on my word count and it is day 7! Yeah!!!

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