Participating in National Novel Writing Month

In November I will be participating in National Novel Writing Month–or NaNoWriMo–an international contest where I will, once again, write a 50,000+ word novel in 30 days. I participated in 2013 and, with the help of my hometown NaNoWriMo chapter, completed my utterly awful first novel that no one will ever read ever.

What is NaNoWriMo, how does it work, and why should you participate?

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A long time ago authors relied on wealthy patrons like kings and queens to fund their work. Writing was a laborious manual process in which relatively few could engage as a hobby, much less turn into a livelihood. Our world is very different. Word processors have made writing cheap and easy, and the combination of electronic commerce and self-publishing places the power of sales and distribution at the fingertips of all.

Anyone can be an author–even you–and that is why NaNoWriMo exists: to help literary aspirants unlock their dreams.

For one month, starting on November 1st, NaNoWriMo contestants will write furiously for thirty days. During that period there will be 4.5 weekends, 21 weekdays, and 1 holiday. To meet the 50,000 word goal each writer must compose 1,667 words a day, or spend roughly 3 hours a day writing 500 words an hour (a reasonable target for new writers). These words must all tie character, plot, and setting together into some cohesive whole, telling a story that is a unique product of the writer’s imagination, hopefully filled with a little bit of the writer’s own passions and convictions.

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Though NaNoWriMo is billed as a “competition,” writers do not compete with each other, but against the clock and their own discipline and creativity. Most cities have local NaNoWriMo regional communities that host “write-ins” during the month of November, often at coffee shops, libraries, or homes. Write-ins are perhaps the only socially acceptable way to meet with a bunch of like-minded friends and then completely ignore them all while typing furiously away on a keyboard! Okay, writers take frequent breaks to refill their coffee mugs, discuss stories, give encouragement, and laugh at atrocious prose. Writing together can be a rich, rewarding, bonding experience for all.

NaNoWriMo provides pep-talks from seasoned professional writers to help motivate and encourage new (and old!) participants, as well as a rich forum for connecting with WriMos (yes, that is what we call ourselves) from around the world. When you sign up, you will have a personalized dashboard on which you can track your own writing progress and connect directly with other members in your home region. Each region’s Municipal Liaison (ML) will direct and coordinate group activities, distribute helpful internet links, publish forum posts with writing tips and tricks, and generally be available to answer any questions you might have.

Whether a writer reaches the 50,000 word goal or not by November 30th, their effort is celebrated and applauded by the community. Some people finish their books early, some people write more than 50,000 words before December, and others who don’t finish often take time in December to wrap$#@% (1)up because their own excitement and energy compels them. My home region throws a party in December to celebrate every St. Louis participant’s accomplishments, no matter what they are.

If you want to be a writer, or just want to challenge yourself personally, consider becoming a WriMo and connecting with your home region’s members. No matter the result, a part of you will grow with the experience, and your work will be something you can take pride in for the rest of your life.

Even if no one will ever read it ever.