November is approaching faster than most people would like. For students, it’s the last standing defence between Halloween parties and final exams. But for some 350,000 writers around the world, November is National Novel Writing Month.
NaNoWriMo, a non-profit organization that was established in 1999,
calls would-be and established authors alike to write a 50,000 word novel in thirty days or less. On Nov. 1, participants begin working on their novels with the goal to reach the tremendous word count by 11:59 pm on Nov. 30.
To most this doesn’t sound like fun at all. Even writers who’ve never participated before are leery of the daunting task. What fun could there possibly be in frantically trying to slab together 50,000 words in one month?
The fun aspect to this task is actually quite simple to understand. NaNoWriMo presents writers with a challenge. The fact that it is so intimidating only bolsters its appeal.
More than this, NaNoWriMo calls for a non-traditional approach to writing. Most people are caught up with jobs, school, projects, and other activities. Finding the time to write can prove a challenge in itself, so when that time is found it cannot be wasted. NaNoWriMo participants don’t have the time to edit their novels along the way. They don’t have time to dwell for too long on the finer points of the plot or spend hours crafting a unique dialogue or that perfect line.
Instead, writers are subjected to “seat-of-the-pants noveling” during a “month of literary abandon”, as the NaNoWriMo website so eloquently states.
For this reason, NaNoWriMo is fueled by unbridled creativity. The goal for the team at The Office of Letters and Light — the volunteers who make NaNoWriMo possible — is to encourage and empower creativity among writers from all over the world.
Apart from being a challenge, NaNoWriMo also opens writers up to a whole community of like-minded individuals. The official website is a haven for writers to share ideas, take part in discussions and encourage each other throughout the month.
The volunteers working tirelessly to keep the website running, the abounding encouragement and the flowing creativity help to bring in established authors, who offer pep talks for the participants that are made available on the website throughout November. Among the authors supporting NaNoWriMo this year are James Patterson and Marie Lu.
Despite all of this, the question most often asked about NaNoWriMo is ‘why bother?’
There is no prize for completing the challenge and there is no single winner. Anyone who crosses that 50,000 word mark during the month is labelled as a ‘winner’. But if there is no prize at the finish line, why bother?
The reward of NaNoWriMo is the feeling of self-accomplishment. Being able to craft an entire novel in one short month is no easy feat, but NaNoWriMo provides a fresh opportunity for writers who struggle with finding the time to write that novel they’ve been planning or those that suffer from the dreaded ‘writer’s block’.
November is a time to forget about technicalities and just write — editing can be done later. What each participant chooses to do with their novels when the month is over is ultimately up to them.
There is no publication contract to be had, but that is certainly an avenue to pursue. Over 250 novels that begun during NaNoWriMo have been published traditionally, including Sara Gruen’s Water For Elephants. Thousands of other authors have sought self-publication.
Perhaps the greatest thing about NaNoWriMo is that it is open to anyone who wants to give it a try — even if you’ve never written anything in your life. No matter why you start NaNoWriMo, you will become enveloped in a global phenomenon with hundreds of thousands of writers around the world.