NaNoWriMo is coming in November

Get those brain cells and fingers moving for NaNoWriMo

By Morf Morford
Tacoma Daily Index

Have a novel somewhere in your mind? If you do, or even think you do, get your fingers ready for participation in a national, if not international writers’ movement. National Novel Writing Month (often shortened to NaNoWriMo) is an annual, Internet-based creative writing project that takes place during the month of November. Inspired Participants attempt to write a 50,000-word manuscript between November 1 and November 30.

Well-known authors write “pep-talks” to keep them motivated throughout the process.

The website provides participants, called “Wrimos”, with tips for writer’s block, information on where local participants are meeting, and an online community of support. Focusing on the length of a work rather than the quality, writers are encouraged to finish their first draft quickly so that it can later be edited at the author’s discretion. As experienced writers know, writing and editing are two very different processes. Writing can be very fast, but editing needs to be slow.

The project started in July 1999 with 21 participants. By 2010 over 200,000 people had joined.

Writers wishing to participate first register on the project’s website, where they can post profiles and information about their novels, including synopses and excerpts. Word counts are validated on the site, with writers submitting a copy of their novel for automatic counting. Municipal leaders and regional forums help connect local writers, holding writing events and providing encouragement.

As you might guess, the rules are simple and clear, since NaNoWriMo is voluntary, with the primary purpose to get people writing, the rules are kept broad and straightforward:

1. Writing starts at 12:00: a.m. on November 1 and ends 11:59:59 p.m. on November 30, local time.

2. No one is allowed to start early and the challenge finishes exactly 30 days from that start point.

3. Novels must reach a minimum of 50,000 words before the end of November in order to win. These words can either be a complete novel of 50,000 words or the first 50,000 words of a novel to be completed later.

4. Planning and extensive notes are permitted, but no material written before the November 1 start date can go into the body of the novel.

5. Participants’ novels can be on any theme, genre of fiction, and language. Everything from fanfiction, which uses trademarked characters, to novels in poem format, and metafiction is allowed; according to the website’s FAQ, “If you believe you’re writing a novel, we believe you’re writing a novel too.”

In 2004, NaNoWriMo started the Young Writers Program (YWP), a writing workshop aimed to aid classrooms of kindergarten through 12th-grade students. The difference between the regular program and the YWP was that kids could choose how many words to try to write. The word count goal for a young writer can range from a few thousand words, to the adult-standard 50,000, and even higher in some cases; a typical standard is around 30,000. In its inaugural year, the program was used in 150 classrooms and involved 4000 students. Teachers register their classroom for participation and are sent a starter kit of materials to use in the class which includes reward items like stickers and pencils. Lesson plans and writing ideas are also offered as resources to teachers, while students can communicate through the program’s forums. The only age restriction on the YWP is that, in most circumstances, no one can be over 18. When a user turns 18, they are sent to the main site; however, high school seniors who turn 18 during their senior year can remain in the program until graduation. YWP has their own forums which anyone from 13-17 can be on.

NaNoWriMo is your opportunity to write your novel in the (virtual) company of hundreds, if not thousands, of others to cheer you on.
NaNoWriMo is your opportunity to write your novel in the (virtual) company of hundreds, if not thousands, of others to cheer you on.

What happens after November? 

The “Now What?” Months

In 2013, January and February were deemed NaNoWriMo’s “Now What?” Months, designed to help novelists during the editing and revision process. To participate, writers commit to revisit their novels, signing a contract via NaNoWriMo, then attend Internet seminars where publishing experts and NaNoWriMo novelists are available to advise writers on the next steps for their draft. After that, participants communicate on Twitter to compare editing notes and interact with agents and publishers. Participants stay updated with NaNoWriMo’s blog where encouragement and advice are offered by authors, editors, and agents.

Almost 800,000 have attempted to write their novel with the confines of a single month, with 367,913 completed.

To sign up, get more information or find inspiration, you could start at their website here –

There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.

–  Maya Angelou

If you think most of what gets written within one month must be forgettable dreck, you are certainly correct. But as any writer knows, once you get into the flow of writing, all kinds of wonderful, unexpected stories may emerge. Your opus just might emerge from the morass.

Some notable titles that have come from previous NaNoWriMos include:

Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen, published by Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill

Persistence of Memory by Amelia Atwater-Rhodes, published by Delacorte Press

Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins, published by Dutton Juvenile

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern, published by Doubleday

Wool by Hugh Howey, published by Simon & Schuster

Cinder by Marissa Meyer, published by Square Fish

Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell, published by St. Martin’s Press

The Darwin Elevator by Jason M. Hough, published by Del Rey Books

Side Effects May Vary by Julie Murphy, published by HarperCollins Publishers

Assassin’s Heart by Sarah Ahiers, published by HarperCollins Publishers

The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan, published by Gollancz

The Cut Out by Jack Heath, published by Allen & Unwin

The Beautiful Land, by Alan Averill, published by Ace Books

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