It’s almost the most wonderful time of the year: November brings us fall break, Thanksgiving, and lots of Christmas shopping, but for writers, this month is special for a different reason. November is National Novel Writer’s Month (NaNoWriMo for short), where writers from around the world challenge themselves to write a 50,000 word novel in one month.
I know what you’re thinking–that sounds crazy! And you’re not entirely wrong. It is a huge commitment, especially for those of us who are still in school and have a million other things to worry about as the semester comes to a close. But I’ve been participating in NaNoWriMo on and off since I was in seventh grade, and I honestly have nothing but positive things to say about it.
how it began
NaNoWriMo was started in July 1999 by Chris Baty, but officially moved to November in 2000 so that writers could feel inspired by the cooler weather and festive atmosphere of that time of year. More and more people joined the project each year, with NaNoWriMo officially becoming a nonprofit organization in 2005.
The project began with only 22 writers, but now hundreds of thousands of people participate every year. There is an official website where participants can sign up to track their progress, chat with other writers in forums, and even plan local get-togethers to write with other people in their region (safely, of course).
Believe it or not, many famous authors started as participants in NaNoWriMo. Marissa Meyer’s Lunar Chronicles, one of my favorite book series of all time, started as her NaNoWriMo project! Other authors like Rainbow Rowell, Sarah Gruen, and Hugh Howey got their start from NaNoWriMo. There’s obviously no guarantee that your project will be the next debut novel, but hey, clearly it’s a possibility!
My experience with NaNoWriMo has been overwhelmingly positive. I did it for the first time when my seventh grade English teacher recommended it to me (I did the Young Writer’s version, which has an easier word count goal). I’ve always loved writing, so I found the program very fun and relaxing. Since I’ve been in college, it’s been a little harder to make time to write, but it’s still a great way to relax and focus on something other than school. Getting to write about something that you care about is very rewarding and, in my opinion, a great form of self-care.
want to participate?
If you want to participate in NaNoWriMo, there are a few rules:
- Writing begins at 12 a.m. on November 1, and ends at 11:59 p.m. on November 30.
- To officially “win,” you must have at least 50,000 words written by the end of the month.
- You are not allowed to start early, although you can have notes or an outline.
- Any kind of fiction writing is allowed, from poetry to fanfiction and everything in between.
Other than that, all you need to do is make a profile and announce your project! (Plus, send out some buddy requests so you can follow your friends’ progress, too!)
If 50,000 words seems daunting, you can change your goal to a number that would work better for you. Honestly, if you write even 1,000 words, that’s still a great accomplishment. NaNoWriMo is, most importantly, a place to support and encourage other writers, so don’t feel like you have to dedicate every waking moment to meeting the deadline. Just choose a topic you feel excited about and have fun!
Even if your goal isn’t to publish a novel, I’d still highly recommend giving NaNoWriMo a try this November. It’s a great way to meet people, strengthen your skills as a writer, and give yourself a chance to relax and do something just for you.