Monday, October 31, 2011

NaNoWriMo in a Nutshell

What is NaNoWriMo, anyway?

NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel Writing Month, an incentive for aspiring writers to get off their butts and start writing. It’s held in November, because what else will you do in November, anyway?

How do I find out about it?

For more info and to register for NaNoWriMo, visit their official website at Here’s the answer to your first question, on their FAQ page:

NaNo in a Nutshell:

What: Writing one 50,000-word novel from scratch in a month's time.

Who: You! We can't do this unless we have some other people trying it as well. Let's write laughably awful yet lengthy prose together.

Why: The reasons are endless! To actively participate in one of our era's most enchanting art forms! To write without having to obsess over quality. To be able to make obscure references to passages from our novels at parties. To be able to mock real novelists who dawdle on and on, taking far longer than 30 days to produce their work.

When: You can sign up anytime to add your name to the roster and browse the forums. Writing begins November 1. To be added to the official list of winners, you must reach the 50,000-word mark by November 30 at midnight. Once your novel has been verified by our web-based team of robotic word counters, the partying begins.

Where: You write wherever you’d like. On your computer, on your iPad, on a typewriter---anywhere is fine, just as long as you’re writing! For a more in-depth NaNoWriMo overview, visit the devilishly handsome What is NaNoWriMo? and How NaNoWriMo Works pages.”


More info and background on NaNoWriMo:

According to Wikipedia, “NaNoWriMo is an annual creative writing project coordinated by the non-profit organization The Office of Letters and Light. Spanning the month of November, the project challenges participants to write 50,000 words of a new novel in one month. The project has been running since July 1999 by Chris Baty, and started out with only 21 participants. In 2009, over 170,000 people signed up and 2,427,190,537 words were written.

How do I get involved?

Writers wishing to participate first register on the project’s website, where they can post profiles and information about their novels, including a synopsis and excerpts. Word counts are validated on the site, with writers submitting a copy of their novel at the end for automatic counting. Municipal leaders and regional forums help connect local writers with one another by holding writing events and providing encouragement.”

What are the rules?

This is for fiction writing, but participants’ novels can be on any theme and in any genre, and in any language. According to the website’s FAQ, “If you believe you're writing a novel, we believe you're writing a novel too.” You start writing November 1, and the idea is for you to reach a minimum of 50,000 words by 11:59:59 PM on November 30, local time. We’re talking first draft here, not polishing and revising, which you leave till later. You’re allowed to do all kinds of advance planning and make extensive notes, but you can’t start the actual writing until November 1.

According to Wikipedia, “Participants write either a complete novel of 50,000 words, or simply the first 50,000 words of a novel to be completed later. While 50,000 words is a relatively low word count for a complete novel, it is still significantly more than the 40,000 word mark that distinguishes a novel from a novella. Notable novels of roughly 50,000 words include The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, Brave New World, and The Great Gatsby.”

To complete the NaNoWriMo challenge, participants will need to write an average of about 1,667 words per day. Organizers of the event say that the aim is simply to get people to start writing, using the deadline as an incentive to get the story going and to put words to paper. This “quantity over quality” philosophy is summarized by the site’s slogan: No Plot? No Problem! This is also the title of Chris Baty's book of advice for NaNoWriMo participants, published in late 2004 by Chronicle Books.

Is there a cost to enter this program?

No, there is no fee to participate in NaNoWriMo; all you need to do is register in order to have your progress verified.

Are there any prizes?

No, there are official prizes are awarded, but you will receive a handy-dandy certificate to display as you wish, as well as an icon to display on the Web, and you’ll be officially included on the list of winners. Anyone who reaches the 50,000 word mark is declared a winner.

How do they know I reached the target number of words?

Beginning November 25, participants can submit their novel to be automatically verified for length. No precautions are taken to prevent cheating; since the only significant reward for winning is the finished novel itself and the satisfaction of having written it, there is little incentive to cheat. Novels are verified for word count by software, and may be scrambled or otherwise encrypted before being submitted for verification, although the software does not keep any other record of text input. It is possible to win without anyone (other than the author) ever seeing or reading the novel.

In October 2008, the self-publishing company CreateSpace teamed up with NaNoWriMo to begin offering winners a single free, paperback proof copy of their manuscripts, with the option to use the proof to then sell the novel on

What about community support?

The official forums on the NaNoWriMo website provide a place for advice, information, criticism, support and an opportunity for “collective procrastination.” The forums are available from the beginning of October, when signups for the year begin, until late September, when they are archived and the database is wiped in preparation for the next year.

Most regions also have one or more Municipal Liaisons (ML) assigned to them, who are volunteers that help with organizing local events. MLs are encouraged to coordinate at least two kinds of meet-ups; a kickoff party, and a "Thank God It's Over" party to celebrate successes and share novels. Kickoff parties are often held the weekend before November to give local writers a chance to meet and get geared up, although some are held on Halloween night past midnight so writers start writing in a community setting. Other events may be scheduled, including weekend meet-ups or overnight write-ins.

Don’t have a computer to write on? NaNoWriMo runs a Laptop Loaner program for those who do not have regular access to a computer or word processor. Old, yet functional laptops are donated from NaNoWriMo participants. Those wishing to borrow a laptop are required to cover the cost of shipping it back and must send a $300 deposit along with proof of identity, but are not charged a fee for using the laptops. In 2006, AlphaSmart, Inc. donated 25 brand-new Neos to expand the Laptop Loaner library with the promise of 25 more over the next two years .

by Jodie Renner,