Perhaps the greatest writing challenge of the year begins tomorrow, November 1. Hundreds of thousands of writers from around the world will participate in National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo. The goal of NaNoWriMo is straightforward, but hardly simple: write a 50,000-word novel in thirty days.
The month of frenzied writing may not produce the highest quality of writing, but that’s not its aim. NaNoWriMo provides an incentive for writers to get their ideas out of their heads and onto paper. Many writers have turned their first drafts into published works; some have even created bestsellers, like Sarah Gruen’s Water for Elephants and Erin Morgenstern’s The Night Circus.
NaNoWriMo’s website boasts many features to keep registered writers motivated and happy throughout November. A word count graph lets you keep your progress updated by the minute. Forums allow writers from all over the world to share their writing triumphs and woes, collaborate on smoothing over plot holes, and swap ideas. The organization also sends out bi-weekly “pep talks” from authors; past notables include Meg Cabot, Neil Gaiman, Sue Grafton, Philip Pullman, and many more.
You can read the entire archive of past pep talks on the website without even registering. Although registered writers who complete their novels receive some virtual prizes, plus (in some years) the chance for a free, professionally bound copy of their manuscript, the real reward is the novel itself. If you have a story you’ve been meaning to write, NaNoWriMo is for you. If you don’t have a story at all, but love to write, the month is for you too—NaNoWriMo’s founder, Chris Baty, titled his first book on the subject No Plot? No Problem!
Though novel-writing is by its nature a solitary business, NaNoWriMo brings worldwide writers together. Take a look on the organization website, contact your local writers’ group or library to learn about planned “write-ins” near you, or connect with fellow authors around the globe on the forums. Whether you’re finally putting your carefully plotted story on paper or writing from scratch, good luck this November, and happy writing!