Write freely and as rapidly as possible and throw the whole thing on paper. Never correct or rewrite until the whole thing is down.
—John Steinbeck, Steinbeck: A Life in Letters
National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo, is a worldwide challenge to authors to write 50,000 words in a single month. Billing itself as “a fun, seat-of-your-pants approach to creative writing,” NaNoWriMo defines itself in this way: “On November 1, participants begin working towards the goal of writing a 50,000-word novel by 11:59 PM on November 30. Valuing enthusiasm, determination, and a deadline, NaNoWriMo is for anyone who has ever thought about writing a novel.”1
NaNo is a race, but it isn’t a race against other writers. As Tina Chase, a participant in Indiana puts it, “It’s a competition, but it’s a competition with yourself.” Accepting that goal set by NaNo—1,666 words per day—can be just the impetus a writer needs to get started on a book idea. What keeps that writer going—and the real key to NaNoWriMo’s success—is community. The website hosts online and in-person support groups, both in the United States and internationally, along with regular web events, daily chat sessions, and even badges to earn along the way.2 Ms. Chase says, “I’m in the Indianapolis NaNo community, and it’s super cool and super supportive and very, very active. This year there is an event/write-in planned for every day but Thanksgiving. … I probably wouldn’t be so NaNo fueled if it weren’t for the local community here.”
If the idea behind NaNoWriMo sounds intriguing and you’re ready to give it a go, signing up is simple, and there is no deadline to get started—which means it’s not too late to start right now! Simply go to NaNoWriMo.org, create an account, set up your profile, and start writing, using your favorite word-processing program (or heck, even pen and paper). Update your word count every day and watch your progress grow!
To help you get started, Dog Ear has put together a list of some helpful articles and podcasts:
- “Writing with a Purpose,” because beginning with a goal in mind will help slingshot you through the early days: https://www.dogearpublishing.net/wordpress/writing-with-purpose/
- “Great Beginnings,” for that all-important first paragraph: https://www.dogearpublishing.net/wordpress/great-book-beginnings/
- “Tearing Down the Wall of Writer’s Block,” for those days when the muse simply won’t come: https://www.dogearpublishing.net/wordpress/wall-writers-block/
- “What Is Story Arc?” to help you find what’s missing from your story: https://www.dogearpublishing.net/wordpress/what-is-a-story-arc/
- “Most Common Mechanical Mistakes,” and of course, how to avoid them: https://www.dogearpublishing.net/wordpress/common-mechanical-mistakes/
You might be wondering what happens if, at the end of the month, you still don’t have 50,000 words. Ms. Chase says simply, “If you don’t get the 50k by 11:59 pm on November 30, you just don’t ‘win.’ They’ve got some cool little winners’ discounts on a few programs and websites that are beneficial should you win, but my whole thought is I’ve already got Scrivener [writing software], so I’ll just try again next year and it’s no big loss. … Even 40k in a month is good, and it just feels good to write with people.”
So once November 30 rolls around—no matter how many words you’ve put to page—remember to celebrate the progress you’ve made! Look back to where you started, think of all you’ve learned, and do not stop there! Keep writing and revising until the novel is finished. And when you’re ready, please consider sending your project to us. According to the NaNoWriMo site, “Since 2006, hundreds of novels first drafted during NaNoWriMo have been published.”3 Several have even gone on to become bestsellers (including Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen).4 Though we can’t promise top-ten status, Dog Ear Publishing can help with everything from proofreading to editorial development to marketing your masterpiece. Remember, “Normal people can produce extraordinary things by simply refusing to leave a blank page blank” (Chris Baty, founder of NaNoWriMo).