November is a month of traditions, more than most months. We’ve got football, homecoming, Thanksgiving holidays and the beautiful fall colors, not to mention election day.
But for the last 11 years, we have a new November tradition: National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). Every year, writers put up badges and word counters on their websites and blogs, and start writing a novel with the aim to finish in one month.
Sound impossible? Thousands of writers are doing it every year. Starting in the San Francisco Bay Area in 2009 by Chris Baty and a bunch of fellow writers, last year saw over 119,301 adult participants, 21,683 of whom completed the challenge and “won.”
Here’s an introduction from the NaNoWriMo website:
National Novel Writing Month is a fun, seat-of-your-pants approach to novel writing. Participants begin writing November 1. The goal is to write a 175-page (50,000-word) novel by midnight, November 30. Valuing enthusiasm and perseverance over painstaking craft, NaNoWriMo is a novel-writing program for everyone who has thought fleetingly about writing a novel but has been scared away by the time and effort involved.
There are no prizes for completing your book in NaNoWriMo. Writers do it for the joy of writing and having someone else give us a deadline so we can actually get some writing done. The NaNoWriMo website has translations in German, French and Spanish, and the whole concept has spread over the years.
Who is it good for? To produce 50,000 words in 30 days, you’ll have to have the time to average about 1,666 words per day. Every day. Here’s more from the website on how this is possible:
Because of the limited writing window, the ONLY thing that matters in NaNoWriMo is output. It’s all about quantity, not quality. The kamikaze approach forces you to lower your expectations, take risks, and write on the fly.
This is a lot like the freewriting I’ve written about here before. To be able to really let go and allow the story you have in your head take shape—by itself—on your screen is a powerful writing practice.
To do this and turn out 1600 words a day for 30 days in a row would really test your skill and resilience as a writer. If you’d like to find out more about joining the fun, head on over to the NaNoWriMo website and sign up there.
But What About the Nonfiction Writers?
In response to NaNoWriMo, author and blogger Nina Amir began WriteNonfictionInNovember, a much looser association of writers without the trappings of Amazon sponsorship, multilingual participants and hundreds of thousands of participants.
But Amir created the structure to give nonfiction authors the same kind of enforced deadline that can lead to the discipline to get a long-planned project off the ground.
While NaNoWriMo brings in well-known authors to deliver “pep talks” to participants, Write Nonfiction in November runs off a blog that features expert guest bloggers throughout the month to enhance participant’s move toward publication.
Here’s what Amir says about her project:
This blog challenges nonfiction writers to spend the month of November writing and completing a work of nonfiction. It also discusses nonfiction writing and provide a forum for nonfiction writers to comment on their writing experiences during November each year. This is not a contest!
Just by gathering writers and guests and giving them a place to interact and encourage the completion of nonfiction books, Write Nonfiction in November is a terrific gift to anyone who wants to participate.
So whether you’re a novelist or a nonfiction author, November offers you a chance to make a big leap in working on a project you’ve been meaning to get to. I’m curious: Do you plan to participate in one of these events?
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