Special Edition: Do you NaNo? – A beginner’s guide to NaNoWriMo

By Jennie Jarvis

Have you heard about NaNoWriMo?

In a nutshell, it’s National Novel Writing Month, and it’s an internet based challenge whose purpose is to give writers the motivation and deadlines to write an entire manuscript in a single month. The challenge takes up the entire month of November, running from the 1st to the 30th, and the goal is to write a first draft – not necessarily a good draft – of at least 50,000 words. Some writers use the month to finish the novel that they have been planning for years, while others use that month to break out into something new, writing in a genre that is not their norm.

The event is hosted online by a Berkeley, CA based non-profit, formally known as The Office of Letters and Light – their new name is the rather boring Nation Novel Writing Month 501(c)(3). If you are interested in participating, you just have to create a free online profile at nanowrimo.org, and then enter information about where you live and what kind of novel you plan to write. Once registered, you can receive emails about local meet-ups and challenges so that you can network with local writers. If that’s not your style, however, you can meet up with writers online and challenge each other to hit specific word counts. And, if you prefer not to deal with other people at all, you can just use the website to receive rewards (digital achievements) each time you meet a specific word count goal. There are also tools, such as word count trackers, and special sponsor discounts and offers available.

Since this is a non-profit, the website asks for donations, but otherwise this is a completely free challenge. That being said, if you have the extra pennies, I highly recommend that you pass a few towards the 501(c)(3). Since they are a non-profit, the donation is tax deductible. More importantly than that, however, I often find that I’m a lot more motivated to write in the years when I give the money up front. It motivates me to feel like I’m “getting my money’s worth.”

While NaNoWriMo started online, educators have really taken advantage of this yearly challenge, often forcing their students to participate by writing in the classroom. Writing groups of all ages use this month to motivate their members to get over their creative blocks and crank out the words as well. Writers from across the nation, and even across the globe, connect through social media events to write together even if they have never met (such as the open event on my Facebook page). Some writers just use the month of November to write on their own even if they choose to form no support group whatsoever.

Let’s face it. Many writers (myself included) have a hard time just sitting down to write if there isn’t a deadline or a motivating reason to get that next chapter done. Using NaNoWriMo is a great way to stick the excuses in the trash and find the motivation to get writing. So if you are having a hard time finding the motivation to write, maybe you should NaNo too. What’s the worst thing that can happen?


I’m a participant this year! I hope you will be too!

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  1. #1 by mackenziedmiller on October 27, 2013 - 4:56 pm

    I’m participating this year. The first time. I’m looking forward to it!

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