National Novel Writing Month–affectionately nicknamed NaNoWriMo–started in November 1999 as a fun way for twenty-one friends to encourage each other’s novel writing by publicly committing to write 50,000 words in thirty day.
And then NanoWrMo grew up. November 2011 logged 256, 618 participants and 36,843 winners (defined below in the rules), penning 363,082,739 words. As in 363 million! The tagline–thirty days and nights of literary abandon–couldn’t be more true. Novels are to creative writing what road trips are to driving. In any month but November, they take from one to ten years to complete, exhaust the writer and infuriate those close to them who don’t understand how fictitious people can be so gal-darn fascinating. Writers–and some estimates say 80% of us believe we have a book inside our brains trying to get out–who commit put everything else in their lives on hold as they go full bore to see how many words they can pen. An online ezine I write for has excused all NaNoWriMo writers from submitting articles during the month of November.
Some make it, many don’t, but everyone comes out believing the challenge helped their writing. At least, judging by the glowing reviews on blogs like this.
Here’s what you do to join the fun (from NaNoWriMo’s website):
- Sign up for the event by clicking the “Start Here” button at NaNoWriMo.org
- Follow the instructions on the following screen to create an account.
- Check your email for the account validation email and click on the link included.
- Log into your account, where you’ll be prompted to finish the sign-up process.
- Start filling out information about yourself and your novel in My NaNoWriMo.
- Begin procrastinating by reading through all the great advice and funny stories in the forums. Post some stories and questions of your own. Get excited. Get nervous. Try to rope someone else into doing this with you. Eat lots of chocolate and stockpile noveling rewards.
- On November 1, begin writing your novel. Your goal is to write a 50,000-word novel by midnight, local time, on November 30th. You write on your own computer, using whatever software you prefer.
- This is not as scary as it sounds.
- Starting November 1, you can update your word count in that box at the top of the site, and post excerpts of your work for others to read. Watch your word-count accumulate and story take shape. Feel a little giddy.
- Write with other NaNoWriMo participants in your area. Write by yourself. Write. Write. Write.
- If you write 50,000 words of fiction by midnight, local time, November 30th, you can upload your novel for official verification, and be added to our hallowed Winner’s Page and receive a handsome winner’s certificate and web badge. We’ll post step-by-step instructions on how to scramble and upload your novel starting in mid-November.
- Reward yourself copiously for embarking on this outrageously creative adventure.
- Win or lose, you rock for even trying.
Testimonials like this one are pretty common:
It’s pretty much the weirdest, craziest, and most nerve wracking thing you can do. Dedicate a whole month to writing a novel. For fun. And yet thousands across the world have been doing it for more than ten years. That means sitting down at a computer and pounding out almost 2,000 words every single day, for thirty days straight. The result? Maniacal laughter. Frustration and repeatedly asking yourself why you ever signed up to do this in the first place.
There are a lot of websites offering advice on how to succeed during NaNoWriMo, NaNoWriMo Humor (last year, lots of Debbie Ohi), but I can tell you from reading dozens of them that it boils down to one common sense suggestion: Stay away from social media. Don’t go on Twitter, FB, LI, blogs (except this one). When you feel like socializing, pet your dog.
Over one hundred published novels have resulted from this program, most notably Sara Gruen’s bestselling “Water for Elephants.”
I have never participated, toyed with doing so this year and suddenly it was November 3rd. Anyone taking part?
Jacqui Murray is the author of the popular Building a Midshipman, the story of her daughter’s journey from high school to United States Naval Academy. She is webmaster for six blogs, an Amazon Vine Voice book reviewer, a columnist for Examiner.com and TeachHUB, Editorial Review Board member for Journal for Computing Teachers, Cisco guest blog, and a monthly contributor to Today’s Author. In her free time, she is editor of a K-8 technology curriculum and technology training books for how to integrate technology in education. Currently, she’s editing a thriller that should be out to publishers next summer. Contact Jacqui at her writing office or her tech lab, Ask a Tech Teacher.