If you’ve been putting off writing your novel, November is an excellent time to get started because it’s National Novel Writing Month .
Although it began as a national effort, it is now practiced around the world. This year 500,000 writers are expected to gather in coffee shops, libraries, and many other places to encourage each other and reach for the 50,000 word goal, or 1,667 words a day. Some work alone at home, but check in online with their fellow writers.
Started by Chris Baty and 20 of his friends, the first NaNoWriMo actually took place in July 1999 in San Francisco. Described in their history as half literary marathon and half block party, it is celebrating its 15th year.
National Novel Writing Month is now a 501(c)(3) nonprofit that believes stories matter. Through their programs, including the Young Writers Program, the Come Write In program, and Camp NaNoWriMo, they empower and encourage vibrant creativity around the world.
Starting November 1st, eager writers gather in coffee shops, homes, cafes, etc. starting right after midnight on Halloween. They hope to keep each other motivated and awake as they race toward the goal of 50,000 words by midnight November 30th.
Most will continue to go to work and carry on their normal lives in between writing sessions, but most see writing as the primary task this month.
To get started, participants set up accounts and log on to report their word count and participate in the forum. It’s on the honor system and completing your goal is your reward. Even if you don’t reach the 50,000 word mark, just participating is an achievement. Experienced NaNoWriMo writer, RJBlain, gives you the pros and cons at http://rjblain.com/2013/09/the-journey-to-nanowrimo-2013-the-basics/, but will not try to coerce you to join.
What kind of novel can you possibly turn out in a month?
Quantity, not quality is the point. 50,000 words is the goal.
They don’t have to coherent, but many writers use this time to speed up their productivity toward churning out that inescapable crappy first draft. Would-be novelists use the time to prove to themselves that they can complete a piece of work.
But everyone doesn’t see NaNoWriMo as a good thing.
NaNoWriMo is not for everyone.
Alan Baxter, author of dark speculative fiction, takes a very dark view of this November ritual. He believes it’s unrealistic and a cruel joke on those who expect to have a novel at the end. You can see his full rant herehttp://www.alanbaxteronline.com/nanowrimo/. He announces that he won’t be participating, which is no surprise to me. I don’t think NaNoWriMo was created for professional writers who have already found their niche, pace and audience.
Another writer, David McDonald, admits that keeping up with the demand to finish 50,000 on the same project was grueling, but he did it. He gives tips on how he did it, and is happy for the experience that made him stretch beyond his usual short story length pieces. David is clear that he wouldn’t end with a polished piece. Here’s his take from http://www.davidmcdonaldspage.com/2012/02/nanowrimo-or-the-month-from-hell/on the reward for reaching the finish line
And what of the actual novel? Was it worth it? Again, I have to say yes. The plot outline I had worked out translated pretty well into novel form and I can see that it is worth persevering. Sure, it needs some revising and editing, but the fact remains that the bulk of it is there, instead of in my head like it had been for the fast few years. NaNoWriMo was the kick in the pants I needed to take the next step.
NaNoWriMo Writers Who Became Published Authors
In case you wonder if any NaNoWriMo writers ever become published authors, the answer is yes. Since 2006, 100 NaNoWriMo novels, such as Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen, have been published by traditional publishers. Hundreds more have been published by independent, small press and self-published authors. Many have been published in the authors’ native languages. See a full list of published authors at http://nanowrimo.org/published-wrimos
2013 Brings Exciting New Features to Spur You On During NaNoWriMo
- Published authors such as James Patterson will serve as Pep Talkers writing letters of wisdom and encouragement to the participants.
- Five published authors take over its Twitter account as NaNoWriMo Coaches, answering questions and cheering on participants as they write, including Jason Hough, author of the New York Times bestseller, The Darwin Elevator, first drafted during NaNoWriMo.
- Come Write In, a program that offers free resources and support to literacy related spaces, will expand beyond libraries and bookstores. Three hundred and ninety spaces, including cafes and community centers (and even an American style pizza restaurant in Japan), will become local beacons for creative writing through NaNoWriMo.
Debbie Millman, president of the design division at Sterling Brands, returns to run “30 Covers, 30 Days”, which challenges designers to create a book cover for a participant’s novel in progress in 24 hours. A celebration of the collaboration between design and writing, this program will inspire authors and provide prints for an Art of NaNoWriMo event
Here are the rules of NaNoWriMo
- Write a 50,000-word (or longer!) novel, between November 1 and November 30.
- Start from scratch. None of your own previously written prose can be included in your NaNoWriMo draft (though outlines, character sketches, and research are all fine, as are citations from other people’s works).
- Write a novel. We define a novel as a lengthy work of fiction. If you consider the book you’re writing a novel, we consider it a novel too!
- Be the sole author of your novel. Apart from those citations mentioned two bullet-points up.
- Write more than one word repeated 50,000 times.
- Upload your novel for word-count validation to our site between November 25 and November 30.
Catch the NaNoWriMo fever. Check out the two musical tributes below.
What do you think? Is NaNoWriMo an event you could embrace? Have you ever participated? Did you make it to the finish line?
If you are ready to launch a nonfiction book, I’d love to be your travelling companion to make your writing journey a fun trip with a soft landing. Check out my 4-week ecourse “Rockin’ My Book” where you can ease into the writing process with a gentle push, but no pressure. Once you sign up for the course you’ll get a lesson loaded with content and suggested activities in your emailbox each week. As you complete the lessons you may email me with questions and concerns.