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What Is NaNoWriMo?

Updated: Nov 23, 2020

One of the biggest struggles that some writers face is trying to find the time to write. Life can get extremely busy and tiresome, which makes setting aside time to work on a writing project difficult. If this is something that you deal with, then you have probably wished for some free time to write. Imagine being able to consistently write for a whole month!

Well, that is what NaNoWriMo is all about.

If you are a writer, even just an aspiring one, then you’ve probably heard of National Novel Writing Month, more commonly referred to as NaNoWriMo. Pronounced nano-wry-mow, this month of writing is a pretty big deal to the writers who participate, but can often be a bit mysterious and even overwhelming to those unfamiliar with it.

The Goal of NaNoWriMo

NaNoWriMo began in 1999 and is a month-long mad dash sprint to write an entire novel within the month of November. While it started out as a national event, it has quickly grown to include people from all over the world. Hundreds of thousands of people participate every single year.

The goal for the month is for a person to start a new novel and write 50,000 words by the time November 30th rolls around. This means that person has to write 1,667 words every day if they want to achieve that goal. That is an incredibly daunting and tiring task, but very rewarding if a person sticks with it.

Just think, in a months’ time, you could have a full novel written.

Since NaNoWriMo is such a daunting task, the people behind it provide participants with all sorts of resources to keep them going. They create a graph to help show your progress. They send daily pep talks from other writers to keep you motivated. They have groups dedicated to different regions in order to help participants find other writers who are close to them. They even plan community write-ins so people can get together, though this year these will be virtual. Thanks, Covid.

Does It Work?

The prospect of writing an entire 50,000 word novel over the course of 30 days can be very intimidating. On top of that, some people are writing stories that will be much longer than 50,000 words. This leads many people to question whether the event is worth participating in at all.

Even if you know that your project will be longer than 50,000 words, participating is still worth it. It serves as great motivation to keep you going. This is how I got my first novel on track back in 2012. I started with around 20,000 words and by the end of November, I had over 50,000.

Writing 30,000 words for one project within a month is a pretty big feat. I felt so proud and accomplished back then. I also felt exhausted by the end of the month.

That is the downside to NaNoWriMo. If you aren’t used to writing that much that frequently, you will wear yourself out mentally. This is, after all, a challenge. I remember many late nights of having to push myself to reach my goal before being able to go to sleep. Luckily I had cats to keep me company as I typed away on my laptop.

My Experience with NaNoWriMo

I first participated in NaNoWriMo in 2012, and finished, with a head start. I tried to do it again two more times after that with my second novel but ended up falling short. I think this was largely due to the fact that I wasn’t really done with the first one yet. I couldn’t focus on the new project until the previous one was good and done.

NaNoWriMo was exhausting, but it was also a whole lot of fun. It helped me create a schedule and a routine that I stuck to for the whole month. Having the graph that shows how far you’ve come, and highlights your bad days is a great bit of motivation. It helped me push myself to do better.

Sometimes, I can be a bit of a pushover when it comes to self-set deadlines, but when a deadline is set by someone else, I’m much more likely to meet it. Sharing with friends and family that I was participating in NaNoWriMo helped me meet my goal. Them knowing if I succeeded or failed added the bit of pressure I needed to stick with it. This is a big reason why the organizers of NaNoWriMo encourage participants to talk with each other and let loved ones know they are participating. People who do that are more likely to finish. They don’t want to let people down.

On top of that helpful social pressure, other people can provide pep-talks. The emailed pep-talks I received during the month were always helpful. There were many days when I was tired and didn’t feel like writing, and then I’d read the email and find myself motivated to push forward.

If you have a project that you’ve been wanting to work on, but just haven’t had the time, I definitely recommend giving NaNoWriMo a shot. Even if you don’t finish, it could be the jumpstart you need to get your project started.

It was for me.

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