What is NaNoWriMo? 10 FAQs and resources to help you win

What is NaNoWriMo?

What is NaNoWriMo? Why take part? What are the rules? These are some of the questions answered below. Use the list of resources included to increase your productivity, overcome obstacles and stay motivated to win NaNoWriMo this year.

1: What is NaNoWriMo?

National Novel Writing Month (or NaNoWriMo for short) is an annual writeathon that takes place for the month of November each year.

During the event, writers around the world attempt to write 50, 000 words of fiction between the 1st and 30th of November. Founded by writer Chris Baty in 1999, NaNoWriMo has grown from 21 participants in its first year to hundreds of thousands of registered participants annually.

2: Why take part in NaNoWriMo?

Some authors view NaNoWriMo with disdain (due to the emphasis on quantity of writing output during the writeathon rather than quality, for example). A counter to this is you can view NaNoWriMo as a step in what is ultimately your process. You can (and, if you’re serious about publishing your result, should) revise, edit and expand the text you produce in the months that follow. Naysaying aside, there are several benefits to taking part in NaNoWriMo:

  • There is the urgency of a one-month deadline to spur you to actually sit down and write that book you’ve often thought about
  • You will challenge yourself to find creative ways to sustain momentum and finish writing a book
  • Even in the scenario that you attempt NaNoWriMo and don’t win, you’ll learn in the process and even form new connections with like-minded authors who share your aspirations
  • Setting yourself writing challenges is a great way to focus on your writing process and deepen your commitment to your craft
  • It’s fun

3: What are the NaNoWriMo Rules?

Heather Dudley’s breakdown of the rules in the official NaNoWriMo forum, verbatim:

  • Write a 50,000-word (or longer!) novel, between November 1 and November 30
  • Only count words written during November. None of your own previously written prose can be included in your NaNoWriMo draft (though outlines, character sketches, and research are all fine, as are citations from other people’s works)
  • Write a novel. We define a novel as a lengthy work of fiction. If you consider the book you’re writing a novel, we consider it a novel too!
  • Be the sole author of your novel. Apart from those citations mentioned two bullet-points up
  • Write more than one word repeated 50,000 times

7 resources to help you reach 50,000 words and win NaNoWriMo

5 reasons to do NaNoWriMoRead these 7 blog posts because they’ll help you prepare, stay motivated and win NaNoWriMo this November:

1: Plot outline creation: 7 smart methods

During the planning phase of NaNoWriMo, use this post on plot outlines to decide which novel outlining method works for you. Or do you prefer writing ‘by the seat of your pants’ (or ‘pantsing’) without any outline?

You can also use Now Novel’s Idea Finder to brainstorm and crystallize your novel’s central themes, mood, settings, and more. Whether you move from there to crafting a detailed, chapter by chapter outline or not is your choice.

2: How to find time to write: 12 writers’ insights

When we polled the blog’s readers to find out what your number one writing challenges are, many of you replied ‘I just don’t have time to write.’ Because you’ll need to average 1,666 words per day to write 50,000 words in November, you’ll need to find creative ways to make time. Read this post to get 12 authors’ best tips for increasing your writing time.

3: Novel writing basics: 10 steps to an unputdownable book

If this is your first NaNoWriMo or you simply want a refresher of the ingredients of a great novel, this post will help. The tips on chapter beginnings and endings, mastering narration and other elements of craft will help you write your best novel this NaNoWriMo.

4: How to get in the mood to write daily: 9 tips

Because you’ll need to average 1,666 words per day, you will need discipline and focus. Many authors find writing motivation a rollercoaster, especially if deadlines are tight. Some days, you might simply not feel like writing at all.

Use the tips in this post to create a structured, self-sustaining writing habit. Although the post suggests to write 500 words per day to start, seeing as its NaNoWriMo you’ll need to increase this. Take frequent breaks!

5: How to become a productive writer: 10 simple rules

Writing a novel in 30 days is a major challenge. Use these 10 tips on productivity and writing to create a writing process for NaNoWriMo that you can carry with you beyond the 30th of November.

6: How to write a novella: 6 essential tips

A work of fiction between 30,000 and 60,000 words long is really a novella. This post on how to write a novella includes insights into how to condense your epic story idea into a shorter word count.

7: Novel characters: 15 top character creation tips

Finally, since character sketches produced beforehand aren’t contraband for NaNoWriMo (see the rules above), use this post to plan out your characters so that you already have a clear idea of your story’s essential cast members when you sit down to write.

Are you participating in NaNoWriMo? Is it your first time or are you a veteran? Join the NaNoWriMo group on Now Novel to share challenges and questions as you finish writing your book.

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  • njn

    I heard about NaNoWriMo in 2008. What a kick to talk, for the first time, with another writer. Somehow I found the website in 2010 and began. I’ve been in every NaNo, a Script Frenzy (HARD), and several Camp NaNo’s where the rules are relaxed. I have usually won, usually contributed to Office of Letters and Light, and usually despair of getting even an idea.
    The first one in 2010 was my best. I took one of my secondary characters and took off with it. I think it worked okay, filling in some of the holes in the back story of my ‘art therapy’ I unknowingly had been writing for over 20 years.
    Anyone can do it. We have all done writing. If nothing else, write about a part of your life with names changed to protect the innocent. No one will read it unless you want someone too. It can be any kind of quality. Kick your critical self (inner editor) out the door when you sit down to write. (Easier said than done.)
    But – Just – Write!

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