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Sunday, 27 October 2013

NaNoWriMo - National Novel Writing Month

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NaNoWriMo - National Novel Writing Month
(An Introduction To The Most Important Writing Event Of The Year, And Why Getting Involved Might Change Your Life)

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Writing is like life. It’s difficult, it’s rewarding, sometimes you want to rip it into shreds, sometimes you want to invest as much as you possibly can into it. Your motivation ebbs and flows.

Just like life, opportunities come and go in the world of writing. Sometimes it’s a competition, sometimes a work placement, and very occasionally a flash of pure inspiration. It’s a sad thing that we often ignore these opportunities. Often we just can’t see the value of getting involved.

I’m here to tell you about another opportunity. It’s called National Novel Writing Month. Here’s what you need to know: It’s difficult. It’s rewarding. Sometimes you’ll want to rip it into shreds.

But you should ABSOLUTELY invest as much as you possibly can into it.

NaNoWriMo has laid claim to the month of November since 1999. It describes itself as a “fun, seat-of-your-pants approach to creative writing”, which I think describes it rather perfectly. The idea is very simple: on November 1st you begin writing your novel, and your aim is to have written 50,000 words in 30 days.

Scared? I was when I first heard about it. But I was also mightily intrigued. To most wannabe writers out there, it seems like an impossible task. 50,000 words? The largest piece of writing I’ve ever completed was around 12,000 words, and that was over a period of three months! But it is possible. Hundreds (possibly thousands) of writers every year walk away from NaNoWriMo with their novel well on its way to being complete. It’s
very possible that you could be among them this year.

The other great thing about this opportunity is that you will be a part of a colossal community of
writers. Writers who are just as daunted by the goal as you are. They know how difficult this is, and so they work extremely hard every year to give everyone involved a real chance of completing their 50,000 words.

Here’s a brief list of the help and support you will receive upon signing up (for full details, check their website):

  • Pep Talks from published authors. Pep Talks are inspirational letters delivered to your NaNoWriMo inbox throughout the course of the project. This year, eleven well-known published authors will write to you, giving hints, tips and writing wisdom to help you stay motivated and inspired to keep going.
  • Personal support from Writing Buddies. Find and add your friends as Writing Buddies. You can check up on each other’s works-in-progress, add critiques and ideas or just become motivated talking to friends who understand you and understand what you’re going through.
  • Word-Count and Deadline-Tracking tools. Never at any moment in NaNoWriMo will you be unsure about your progress. As long as you keep uploading your Word-Count to your online profile, the website will provide some very useful statistics such as how many words per day you’ve been writing, and how many more words per day you need to write in order to meet your goal.
  • Municipal Liaisons. These people form a network all over the world. It’s likely that you will have one designated to your region, who oversees your regional forum and answers questions, organises writing workshops and parties, and anything else they can think of in an attempt to bolster your dedication and motivate you to your fullest extent.
  • Novel Profile. On October 1st, the option was enabled to add information about your upcoming novel to your NaNoWriMo profile. You will be prompted to add a title, cover image, brief synopsis and and excerpt for other writers to read through, should you wish. In the words of the NaNoWriMo folks, “Giving your work a title or brief synopsis gets you 225% more pumped for November. It’s a fact.”
  • The Forums. The Forums are for everyone involved in NaNoWriMo. While your friends are always there for support, you will be working in a community of like-minded readers and writers, many of whom would be happy to take a look at your work, answer and questions you may have, provide ideas and feedback and opinions that might just help you on your way to finishing the project.
  • Blogs/Videos. Renew your inspiration levels by having a look at blog posts and vlogs from fellow writers who want to catalogue their journey through November. You might also want to think about doing this yourself. Provided you find the time, keeping an up-to-date diary of your progress and sharing it with the world is an unbelievable motivator.

Those willing to take up the challenge sign up to the NaNoWriMo website (, whereupon they will be prompted to fill in some information to flesh out their profile, and some information about the novel they hope to write. Up until November and throughout the course of the month you will have access to many different writing resources, the greatest of which is the incredible community at your fingertips. I cannot stress this enough - having the opinions, guidance and support of 500,000 other writers in the same position as you, all creating their own novels with you, writing with you, working with you, suffering with you - it’ll help. A lot.

NaNoWriMo is the largest writing project in the world. Last year over 340,000 people joined NaNoWriMo and helped and supported each other in reaching their goals. 50,000 words would make your work around the length of a short novel, if complete. I expect that more often than not, you’ll reach the end of November and have reached 50,000 words, and the novel will only be half-finished. But that is completely okay. Because you can continue on from there. NaNoWriMo is a huge commitment, and everyone who completes it testifies that it is the greatest feeling in the world. You’re not going to bin your work after such an ordeal. You’ll have put too much time and effort into it to let it go afterwards.

It might sound like I'm advertising this program, but I'm just another writer like you. 2013 will be my first year entering NaNoWriMo. I heard about it last year, when a couple of my friends told me they were entering into it. I could have let someone else write this post, someone who has more experience with the process of NaNoWriMo. But I thought it would be better to give an account of the program from a “newbie's” perspective. And despite the fact that university is taking up the vast majority of my time at the moment, I'm pumped for NaNoWriMo. I think there’s a real chance here for every single one of us to create something they’ll look back on with pride and joy.

Here’s the breakdown. Write 50,000 words in 30 days. It sounds ridiculous. It sounds impossible.
You should try it. You might surprise yourself. If nothing else, you’ll have joined one of the largest and most welcoming writing communities in the world. And hey, if you don’t get to 50,000 words, then it’s not the end of the world! You can always continue the novel beyond November! And there’s always next year…

There’s still plenty of time to sign up, browse through the community, gain inspiration. A message to people who are interested in NaNoWriMo but are waiting for inspiration to strike before joining up - don't. Join up now, and have a look. Become a part of the community. That way, inspiration will find you more quickly.

I really, honestly urge you all to try it. It’s an opportunity. I guarantee you that if you seize it, you won’t be disappointed. It’s an experience, if nothing else, and it could lead you onto something incredible.


  1. Good post, Ollie. Best of luck with NaNo this year.

    Fun fact: the very first NaNoWriMo was actually held in July, but they found that the weather was so nice that people really wanted to be out having fun instead of indoors, writing. The event was moved to November because it's a much less comfortable month weather-wise.

  2. Thanks, Kate, and you :) I'm glad it was decided that November was the time for NaNoWriMo - I find I work better when it's dark and rainy outside :)