The internet was a not-so-great back then, but you could still type things into a search bar and, after an eternity, it would bring back results. The search I did was something along the lines of, ‘how to write a novel quickly’, and one of the top pages Yahoo brought back was this weird site called ‘NaNoWriMo’. I’m so glad that the bored, clueless teenager me clicked on that link, because I’ve since come to realize that Nanowrimo is a writer’s best friend!
What Is It?
Nanowrimo is short for National Novel Writing Month, a website/event devoted to helping people reach their novel-writing goals. Some pronounce it ‘Na No Wry Moe’, but I say ‘Na No Wree Moe’ because it rolls off the tongue better. Nanowrimo started in 1999 as twenty-one kids (I say kids, but they were in their twenties) getting together, harnessing the power of peer pressure to each write a novel.
The goal is simple: during the 30 days of November, you write a 50,000 word novel. That’s it.
Nanowrimo has set a lofty goal, and provides a support system and some tools to get it done. There aren’t any other rules, other than 30 days, 50k words. You can go over that word amount, and you can even keep writing past November 30.
No one punishes you for not making the 50k goal, and the only thing you get if you ‘win’ is the personal satisfaction of knowing that you’re now a badass novelist (actually, that’s not true, you also get a little winner’s badge on your Nanowrimo profile and a snazzy certificate you can print out). I’ve won twice now, and it feels incredible!
Nanowrimo Is A Writer’s Best Friend, So If You’re a Writer, Get Started!
Step 1: sign up. Go to Nanowrimo.org and start an account, adding a bit of personal information and a picture. It helps with the next step, which is getting involved in the community.
Step 2: Making the most of those forums! Even if you don’t actively participate, it really helps to read what other people are saying and going through. Nothing gets motivation going more than hearing about other people’s journey; the amazing concepts they have, the same frustrations they’re going through, and the incredible process of turning a simple idea into whole worlds to explore. I swoon with happiness!
After finding your way out of the forums, navigate to My NaNoWriMo. This is where you’ll enter information for your writing project, like the title and a short synopsis. Note that you can only enter details for November’s novel starting in October. If you’re anxious to get started sooner, try doing Camp Nanowrimo, which runs in April and July.
Ready, Set, November!
Right. So, after checking out the website, doing some prep and getting all excited, November hits! I’m warning you right now, it’s going to be a wild ride.
The first week is like January 1st at the gym. Your blood is pumping, wild visions of how cool your novel will be fills your mind, and the motivation is so tangible you can almost taste it. Reality has not yet hit, but it will. It will.
Weeks 2 & 3
Week two you’ve begun to realize that you need to pace yourself, and work out a schedule. The initial excitement has worn off a little, and it’s begun to be a struggle making those daily word goals. I’ve often sat at my computer for an hour, getting little tasks out of the way so that I can get working on my novel. Important tasks, like checking email, seeing if anyone’s posted on Facebook, seeing how many Nanowrimo hashtags are on Instagram, checking my email again, reading over my to-do list for the day….
It helps to read the last few paragraphs of what you wrote the day before, read the notes you’ve made on what you want to work on today, and then just get butt in chair, hands on keyboard.
As Week 3 comes around, things start to get painful. You get your groove, then get stuck in a rut, then find a moment of inspiration, immediately followed by extreme hatred of your entire novel. Week 3 – for me at least – is a real emotional rollercoaster.
The End Is In Sight
Finally, Week 4! You realize that your novel will need to go waaaayyy past 50,000 words to actually be finished, but you don’t care. Just get those words done; keep plugging away! You’re at 45,000 words and you will finish, dammit!
The last night of the last day. Some years I stay up until midnight wildly attacking my keyboard, trying to squeeze in as many words as I can. Some years I’ve been all like, ‘screw it’, and watched Netflix instead.
At the end, if you’ve persevered, if you’ve made writing a daily habit that you barely even have to think about anymore, you’ll come away with a freshly, horribly written novel. Don’t feel bad. First drafts are always horrible, and will improve with revising. But that’s another problem, another month.
For now, sit back, take a break, and feel proud that you are officially a novelist!
Wait! There more! Well, technically there isn’t yet, but there will be.
On Wednesday (that’s two days from now), I’ll share my personal story of my Nanowrimo journey. It’s a little bit embarrassing because for the first time ever, a person other than myself will see some samples of my super-awesome writing skills from back then. Ya. I pre-apologize for the cringing you’ll do.
Okay, over and out for reals this time!