National Novel Writing Month — known as NaNoWriMo to practitioners — is an annual writing challenge in which participants set out to write 50,000 words of an original work in the month of November. While opinions on the event can be quite divided, there’s no denying that this challenge can be highly effective when approached the right way.
I’ve participated in NaNoWriMo a few times and think it’s a great way to get a start on a new project. Below, I’ve answered some questions about the event to help you better understand how it works, what it’s about, and whether it could be a good challenge for you to try.
What Is NaNoWriMo?
National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) is a writing challenge hosted in November every year. Participants attempt to write 50,000 words (or more!) of an original work and track their project on the official NaNoWriMo website.
The website also provides the option to connect with other writers who are participating so that you can share your project, encourage each other’s progress, and even meet up with people in your area for in-person writing sessions.
Outside the month of November, you can still use the NaNoWriMo platform to track your writing goals and connect with your writing community.
How Many Words Per Day Is NaNoWriMo?
If you divide the 50,000 word goal evenly across the whole month, it comes out to a daily writing goal of 1,667 words. Each day you can update your project’s total word count and track your progress in your dashboard.
That said, you’re not required to write every day to win NaNoWriMo. The only requirement is to reach 50,000 words by the end of the month, and you can divide the work up however it makes sense to you.
What Are the NaNoWriMo Rules?
The only rule is that you have to write 50,000 words between November 1 and November 30 of the current year. You get to choose what, where, and how often you write to achieve that goal.
You can also choose to participate in NaNoWriMo by setting your own personal goal. This is great if you have a shorter project you want to work on or don’t have time to commit to 50,000 words. However, you won’t be eligible for any of the downloadable awards available to writers who reach the 50,000 word target.
For community rules and guidelines, check out the NaNoWriMo Code of Conduct.
What Do You Get if You Win NaNoWriMo?
Anyone who completes the 50,000 word goal within the given timeframe is deemed a NaNoWriMo “winner.” Although there is no prize for winning, everyone who completes the challenge walks away with a working draft of their project. They also receive a downloadable certificate as well as digital badges to share on social media.
Each year, several sponsors offer participants various coupons for writing software like Scrivener, classes, memberships, and other resources writers might enjoy. You can find the available discounts on the NaNoWriMo offers page.
Can You Publish a NaNoWriMo Book?
Yes, there are many novels that started out as NaNoWriMo projects that eventually became published books, such as The Night Circus and An Absolutely Remarkable Thing.
It’s important to remember, though, that most people who participate in National Novel Writing Month finish the challenge with a draft, not a publishable manuscript.
A lot of people who disparage NaNoWriMo do so because they think it gives people the idea that writing a book is as easy endeavor that can be accomplished in just a month, and that it diminishes the work put in by “real writers” who spend years — sometimes decades — working on their novels.
On the contrary, the NaNoWriMo platform never boasts that the draft writers complete during the month of November will be of publishable quality. In fact, quite the opposite.
Writers are encouraged to continue working on their projects after the challenge is over by revising their drafts. NaNoWriMo provides a variety of resources to help writers with next steps after their drafts are done.
Is NaNoWriMo Worth It?
If you’re looking for a way to add more structure to your writing routine and motivate yourself to finish the first draft of your novel, National Novel Writing Month may be just the thing to get your project moving. Of course, your success ultimately depends on your dedication.
Just remember that you’re not expected to have a publishable book by the end of a single month. With realistic expectations, NaNoWriMo is certainly a worthwhile endeavor.
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