Eight Reasons to Participate In NaNoWriMo
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If you’ve been around the online writing community for long, you’ve probably heard of NaNoWriMo.
Short for National Novel Writing Month, this epic event encourages writers to pen 50,000 words in the month of November. And when I say “epic,” I mean it. Every year, hundreds of thousands of writers worldwide take part in this online and in-person event — and that number is growing every year.
So what makes NaNoWriMo such a popular event? In today’s article, we’ll break down everything you need to know about the event itself and how taking part may just revolutionize your writing life as it did mine!
What is NaNoWriMo exactly?
National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo, is a worldwide writing event that takes place every November. During the thirty days of the month, participants are challenged to write 50,000 words of fiction, an average of 1,667 words per day.
Writers who complete this goal are deemed “winners” and receive access to some pretty awesome prizes from NaNoWriMo’s partners, which in the past have included Scrivener, Ingram Spark, AutoCrit, The Great Courses, Scribophile, and more!
Though writers can take part in NaNoWriMo from the comfort of their own homes, regional write-ins are also popular with many participants. The NaNoWriMo website also features official forums, pep talks from published authors, themed merchandise, and other awesome perks and opportunities.
And finally, don’t underestimate the unofficial communities that spring up around this event as well. NaNoWriMo is an extremely popular topic among writers on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and beyond during the month of November, providing some incredible motivation to help you make those 50,000 words happen.
Know for sure that this is an event you want to take part in? Follow the steps below to get started today:
#1: Create Your NaNoWriMo Account.
First things first, you’ll want to register as an official participant by creating your account on the NaNoWriMo website. You can then fill out your profile, check out the FAQs, and begin making writing buddies on the website’s forums.
#2: Announce Your Novel Project.
To officially participate, you’ll next want to “announce” your novel on your NaNoWriMo profile, adding its title, genre, and synopsis if you so wish. No worries, only your writing buddies will be able to see this information.
(Note: You typically aren’t able to announce your novel until the month before the event kicks off.)
#3: On November 1st, get to writing.
When November hits, it's time for you to write up a storm! As the month progresses, you can update your word count, gain participation badges, and track your progress on the NaNoWriMo website as you grow closer to winning the event.
For more details, check out the "How it Works" page on the NaNoWriMo website.
#4: Complete 50,000 words in a month to “win”.
Once you’ve written your 50,000 words, make sure to validate them on the NaNoWriMo website to become an official winner and claim your prizes. Note: there are no limits on the number of writers who can win. Simply finish the 50k goal by the end of November 30th to take home your cool prizes!
In past years, one of those cool prizes has been 50% off my favorite writing software: Scrivener. This software makes planning, writing, and organizing all of your work for your NaNoWriMo project a breeze. For more information on why I adore Scrivener, make sure to check out the first installment in our tutorial series here on the blog.
But why would you even want to write 50,000 words in a month? We’ll talk about my top eight reasons below, but first I want to confess that there’s almost nothing that beats the amazing sense of pride you feel when you validate your 50,000 words. How do I know? Because way back in 2014, participating in NaNoWriMo forever changed my writing life!
My personal experience with NaNoWriMo…
In June of 2014, I realized that I wanted to take my writing more seriously. I had been dabbling in writing fiction as an escape from school and work and the mundanities of life, but I wanted more. I wanted to write a novel, a complete one. Maybe even to publish it and slowly but surely build a career. The only problem?
At the time, I had no writing routine, no accountability, and no real understanding of the tenets of good storytelling. All I really had was a story idea I loved and a wild, runaway dream. Oh, and sheer willpower, which I thought would help me conquer the world. But as it happens, writing a novel is a lot harder than it looks.
A few months into my journey, I was left burned out and bewildered. I wasn’t ready to throw in the towel, but I needed to tap into something bigger than myself. To not only learn more about the craft of storytelling, but to find community that would hold me accountable. And accountability that would motivate me daily to action.
It was around this time that I discovered NaNoWriMo, and immediately I knew it was the right event for me. Without a second thought, I signed up, eagerly awaited November first, and then tackled my 50,000 words as though my life depended on it. And you know what? I wrote 50,014 words that month. I won NaNoWriMo! But it certainly wasn't easy…
Writing roughly 1,667 words each day was exhausting, and some days I didn't meet that quota. I had to binge-write on my days off from work so that I could catch up on my word count, and admittedly, the work I completed was sloppy — embarrassingly so. But I wrote the words. I got the first half of my story down on paper. I made 50k happen.
And writing those words was a positively exhilarating experience that completely changed how I looked at writing. Participating in NaNoWriMo gave me the courage to tackle the blank page, the consistency of a much-needed writing routine, and the confidence that I could indeed write a novel. Many, in fact. And I have in the years since.
Why should you participate in NaNoWriMo?
Participating in my first NaNoWriMo was a pivotal moment in my writing life, and I’ve enjoyed participating in several years’ events since. But all that said, NaNoWriMo won’t be the right event for every writer. If you’re not sure if you should give it a try, check out the following eight ways it can benefit your writing life:
#1: Establish a Writing Routine.
Finding consistency in your writing life is key to improvement. But oftentimes, finding the motivation to sit down and write can be tough. Fortunately, with NaNoWriMo, you have no choice but to conquer your fear of the blank page and make near-daily writing a reality if you want to reach your 50,000-word goal.
#2: Finish a first Draft.
Have you always struggled to complete full drafts of your stories? Nothing can help you knock out a first draft like the challenge of writing 50k in a month. There simply isn’t room for distraction when you’ve set the bar so high.
A full novel does average around 75,000 words, but writing just 50,000 in November will mean that you knock out 2/3 of your first draft in a single month. That's incredible progress if you ask me! A few extra weeks of work in December and you'll have completed a draft before you know it.
#3: Cut through writing procrastination.
NaNoWriMo is, for most, a big commitment. It takes time and effort to write 50,000 words after all. If you're going to pump out 1,667 words every day using only your limited writing time, you'll need to ditch any bad habits that plague your work. Social media. Text messages. Those silly Buzzfeed quizzes.
Even excessive research can prove detrimental to the real work of writing. If you find yourself in a similar rut, take the thirty days of November to break free of this pesky cycle of procrastination. The “just do it” attitude you’ll build during the month should stick with you long after NaNoWriMo is over.
#4: Conquer Writer's Block.
I firmly believe that most cases of writer’s block are simply a result of doubt, and we all know that doubt is just another name for fear. If you want to win NaNoWriMo, you have no choice but to look your fear in the face and take action anyway. To prove to yourself that you can.
#5: Gain a little writerly Community.
You can certainly take part in NaNoWriMo without diving into the writing community, but don’t underestimate the power that a strong support system can provide. There’s simply nothing that brings two writerly strangers together on the internet like the woes of working toward 50k.
In addition to the official NaNoWriMo forums, conversation and community spring up on social media like crazy. The NaNoWriMo team also coordinates in-real-life events in most regions, which are moderated by writers just like you, so that you can chat and work alongside other participating writers in your area.
#6: Break your habit of editing as you write.
For many writers, nothing proves more of a detriment to their drafting efforts than the itch to re-write every last word they put down on paper. Why? Because editing prose during the first draft is simply, in most cases, a waste of time when the chances are high that the scene will be cut or changed during revisions.
If you also find yourself editing as you write, participating in this year’s NaNoWriMo can help you break the habit and finish your first draft. There’s simply no room for editing when you have 50,000 words to finish!
#7: Challenge yourself to write outside the box.
Most writers pick a lane and stick to it. Whether that be a particular genre, a particular writing style, a few favorite tropes or well-beloved themes. Writing outside your self-imposed box, however, can often lead to renewed creativity and improvements in craft — or at least a better understanding of why it is you write what you write.
The beauty of NaNoWriMo is that it’s only a one-month commitment. This means you can challenge yourself to step outside your comfort zone without the pressure to go big or go home. If, after the thirty days of November are up, you’re ready to jump back inside your box, hop to it.
#8: Give yourself a break from your work-in-progress.
Writing a novel can be a very long process, especially if you’re preparing that novel for publication. (Hello, endless rounds of revision!) If you find yourself in desperate need of a break from your current work-in-progress, trying out a new project during NaNoWriMo may be the perfect solution.
Remember, this event is only a one-month commitment. You can also resume work on your primary project come December.
A final few notes on NaNoWriMo…
Are you ready to give NaNoWriMo a try? Or are you interested but worried that this event might not be quite right for you? In either case, here are a few final items you’ll want to keep in mind before diving in:
#1: It's not only in November.
If you can’t participate in NaNoWriMo this November, have no fear. Every April and July, the folks behind NaNoWriMo run a more laidback version of the event called CampNaNo. So, you can join in the fun multiple times throughout the year!
#2: All projects & word counts are welcome.
To become an official NaNoWriMo winner, you must write 50,000 words in the month of November. But if you know you won’t or wouldn’t like to complete that specific goal, you can still participate in the event. Simply set your own goal and start writing.
In doing so, you won’t receive the winner prizes, but you’ll still gain access to the amazing community NaNoWriMo has to offer.
Likewise, don’t feel you necessarily have to write 50,000 words for a novel. You can also work on short stories, poetry, non-fiction — whatever you’d like. You can even set a pre-writing or revision goal rather than a drafting one.
#3: Your NaNo work will suck.
Here's the thing about NaNoWriMo: it's not meant to help you write an award-winning novel. At least, not in a single month. Rather, it’s meant to help you get the first draft down on paper quickly so you can move on to where the magic happens: editing.
If you do choose to draft 50,000 words during NaNoWriMo, remember that every first draft in the history of the universe has sucked. It's okay. You can’t edit a blank page.
Though the words you write during NaNoWriMo will likely be far from gripping, you can set yourself up for success by getting to know the story you’d like to tell before you tell it. For many writers, pre-writing their stories help them not only stay on track as they draft but spend less time revising once their first draft is complete.
If you think you’d like to give pre-writing your NaNoWriMo project a try, make sure to check out The Pre-Write Project workbook below.
You can also take a peek at this article for more tips on how you can prepare to rock NaNoWriMo this November.