Fall is in the air, and November is upon us, bringing with it NANOWRIMO, also known as National Novel Writing Month. The name alone is daunting: one month, to write a whole novel? The basic premise as listed on the website is even more daunting: starting November first, participants aim to write a 50,000 word novel. The first time I heard of NANOWRIMO, all I could think was that is a lot of words, and not nearly enough time to write them in. Since then, I have managed to complete the challenge not once, but twice. While neither work is necessarily publishable, there is a certain pride to knowing that you can write that much, you can make the time, and, in my case in particular, you can muscle your way through your writer’s block.
Now, I know what you’re thinking: what if I don’t want to write a novel? That’s okay! While the website defines a novel as a “lengthy work of fiction,” plenty of people use this challenge to write collections of poetry, short stories, or scripts. Genre is all up to you. You don’t even necessarily need to reach the 50,000 word goal. The whole point of NANOWRIMO is simply to get people writing, so if you manage to get some writing done, you’re already a winner. If you do make it to 50,000 words, however, not only do you get bragging rights, but NANOWRIMO also has prizes. NANOWRIMO is a not-for-profit organization, so all prizes are donated. These prizes have ranged from a free copy of your book, to discounted writing software like Scrivener, to free lessons on novel editing, or even opportunities for your book to be published.
If you’re hesitant about taking on such a challenge, NANOWRIMO has tools to help you out. After all, this isn’t just a challenge: it’s a community. If you select your region on their page, you can find where local write-ins are happening. Write-ins are times where you can meet and write with other participants, commiserating in the struggle and talking about your novels. If you can’t go to a write-in, or you’re simply stumped on an aspect of your novel, NANOWRIMO’s website also has a conversation section. There, you can post a thread under any number of categories, such as the Character Cafe and NaNoWriMo Ate My Soul. I know from experience that other people can see your story in a way you can’t, and with a few simple messages, your plot can go from Swiss cheese to, well, Swiss cheese with a few less holes. There’s even an Inspiration page, full of events you can attend, pep talks from writers, NaNo prep, and words sprints, where you can challenge yourself (or other people) to write as much as you can in whatever time limit you decide to set, which is great for when you really need to incentivize yourself to write.
There are some nifty tools on your account page. You can check out your badges, which are won from reaching certain word goals or participating in the NaNo community. You can also find your personal achievement badges here, which can cover anything from taking care of yourself to backing up your work. One of the most useful aspects of the page, however, is the stats section. Here, you can see a chart that gives you a visual of the NaNoWriMo goal. H This page is also where you can check on how well you’ve met that goal. It also tells you the average amount of words you have written a day, how many words you’ve written so far, as well as how many words you need to write a day to meet the goal.
The other goal of NANOWRIMO is donations. Donations keep NANOWRIMO running, as well as allow them to bring free creative writing programs to people all over the world. Different levels of donation give you different badges for your profile page, as well as a halo for your account. The NANOWRIMO donations page even lists what each size donation can do: for example, a ten dollar donation covers program costs for five writers, while a fifty dollar donation provides three classroom kits to educators in high-need schools. You can even fundraise for NANOWRIMO. If you do manage to raise three hundred dollars, you get the opportunity to attend their Night of Living Dangerously, a night of writing, accompanied by dinner, a raffle, and swag for attending. There’s even a NaNoWriMo shop on their website, where you can buy your own NaNo themed mugs, notebooks, clothing, and more to represent the challenge you’ve taken on.
Not ready to take on NaNoWriMo quite yet? November a busy month for you? Try out Camp NaNoWriMo instead! There are Camp NaNoWriMo sessions in April and July, and there you get to set your own goal, from 30 words all the way up to 1,000,000 (for those writers who really want to challenge themselves).
For those of you ready to take on the challenge, good luck hitting that 50,000 word mark, and if you don’t, just remember that as long as you’ve gotten writing, you’re always a winner.