As we pack away our Halloween costumes for the year and take stock of our candy, there are writers across the nation who are anxiously cracking their knuckles and staring at a blank Word document. With a fresh supply of candy and a cozy sweater, they aim to write an entire novel in a month.
The hardest thing about writing is just sitting down and doing it — every writer will tell you that. It seems so easy to come up with unique ideas. But sometimes, putting all those ideas onto a page can be harder than we think. That’s exactly why NaNoWriMo started as an annual challenge for writers to get the gears turning.
NaNoWriMo stands for “National Novel Writing Month.” The goal is simple: You have from November 1 to midnight on November 30 to write an entire book from start to finish.
The minimum length for a novel is about 50,000 words. You can plan and make notes all you want in preparation, but you can’t begin writing before November 1st. Your book can be in any format, language, and genre. Participants have used NaNoWriMo to write anything covering fanfiction, meta-fiction, and even comics. In fact, some famous works have come from NaNoWriMo, including Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen.
The challenge was started by Chris Baty and his friends in 1999 in San Francisco. They even created a website where participants could log their progress. Some ran out of steam along the way, others were triumphant, and the rest just found it a good exercise to get things going on the project that really mattered to them. Every year, more participants sign up for the writing challenge, and NaNoWriMo has become an official nonprofit organization to help aspiring writers get the tools, resources, and support needed to start their writing journey. Baty has since moved on to become the Board Member Emeritus of NaNoWriMo and has published a few books, including No Plot? No Problem! This book guides young writers through the hurdles of making the first draft of a book.
NaNoWriMo has become a national movement for us to make more time for things we enjoy rather than putting them off.
Writing clubs in libraries, schools, and community centers flock to the event to share their growing word count and discuss ideas when they hit a roadblock. I myself have participated a few times and will attempt another one this year.
Many writers will run out of steam partway through the month and abandon the project. But that’s not a big deal, so don’t worry if you’re one of them. It’s important to remember that the shared struggle makes us have something in common, and we even find community through hardship. The point is that everyone has a story they can share if they just let it out. And along the way, we can laugh about our silly ways of increasing the word count or cry over the existential dread of realizing we have no idea what we’re doing.
For any writers participating with me this year, let’s all try to stay hydrated and get enough sleep. That way, we won’t scare our non-writing friends when we show up to brunch looking like walking zombies.
With that, I have reached my word count goal for this article and need to go back to improving my novel’s weekly word count. Tootles!