Monday, June 8, 2009

What is NaNoWriMo?

NaNoWriMo or National Novel Writing Month is an opportunity to take a fun approach to novel writing. Participants begin writing November 1st with the goal of writing a 175-page (50,000 word) novel by midnight on November 30th.

I heard about this a couple of years ago and then stumbled upon it again recently. The website with all the details is This year, NaNoWriMo is "celebrating 10 years of literary abandon." Yesterday, I signed up to join a whole bunch of crazy writers from all around the world in this seemingly silly challenge.

Because we only have 30 days to write, the ONLY thing that matters is the quantity, not the quality. "The kamikaze approach forces you to lower your expectations, take risks, and write on the fly."

Each participant writes on his own computer. If I write 50,000 words of fiction by midnight on November 30th, I can upload my novel for official verification, and be added to the hallowed Winner's Page, receive a certificate and a web badge. I've read on the website that there's a way to scramble the content of my novel before I upload it, although all novels are deleted after verification.

There is no charge to participate although writers are encouraged to donate at least 10 dollars to the Office of Letters and Light, a nonprofit charity which pays for NaNoWriMo's youth and adult novel-writing programs and the operating expenses of NaNoWriMo.There are no prizes. Everyone who completes the required number of words is a winner, a winner in his own mind and that's all that really counts.

The rushed writing we will be doing reminds me of what I did in a writing class I took nearly three years ago; it was called free writing. We were instructed to set a timer for five minutes and to write as fast as we could for that length of time. We weren't to worry about spelling, punctuation, making a whole lot of sense, or writing anything of significance. The object of free writing is to tap into your "stream of consciousness." It taught me to open my mind, tap into my thoughts and then allow them to flow out through my fingers on the keyboard and onto the blank page. I'll show you what a bit of free writing looks like.

Okay. Here I go. Free writing is like opening a faucet and just letting the words runonot the page no stopping no fixing so litle worrying about the stuff that pours out i love the way it works and that the way we'll wirte in the nanowir mo thing. How in the world will I think of things to wirte I wonder I guess I'll just put my fingers os the keyboard and let them do the walking for me

That's enough of that. I think you get the idea. I've been surprised at some of the good writing I have come upon simply by opening my mind and letting the thoughts come out raw and unedited.

In order to get an idea of how much writing I will have to do in November's challenge, I divided 50,000 words by 30 days and came up with 1,667 words per day. Yesterday, I sat down at my laptop for a practice run. I wrote continually until my word count on my word processing program showed 1,667. I should have timed myself, but I didn't. It didn't seem to take too long, although my shoulders and neck complained during the process. I'm looking forward to getting the used copy of a NaNo Handbook that I ordered on I have a handful of questions I'm sure will be addressed in it.

You might enjoy checking out the website. The whole attitude on the site is light-hearted. The challenge is meant to be fun and that concept is emphasized repeatedly. "Let's write laughably awful yet lengthy prose together. Make no mistake: You will be writing a lot of crap."

In 2008, NaNoWriMo had 119,301 participants, with 21,683 winners. A number of the novels written in the challenge have gone on to be published, after a great deal of editing of course. One was a New York Times #1 Bestseller.

I'm looking forward to November and the crazy ride I'll be on.


Sarah said...

Oh wow, this sounds like a blast. I am going to look into this. What a terrific idea. I can't wait to read yours Shaddy. Thank you for posting the links. So much fun!

Shaddy said...

I can't wait to read yours, Sarah. We're both doing this, didn't I tell you? :)

Sarah said...

LOL!!!!!!!!!!!! I'm signed up, and I'm actually excited about it! THANK YOU Shaddy!!!

Annie said...

This reminds me of the website called One Word, So Little Time at Every day a new word is given and you have 60 seconds to write whatever. It has been challenging although probably not as challenging as this book write in November. It is a good exercise though!

Shaddy said...

Way to go, Sarie! Thanks for coming along for the ride. Once a day, from now until November, repeat after me as you roll your shoulders to keep them loose: We've everything to gain and nothing to lose.

Gully participated a couple of years ago. I hope she doesn't freak us out with memories of her experience. We just won't let her spook us, right?

Gullible said...

I tried this three years ago, Shaddy, and was on a roll the first four days. Had 23,000 plus words before I wound up in the hospital for six days...

Shaddy said...

Gully, I'd say you pushed "just a tad" too hard during those four days. You wrote nearly half of the 30-day goal in those four days. That sounds like something I'd do. Could we over achievers be related?!

I vaguely remember the ordeal you went through at that time. You could write a novel on that experience alone.

Anonymous said...

I did Nano last year and came out a winner. It was great fun. I'm not sure if I'll do it again this year. It depends. I need to finish my sequel first. Good luck with it. You can develop your characters and plotline now so you'll totally be ready to go come November. I decided to do it spontaneously, so I worked on the fly.