November is rapidly approaching and I think it’s time for me to talk about something very special to me:
NaNoWriMo = National Novel Writing Month
Although “national” is part of the acronym, it is a worldwide program accessed online at www.nanowrimo.org. The object is to complete a first draft (minimum 50,000 words) of a novel between midnight on November 1st and 11:59 P.M. on November 30th.
Signing up for Nano entitles users to:
In addition to the online community, “Municipal Liaisons” volunteer in most areas of the country, organizing “write-ins” in libraries, cafés, and the like. Users can connect with other writers in their geographical area throughout the month and often form lifelong friendships or professional contacts.
Nano gets mixed reviews from writers and I can see why. For one thing, writing an entire novel in 30 days is a daunting idea. Some people thrive on deadlines. Others wilt. But most of the benefits of Nano are yours just for signing up and trying – whether you finish the challenge or not. The point is to help writers buckle down, let go of everything that’s been holding them back, and just write! Don’t look back and edit. Don’t worry about all the issues left to fix in subsequent drafts. Just write.
It may seem that the frantic pace of Nano would be more appealing to “pantsers.” (Writers who don’t plot their novels ahead of time but prefer to dive in and see where the story takes them.) However, just because it is “preferred” that you write the entire draft in 30 days, does not mean that writers are discouraged from plotting out the novel or developing characters in the months leading up to November. “Plotters” (writers who like to have a solid concept what’s going to happen in their novel before they begin) could spend December-October researching and developing their ideas. Fully prepared by November, they could lean into the collar and get a solid draft on paper.
The Nano creators also “prefer” that users write a novel, rather than a non-fiction piece, book of poetry, or screenplay. However, writers have a tendency to be rebels and plenty of people sign up to do just those things. The tricky part is deciding how to adjust the word count so that a non-traditional piece jives with the 50,000 word goal of Nano’s system.
If one wishes to write something outside of the “novel format” there are two other months just for that. Each year in April and July, users can sign up for Camp Nanowrimo. Just like summer camp, participants are sorted into cabins. These can be random, filled with others writing similar pieces, or even composed of a user and their invited friends. Campers set their own word count goals, making it friendlier for revising or rewriting an existing piece.
What happens when the month is over? If you’ve made it to 50,000 words, you win. You upload your text to the site to confirm that you’ve reached the goal. (This is not saved on the site – no one will steal your hard work. If you’re the paranoid type, you can run it through a text scrambler before uploading it.) Your profile picture declares your victory and you are eligible to receive a number of offers from Nano sponsors; discounted editing services, writing classes, self-publishing, and more. I bought my Scrivener software at a discount after completing Nano, for example. Most importantly, you’ve achieved a massive goal. You’ve written a novel.
Nano doesn’t ditch participants at the end of the month, either. They make efforts to help with the editing and possible publishing of the work through continued newsletters and podcasts. They DO NOT encourage people to start submitting their first drafts to publishers come December. Nano wants participants to rewrite and edit to create the best possible novels.
So by signing up for Nano, you get the following:
And how much does this service cost? $0. Nada. It’s free. They will ask for donations. Why? To quote www.nanowrimo.org:
“When you donate to National Novel Writing Month, you help bring free creative writing programs to more than 400,000 kids and adults in approximately 200 countries, 2,000 classrooms, 650 libraries, and 600 NaNoWriMo regions every year.
You not only support people’s novel writing dreams, you help transform people into creators who see new possibilities in the world—and act on them. You spark a creative revolution.”
Reason enough for you? They also raise funds through the sale of merchandise, so you can say, “Been there. Wrote that. Got the T-shirt.” (Or coffee mug, laptop bag, whatever.)
Nano allowed me to taste the writer’s life and discover that I wanted to pursue this as a career. It taught me that writing isn’t some mysterious, divine gift. It’s just putting your fingers on the keyboard every day and trying.
I wrote my first two manuscripts during Nanowrimo 2012 and 2014, and began the third during Camp Nano this last July. I can promise you that it is not only possible to hit that 1,667 word mark, it’s possible to double it. It’s possible to blow the 50,000 word goal out of the water.
I’m not participating this year and I feel a little like I’m not planning to get dressed in the month of November. I’m busy editing two of my previous works and preparing some short fiction and poetry for submission to contests/publications. Things that may never have happened without Nano. But, I’m planning on donating, because I am forever grateful.
Nano lit the fire that drives me to strive for a goal I’ve had since I first stared up the towering shelves of a library. I want to see my name on the cover of a book. Maybe many books.
I recognize that Nanowrimo is not for every writer. But, it was a priceless experience for me. And it could be for you. The site is live for 2015. Look into it.