In July of 2015, I stumbled across a post on a Writer’s forum that talked about this strange thing called “NaNoWriMo”. The other commenters were discussing their strategies to overcome it and “win”. Thinking this was some sort of strange writing competition, I asked for details. And what I found has marked my work as a writer ever since.
NaNoWriMo stands for “National Novel Writing Month”. While there are a couple “camps” over the course of the year, the official month is November. But this isn’t just something you post on your Facebook status like World Smile Day or something to just spread the word on like the awareness months. NaNoWriMo is a challenge to writers to get their novels written.
It works like this: writers promise to write 50,000 words toward a writing project of their choice. You begin on the first day of the month and have until the last day to write your final words. This usually averages out to 1,667 words a day.
Now, if you had nothing else to do during the time period, 50,000 words in one month is a pretty easy trick. But the majority of novelists also have school, work, and families. There are writers that talk about fervently writing on their morning carpool to work, as it’s the only way they’ll get their words in for the day. But as hard as it is to fit that much writing in that short a time, NaNo doesn’t leave you high and dry.
Writers participating in NaNoWriMo will receive tips, tricks, and encouragement in the form of daily messages from published authors. There are also forum boards for more help, including how to edit it after your work’s been completed. Any and all work is welcome, from short stories to screen plays. And at the end of the month, you copy and paste your text to verify it and win. And that’s the beautiful part. You’re not competing against anyone else (unless you count your own procrastination).
It was thanks to NaNoWriMo I finished 3 manuscripts and took a giant chunk out of a major epic still in the works. It goes above and beyond to overcome the usual excuses of “I just can’t find the time”. If writing is something you’re passionate about, this is a great help to get you to where you want to be. There are virtual “write ins” through their Youtube account, wherein two members of the NaNo staff hold a livestream discussing writing and giving tips.
There’s also a twitter account that hosts “word sprints”. For a short period of time (usually anywhere from 5 minutes to half an hour) the writers that are “sprinting” do nothing else but write. At the end of the time everyone shares their word counts for that last sprint and their favorite quote from that chunk of the story. Then it’s a quick break and back to sprinting!
Writing is often seen as a hermitic hobby, with one lone person hunched over a desk or a laptop in a room by themselves. But no one is an island and NaNoWriMo brings the human connection back into story creation. This November will be my 5th time doing it and I have high hopes for finishing yet another manuscript. I bet you could, too.
If you’re a writer, or you’d like to be one, check out www.nanowrimo.org and see if you can’t win the writer’s gauntlet. See you there!