National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) is a celebration of the belief that there’s a story inside each of us; we just need a way to share it. NaNoWriMo asks participants to pen (or type) 50,000 words during the month of November–the first draft of the novel they always promised to write. If they succeed, they get the enviable privilege of adding a badge to their blog’s sidebar attesting to the fact that they survived–or won–NaNoWriMo.
The event began in 1999. By 2014 (according to the NaNoWriMo website):
- 325,142 participants, including 81,311 students and educators in the Young Writers Program, started the month as auto mechanics, out-of-work actors, and middle school English teachers. They walked away novelists.
- Over 250 NaNoWriMo novels had been traditionally published. They include Sara Gruen’s Water for Elephants, Erin Morgenstern’s The Night Circus, Hugh Howey’s Wool, Rainbow Rowell’s Fangirl, Jason Hough’s The Darwin Elevator, and Marissa Meyer’s Cinder.See a full list of our published authors.
Lots of contestants fail, but swear they will try again. Why? To me, it’s like Hell’s tilt-a-wheel (thank you, Kristen Lamb, for that image). Clearly, ‘not finishing’ isn’t significant because every year, the number of participants grows. Here are nine reasons why writers say they are glad they did NaNoWriMo and will do it again:
- It kickstarts their novel.
- It reboots their writing efforts.
- It gets them through that rough period of writing a novel that starts with the first sentence and ends as the protagonist disappears into the sunset.
- All efforts to avoid it will fail.
- They enjoy living life with their hopes up.
- The NaNoWriMo community gets them through writers block, insecurities, and laziness. They’re like a walking drumroll.
- It supersedes any excuse for NOT writing–and friends and family understand that.
- How else can you say that you wrote a novel in one month?
- It established good writing habits. Every expert tells wanna-be authors to write daily. NaNoWriMo makes that happen for thirty days.
If you’re going to participate this year, read these eight tips from the NaNoWriMo Twitter trenches (with a few snide asides by me):
- It’s never too late to start writing.
- Don’t start unless you’re committed to the project. It’s demanding, exhausting, and relentless.
- Don’t model your work after an author who committed suicide (who the heck was this person thinking of?)
- Plan your novel in October and write like the dam broke behind you in November.
- Don’t delete anything (OK, this’ll get you to 50,000 words, but really?)
- Use music as inspiration.
- Write your characters brilliant.
- Including time-travel solves all those “but how would this person find out about that??” problems.
Does this sound like your sort of gig? If not, that’s OK. You have to bloom where you’re planted. You’ll find sunlight somewhere else.
More on NaNoWriMo:
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 the author/editor of over a hundred books on integrating tech into education, adjunct professor of technology in education, webmaster for four blogs, an Amazon Vine Voice book reviewer, a columnist for TeachHUB, Editorial Review Board member for Journal for Computing Teachers, monthly contributor to Today’s Author and a freelance journalist on tech ed topics. You can find her book at her publisher’s website, Structured Learning.