** What is NaNoWriMo **
"It was a dark and stormy night..."
November is never far away, which can only mean two things: Christmas is approaching and it is nearly time for National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo or NaNo for short). Tagged as '30 days of literary abandon' it is when a bunch of people from around the world get together - in a virtual sense - to each write 50,000 words of a novel during the month of November. Thankfully, the focus is on quantity and not quality; it is about letting yourself just write whatever you want without worrying about how good it is. By shifting focus from quality to quantity you can free yourself from the rules normally set for what is 'good writing'. This in turn encourages you to keep writing. There are many other benefits to this which I'll go into later.
The month is what you make it. It is about writing 50,000 words of your own work. It is about writing. Your writing. It isn't about being good or bad. Just about actually writing something. This should be fiction but there is a section on the forum for 'rebels' who are straying from writing fiction. Yes, it is easy to cheat but as the saying goes you are only cheating yourself. No one is going to care if you cheated but what are you really gaining from it?
** Why NaNoWriMo **
So why would you want to write a novel in a month? One of questionable quality at that. What do you get from it? There is no physical prize for completing it. There is no publishing deal waiting for you at the finish line. You can buy a winners t-shirt if you like?
So, why should you? A lot of people claim that they wish they could write a novel, fewer actually start and even fewer actually finish. It is easy to say we are too busy. Easier than actually facing possibly facing failure. Another problem some face is that when you start writing you start worrying about the quality and you have no deadline or word count to stick to, well here is the cure. The need for quality has been removed, you just write what comes out through your brain and through your typing fingers and it also gives you a deadline and a word count to aim to. I'm not going to lie, it is a challenge but the challenge is what will keep you motivated throughout the month.
When it comes to first drafts quality is not the most important part. There are very few people that can write a good quality story right off the bat. However, this is not the measurement of talent. There is a reason the terms first draft and twentieth draft exists. By ignoring the need for quality you also help dislodge parts of your imagination and creativity that you wouldn't by allowing your inner-editor to do the writing. Once November is over and you are editing then your concern can be quality and delete the things you don't want to keep. Whether its an evil leprechaun made of marshmallow or a Martian ballerina; they may not have much place in your novel but they can inspire other parts of your novel. The evil leprechaun was an important inspiration in my first NaNo.
So, if you haven't written before it gives you a month to get a whole - or part of a - novel under your belt. For the more seasoned writer it gives you a month to forget about quality and do what you like: trying a different genre, testing thoughts or ideas or just to let out your creativity. A lot of people claim that they wish to write a novel, well NaNoWriMo lets you accomplish that in one month.
** Why November **
NaNoWriMo officially begins on the 1st of November at 00:00:01 local time. You can start writing your NaNo any time after this point. You then have 30 days (until the 30th of November at 23:59:59 local time) to write 50,000 words and submit it to the website verification tool (it just checks the word count, it doesn't store or read your novel in any way) in order to become a 'winner'.
But you don't just need to do NaNoWriMo in November. That is when the official NaNoWriMo takes place but many decide to do writing months throughout the year also known as PeNoWriMo or Personal Novel Writing Month. There may not be so many people doing it at the same time but through the internet (or you may encourage some people you know to do it with you) you should find a few people that you can participate with.
** Why 50,000 words **
NaNoWriMo claim themselves that the 50k goal was chosen because it was a challenge but is not impossible even while keeping the commitments of every day life. To give you an idea of the kind of challenge it is, the highest percentage of winners - not including the first year where there was only 25 participants - is 22%. But with sacrificing some of your leisure time and with a bit of caffeine you can achieve the goal. The problem with the percentage is that you can't see how many were close or maybe just didn't verify their story in time.
In terms of definitions there are no hard and fast rules as to how many words makes a novel. The Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America define word counts as:
Novel: 40,000+ words
Novella: 17,500 - 40,000 words
Novelette: 7,500 - 17,500 words
Short story: under 7,500 words
Whereas Smiley suggests novels of being typically 100,000 words long. But it is up to the writer to define really and can vary from genre to genre. You may not fit all your novel into 50,000 words but it is a good chunk of a novel at any rate.
** Who can participate **
NaNoWriMo, by its very nature, is open to everyone. The point of NaNoWriMo is to get people writing so as long as you can put words onto paper/ screen (regardless of quality) then you are able to take part. In order to officially take part you do need to sign up to the website which allows you to track your progress and talk to other NaNo'ers. However, there is nothing stopping you from writing by hand even though it will make word counting a little more difficult and then there is 'validating' your word count at the end. Those that do write by hand - I have noticed - tend to also type up what they have written so they also have a digital copy of their work. On the whole, writing on the computer/ tablet seems to be the most popular approach to the month.
NaNoWriMo is very inclusive. They don't care about your age, sex, race or even ability to write. It is all about your willingness to write and work towards the challenge of writing 50k words in a month. So you have no excuses for not taking part!
** Rules **
NaNoWriMo is a very laid back type of affair; the only concern being the enjoyment of writing and the challenge. There are some rules however: it must be your own individual work completed only in the month of November. They mention that you should start a new project for November - which is as far as I can tell what most people do - there would be nothing stopping you using something you've already started. By the nature of the challenge, there is nothing stopping you from cheating, no one is going to notice if you don't tell them and at the end of the day you are just cheating yourself. You don't gain anything by cheating.
** What do I win? **
If I had a best-selling novel for every time someone has asked me that..
Technically, your prize is a web badge and a .PDF certificate and there are benefits such as some years companies have offered a free paperback version of your novel. "Don't you win a book deal or something?" people have asked me countless times, it is not the case though. The biggest prize of the month is getting a novel under your belt, a sense of accomplishment and hopefully - if its your first time - the writing bug.
Personally, I believe that it is best kept this way. Writing should not be about obtaining a prize: it is about the craft, creating something and most of all enjoying yourself. I won't lie it would be nice to be rewarded in some way for my writing but I do it because I enjoy it.
** What Can I Write? **
As it is National Novel Writing Month, the work is supposed to be a lengthy peice of fiction. However, people do rebel and write non-fiction. As long as you are writing an original lot of 50k words then it counts, really. No one is going to stop you from saying you participated. You could even write a 50,000 word review if you really wanted (though I would make sure it is at least a level 1 category for all that effort).
Fiction wise you can write in any genre you wish: fantasy, chick lit, adventure, fan fiction, horror, sci-fi, young adult and even erotic. There are boards on the websites forum dedicated to genre if you need any help with genre-specific issues.
** Tips for first timers **
NaNoWriMo can be both an exciting and daunting the first time around. It wasn't quite the month I was expecting even though I tried to prepare myself by spending hours on the NaNoWriMo site building a picture of what my month would be like. Some things did happen that I was told but I didn't expect to get so sucked into my novel: when you are texting someone thinking that they are one of your characters you may have spent too much time writing.
That is why I am going to offer some tips for those that have never done NaNoWriMo before. This is no means an exhaustive list.
- The delete button is your enemy
Possibly one of the most important bits of advice. Don't delete anything regardless of how awful you think it is: editing is for December and beyond. This is about writing as much as you can with complete disregard to quality. If you don't want to use something just stop and go onto the next line and continue from where you want. As well as keeping your word count up you never know when you may want to use that scrap bit of writing.
- Go with the flow
You may start out with a thorough plot line and through the month you find that your characters are doing things you never told them to do. This happens and ultimately I have found that it is best to just let them get on with it. Just accept that it may not work out as you had planned. Even if what you end up writing doesn't work just start a new chapter and continue on the path that you had originally intended. These diversions can be good for getting the creative juices flowing. It may seem like a waste of writing time but you will feel better writing without your characters determined to drive you in that other direction.
- Plan... or don't
Some people get to November 1st and have almost half a novel worth of notes and information on what they intend to write throughout the month and others are armed with just their computer and the hope that they come up with something. A lot more people will be in between these two extremes. The important thing is finding what works with you.
Personally, I like to do some planning. I like to get to know my characters, do some research that may be beneficial and an idea of the plot. If I feel like it I will go deep into some parts: my first year I made a detailed plan of the flat my characters would be in for only two to three chapters. But at the same time I like to just go with the flow. Usually my characters will tell me what to do and I just go along with it. If you have never written a novel before you will learn what I mean by characters telling you what to do.
You are going to have to sacrifice some things. It would be wise to tell your friends and family what you are up to and that you are going to need some space during the month to get your writing done. I know during November I go off the grid to a lot of people. I neglect tv shows (there are some that I could never neglect, obviously) and don't tend to watch any films. I will turn down offers to go out just to get another chapter written. They aren't sacrifices that bother me; I sacrifice them because I want to. It is good to warn people though that you will be stuck in your fantasy world for the month.
You can just use Word or other word processor. However, there are programmes that are aimed at those writing novels. The programme that I use is yWriter, a free software which has minimal text options (less distractions) but comes with various other features useful for writers. You can create different chapters and scenes so it is organised like a normal book and makes going back to parts easier. It also makes it more organised. You have tabs for character, location and items information. You can set goals and add pictures. It has a spell check but you can set it so that it doesn't put a red line under mis-spelled words as this can be distracting during November.
Each novel has a different file that you can open. I use this software for writing/ storing my DooYoo reviews also.
Other programmes include:
* Scrivener (Mac and Windows)
* WriteWay (Windows)
* Storyist (Mac)
* Storybook (Windows, Linux, Mac)
Are just some examples.
Setting the right environment for writing is important. If you don't know how you like to write yet you will find out during the month. There are many things to consider. Such as, place: at home or at a cafe. Music or not? A cup of tea and some biscuits? What room at home?
Personally, it depends on my mood whether I prefer to be at home or at a cafe when writing. At home means I have my home comforts (including a more comfy chair than a typical cafe offers). Unless I'm in a bad mood I need music, preferably through earphones even if I am at home. It creates a bubble around me and regardless of where I am I feel as though I am alone in the world. Before sitting down to write I will always grab a cup of tea and like to have something to nibble on close by so I don't have to get up so much for food.
No, I'm not suggesting you bribe someone to write it for you but to bribe yourself. Tell yourself that you can have chocolate/ internet time/ tv time / whatever treat you want when you reach a certain word count. I put this to use when writing essays as well and it certainly worked. Its not for everyone but its a good way to motivate yourself to reaching your word count.
** Using the site **
The site is fairly easy to use. One complaint I do have is that there is no obvious section for explaining NaNoWriMo to newbies. It does exist but you have to go down to the bottom to where it says 'help' in tiny lettering. In my opinion they would be better to place this at the top with the other sections of the website.
The homepage gives you a brief description of what the website is for (track your progress, receive pep talks and support and meet fellow writers online and in person).
This section is where you can edit your author and novel info (displayed to other members) and your user settings, it allows you to see your writing buddies and check and send NaNoMail. It also allows you to track your progress throughout the month with a graph of your daily word count, average words per day and an estimate of when you will finish/ how many words per day you need to write in order to finish.
I like being able to chart my progress like this and the ability to add writing buddies.
The forums are a great place to chat to other writers throughout the world about writing. There are sections for everyone and everything. You have sub-forums for genres, life after NaNo, tips and strategies, life during NaNo (general chat, word wars/ prompts/ sprints, shoutouts), resources and writing support, NaNo groups (e.g. newbies, students, by age group) and off-topic forums.
It is well organised making it easy to find the forum that you want. The people on the forum are nice and helpful if you have any questions. You will always find the forums slow to run on the first few days of NaNo while everyone is trying to get on at the same time. Throughout the year there are posts on the forum however, it is never as busy throughout the year as it is in November. It is a great resource for support and inspiration throughout the month.
This is where you will find pep talks that are added during November from writers, web badges, word count scoreboard, special offers, site archive and NaNoToons.
The only one that I use often during November is the word count scoreboard. Not a lot of useful stuff in here but handy to have.
This is where you can donate money to Office of Letters and Light, a non-profit organisation based in California that offer creative writing programs for kids and adults (NaNoWriMo, ScritFrenzy and the Young Writers Program).
There is also a store where you can buy NaNoWriMo related items (such as t-shirts, mugs, posters and books). The store is easy to navigate and the prices of items are clearly displayed (in dollars).
'NaNo Near You'
NaNo Near You is a great tool for finding your nearest NaNo region (most cities have a region, you can be a member of more than one region). If there is not a region for your specific location then there will be a [your country: elsewhere] region for you to try. Regions hold write-ins for you to meet NaNoWriMo participants in real life and to get together and write in a friendly environment. It takes away the idea of it being a solitary month which is why I recommend going along to your nearest group if it is accessible to you.
All groups organise a kick off party which allows for NaNo'ers to get together and discuss writing and all manner of things. Then throughout the month there should be 'write-ins' in which you get together with your writing tools and write until you can't write anymore. They can prove valuable at motivating you and acting as a source of information and inspiration. This is concluded at the end of the month with a 'thank god its over party' which acts as a bookmark to the kick off party. If you are lucky enough, your group may meet during the year.
I wasn't sure at first about attending the NaNo group. I thought it would be a small bunch of people who were too close knit to really allow new members in. However, I was wrong. My group was a mixture of ages and backgrounds who were welcoming to new members.
** December and the other 10 months after November **
In December, you may wish to finish your novel or even take a break from writing. November can be an intense month, especially for those doing the 50k+ words. I know I prefer to step away from my novel before stepping back in to edit. It gives your brain time to process what you have written and refocus on editing it into something of slightly better quality. You don't even need to edit it at all. It may be a case of using November to just write whatever and outside November is when you write 'seriously'. It is completely up to you.
Though, I hope if you are doing NaNoWriMo for the first time and haven't written before you will write throughout the year.
** My NaNo Experience **
I first heard about NaNoWriMo on the 1st of November 2008. That was not the first year I participated though. I waited a whole year with excitement to start on the 1st of November 2009. I didn't do much planning in that year, I had the occasional character come to say hello but that is it. After attending my first 'kick off party' (every NaNo area has to host a kick off party, organised by the municipal liasons) I was ready to go. I waited for the clock to turn to 00:00 on the 1st of November to begin writing. Before I had even gone to bed I had completed the daily word goal and before I went to bed the next night I was already a day ahead of target. This great start echoed throughout the month and by November 30th I had over 62,000 words under my belt. That doesn't include the essays I had to write during the month, one due on December 2nd.
Unfortunately my subsequent years were not so successful. My second year I was in fourth year at university and already had a pile of work that required my attention more urgently than something that I could put off until next year. I still managed about 30,000 words so it was still a good effort. Last year I almost made the 30k mark again. November last year began at quite a good pace but then a combination of working night shift (unable to take my laptop into work) and living with my mum (not giving me a decent amount of alone time to write) in a town that doesn't have a cafe for me to escape to kind of dejected some of my motivation.
This year I hope will be different. I have my own flat which gives me plenty of alone time to fit in some writing, I have requested certain nights off work (such as the 31st October and 1st of November) and have a week off at the end of the month. I am hoping that this year I can once again reach the 50,000 word goal. I have already started planning in my lovely new notebook bought especially for NaNo. I have a few characters starting to appear and started writing out some things that could happen. I am looking forward to it though.
** Overall **
I would definitely recommend NaNoWriMo to everyone who wants to write a novel but "can't find the time" or "will get round to it" and even those that have never given serious thought to writing a novel. I would also recommend it to those that do already write fiction. It is a great month for forgetting about quality and tapping into sections of your imagination that your inner editor forces you to forget about. In one short month you can come away with 50,000 words worth of Novel. It is a month full of insight (your own mind and the world of writing) and its enjoyable. It is something I look forward to doing every year with good reason; even if I don't win.
I discovered NaNoWriMo in 2005, having just started out in writing fiction.
Since then I have participated every year, although my reasons have changed somewhat since that first year.
I think that sometimes people miss the whole idea behind it which is basically to have fun writing and actually be able to say they have achieved something. If you 'win' and can say you've written a novel (although that might end up being a very loose use of the term!) then all the better.
The first year I wrote anything I could to hit the 50,000 word target. As a result I ended up with 50k of pretty much utter rubbish. I had fun, and I know a lot of people do write passable works of fiction during the month of November but for me writing any old rubbish just to hit the word count isn't what I do any more. I've done it once, and now I do it for different reasons.
At the heart of NaNoWriMo is a fantastic community, made up of people from all ages, locations and occupations. This is the part I enjoy the most - hanging out with thousands of other writers, discussing ideas, trading plots etc.
I now use NaNo to encourage me to write something full stop, as I generally get very little writing done during the rest of the year. If I don't hit 50k I'm not bothered - for 2006 and 2007 I made around 30k each time but I had much better works that could be edited and turned into something half decent afterwards.
The goal is not to edit at all - just keep writing and leave editing till afterwards. This does work well and it's a good way to get that novel finally started.
People join NaNo for various different reasons - some enjoy writing 50k of utter rubbish just for the fun of it and that's fine too. Personally, I am now aiming to actually get at least the first half of a novel written each year and then I spend the rest of the year finishing it off and editing.
I would recommend it to anyone interested in writing. After all, the best way to improve your writing is to write, it doesn't matter too much what you write really. And a lot of people find the pressure of the deadline helps them actually get started which is a problem a lot of would-be writers have.
So I'll still keep going back every November, even though I'm not fussed about the 50k target any more I still get more writing done than any other month of the year and it always re-fuels my enthusiasm for writing which can only be a good thing.
It's only May yet, and so there are still a few months left before the horde of amatue and professional writers attempt to sigh, curse, and procastinate their way through the process of writing 50000 words.
Nanowrimo stands for National Novel-Writers Month (although it's actually more an international effort now). And all it's basically about... is writing. Writing good stuff. Writing bad stuff. Writing about ponies, pirates, ninjas, romance - anything you like as long as you get your backside into that seat and WRITE to a deadline damn you.
The idea is that a lot of people do have the ability in them to write, they just struggle to get around to actually doing so. They sit down, they write a sentence, they pick at it, they decide they hate it, they delete it, they start again. Three months later, and still on the same paragraph, they give up.
As a champion procrastinastor, I love Nanowrimo. Having a deadline helps, and not having time to delete and re-delete things is wonderfully good for me - good for IMPROVING my writing too. For instance, my personal bugbear is dialogue. I'm good at knowing what people are thinking, not so good at translating that into words. And in my work every year you can see the same stiltedness as I start, awkwardly trying to remember how to do this and then gradually starting to flow more and more naturally as I get into it.
The supporters forums help. Having people to cheer you along helps, and they also have a research forum when you can ask questions such as "how much power would it take to blow up these speakers?" rather than lose three hours to google and wikipedia and have some things they'll help with.
There are a couple of issues. The amount of folk rushing along to the site in November eats a lot of bandwidth and the forum often runs fairly slow, or goes down a lot. There are also a few folk every year who takes the rules of Nanowrimo as THE RULES and get annoyed by anyone who they think is cheating or taking the whole thing too lightly. Seems a bit silly to me when all you get at the end is a print out certificate, but hey, what do I know?
Not everyone will like Nanowrimo. I know people who see a deadline and feel all creative inspiration drain out of them. Those folk should probably avoid it. And not everyone who does it and enjoys it is going to end up a published writer - hell, not everyone is even aiming to! I've written things I could probably polish up and try to sell for Nano, but I've also written things I knew would never be marketable just for the pure joy of doing so. Writing is fun, exercising your brain is fun. and sometimes you don't need more than that. There ARE a few folk who've got their Nano work published, and that's great. They also leave the forums open year around and there's usually a few folk working through editing together, and that's also great. But don't think you HAVE to in order to come play with us.
I enjoy Nanowrimo. For some folk it's work, for some it's fun, ad for some it's something that will make them hyperventilate at the mere thought. If you enjoy writing though, give it a try. At the very least, after 50000 words in a month I guantee the 150 words HERE will look like nothing.
As something of a literary drudge (I'm a writer and I work as an academic editor for a major publisher), I get sent a lot of first novels to read. Recently, one term has been appearing over and over again in people's accounts of their first writing experience: Nanowrimo.
What is Nanowrimo?
At face value, Nanowrimo is a great concept. The idea is that between Oct 1st and Oct 31st, people who want to be writers sign up at the website http://www.nanowrimo.org. They set themselves a writing target, and maybe hook up with a writing buddy to encourage them through the process. Come 1st November they start scribbling away like a horde of demented monkeys, completing a certain number of words a day until the end of the month. There are forums where you can get advice and support, and daily word counters to chart your progress and ensure that you make your deadline - all for free!. Generally the target for most people is 50,000 words - a substantial amount for any writer to produce!
Advantages and disadvantages for established writers
For established writers (by which I mean those who are already very fluent with prose, have an established authorial voice, are published, or have already produced extensive amounts on a creative writing degree or MA) this could be a really useful exercise. If you're feeling wobbly about your work (and insecurity can be a devastating thing for creativity), it's easy to become so undermined that you can't produce anything at all. Loosening up and just aiming for quantity can be a really cathartic way of exorcising some of those inhibiting demons! Meeting the wordcount will force you to write quickly and take risks that you maybe wouldn't otherwise feel able to take. Make no mistake about it, though, this approach also means that you will be writing a lot of crap that you will want to burn so that no-one will ever witness your shame. (The website is very clear and honest about this being an integral risk of the project.)
Advantages and disadvantages for new writers
However, for new writers who haven't written very much and who are unpublished, I personally think that Nanowrimo can be as much of a hindrance as a help. Its advantages are obvious: it provides people with a good, solid first target when they're thinking of starting to write, it creates discipline about writing, it encourages people to think creatively and it could help to produce that seed of an idea that turns a vague synopsis into a fully-fledged bestseller! However, there are also some hidden disadvantages too.
Some people set themselves incredibly ambitious schedules, and then feel disappointed at not making their wordcount. Others work like fiends for the month, only to collapse with exhaustion at the end, never to pick up a pen again (or at least, not until the following November). In some ways, I wonder if it wouldn't be better for these people to set more achievable goals but to make writing more of a part of their daily routine, rather than trying to get everything done in a month then taking the next 11 months off from their hobby.
More seriously, for many newcomers to novelwriting the problem often isn't quantity, but quality. A big mistake that many writers make is to dash off chapter after chaper as fast as they can, scarcely stopping to draw breath, because this way of working makes them feel good and productive. Nanowrimo encourages this behaviour because you're constantly writing to meet a target number of words.
This means that many new writers start to neglect the revision process, thus ignoring the place where a lot of the real magic of writing happens (especially for new writers!). Now as anyone who has ever agonized over a paragraph knows, revision is not a pleasant experience. Going back through your work with a fine tooth comb can be painful, humiliating and sapping to your confidence. It's not nice to realize that the magical, wonderful world that appeared in your head sounds boring and humdrum on paper. But this is all part of the process of getting inside language and learning how to use it effectively, a process that's absolutely essential for every single writer out there who isn't just doing it for personal satisfaction but wants to publish. You can throw out good journalism or reviews quickly, but I've seldom met a successful novelist who wasn't intensely self-critical. By contrast, many of the Nanowrimo novels I've been sent show such obvious signs of haste that any publisher will reject them before getting to the end of the first page, though the authors sometimes seem convinced that they've penned the next Ulysses all the same!
To conclude, writing a first novel is often a deeply miserable, intensely personal challenge which is going to cause many people to confront their worst feelings about themselves. Hence the many quotes from writers through the ages about the hell of the creative process. As George Orwell once said: 'writing a book is a long, exhausting struggle, like a long bout of some painful illness. One would never undertake such a thing if one were not driven by some demon whom one can neither resist nor understand." In other words: this ain't easy! Nanowrimo is an excellent writing aid, provided you have the ability to criticize yourself and judge when something you've produced has promise and when it's just hastily written gibberish. But don't expect to produce Bleak House in four weeks in November!
Nanowrimo is a great way for writers to get some ideas together and building confidence, but it's far more useful for established writers than those still learning their craft.
Its that special time of year again. No, its not Halloween or Bonfire night. For me and many others its Nanowrimo, or National Novel Writing Month. This is a yearly event that pulls in amateur writers from all across the world to try and achieve something that non-writers would probably think highly unlikely, or just plain foolish. The goal is to write a novel (or more like a novelette), of 50,000 words in just one month--- the month of November. Whats is all about? Ill give you a quick overview as this has been reviewed already by friends of mine, and in one case, my writing partner and fellow novelist, known on here as Docpov.
Nanowrimo started back in 1999, in San Francisco with just twenty-one would-be authors. The concept was very basic and hasnt changed that much over the years, although the ideas and off-shoots have grown to become an amazing event. For a more detailed (and interesting) version of how Nano has grown, you can visit the site as a non-participant and scroll through the various areas of the site, much as one would browse through Dooyoo. Also, the basic navigation and ideas have already been reviewed extremely well. So why am I writing this?
Well Nanowrimo ( affectionaly referred to as Nano) only happens each November and the deadline for would-be writers is fast approaching.
To join in the fun and games each participant must register their interest from October 1st to 31st. After that writing begins in earnest and wont come around again until next November. I hear you say, So What? Yes, it might appear that thousands of normally sane people suddenly become totally irrational and cant be found around their normal haunts until December, but there is method in this madness.
Many members of Dooyoo and Ciao can put together an excellent review in les than half an hour. Others like me have to struggle for hours to write a half-decent review. My own theory is that some of us just try too hard or lose their way when trying to plan it out.
Nano encourages us to cast aside all our doubts and fears by frantically trying to write 50,000 words in November. By pushing the boundaries a normally careful writer forgets all they have ever learnt or experienced before and just types away madly, knowing that they need to write between 1000 and 2000 words per day to make that all-important 50,000.
So what if you write rubbish? Out of that rubbish comes some brilliant ideas and further work can turn that stream of unconscious writing into something more productive than months of careful planning.
So you like the idea of joining in this madhouse ? Where do you start? When you bring up the homepage from your browser, it opens in English, but gives the option to choose from another four European languages. Go to Sign in and it takes you through a procedure very similar to many sites that have thousands of members. Once you have your username and password, you login and make your own page. This year the author profile has been given even more scope than previous years, offering the chance to really show the world what a great writer you are. (We all love that hype, dont we?) .This activates your account and from midnight on 1st November you can start writing and adding details to your page.
Theres a nice scroll around your pen-name and as soon as you have written enough to show the world what a fantastic story you are writing, you can upload to your pages a taster of your novel. For the last few years this has opened up like the first few pages of a book, giving you an idea what your novel will look like. This year promises to be bigger and better, and hopefully will show off your work to an appreciative audience.
Progress on your word-count is accepted as what you say it is, but be warned .there is a final count which means you uploading all your work. Dont worry though your work is not stored, so nobody can breach your copywrite.
In previous years Nanowrimo has raised enough money to fund many worthy projects. In the past three years alone, they have funded 17 libraries in Asia alone, giving the joy of reading to the children of many impoverished communities. Our own children are not forgotten either, with grants for various groups and students to join in the experience of writing themselves. This money has come from the participants who donate anything from about £5 upward as well as writing. This keeps the site running and allows for plenty of fun while would-be authors are cheered on daily by the enthusiastic volunteers who give their time freely. As a non-profit making organisation this is a terrific achievement when you consider that last year 79,000 adults and 15,000 young children were using the site daily.
Last year I found it hard to afford the donation as I am unable to work through ill health, so I was pleased to read about this years sponsorship programme. Each writer can have a page for family and friends to sponsor then to finish the marathon task of writing their book. I will be teaming up with my writing partner this year, so Im hoping that we can raise a good amount of money.
It would take me an age to cover the whole site and to say what benefits it gives to many people. I have been a member of Nanowrimo for three years now. The first year I finished my book, along with about 15,000 others. Make no mistake, its hard to write so much in thirty days with no other reward than a certificate and a wonderful sense of achievement when its all over. There are authors who go on to complete their books and a small percentage does get their books published. The first year I didnt complete my book, it was just not worth the effort of carrying on. Last year I didnt complete my book in the month, but I did go on to complete it at the beginning of this year, and Im hopeful it will get published before the year is out. Whether or not you stay the course, at least theres the pride in having tried and knowing that you can make the effort.
I expect most people will wonder why I and so many others bother. Well we cant all be wrong. A lot of it is pride as well. Authors come from all over the world, but Americans are still the majority. The UK is split into regions, with plenty of good-humoured banter going on especially with the Welsh/Scots/Irish/English. The forums buzz with activity as writers, wired up with coffee, beer/fags/ chocolate or whatever keeps them writing into the wee small hours of the morning, swap stories and generally fool around. Its a community like any other site. Members help reach other with plots, ideas for the perfect murder, details of writing competitions and general horseplay.
I have tried to give you an idea of not just the site, but what its like to participate. It was from the first year of Nano that I started to take my writing seriously, the thrill of the experience led to me writing not one, but two books and one thats on hold at the moment. I would recommend it to anyone who would like to try to write. Theres no judgment, just sore fingers, lack of sleep and at the end a sense of euphoria thats probably manic. But arent the best writers all from the same stable?
© Lisa Fuller 2007.
It is said that every one of us has a book inside us that is just waiting to be let loose on the world.
How many of us though would ever actually set that book free?
Ask me that question three years ago and I would have been one in the 'it's in there somewhere but I doubt I will ever loose it on the world' camp. At the time I had found the writing bug, writing reviews on here I had written a few short stories that had gone down quite well and when someone suggested NaNoWriMo to me I had a look and thought what the hell and gave it a go.
So what is this fabled NaNoWriMo?
Odd word that isn't it, not really a word at all, NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel Writing Month and that is what it is. In the month of November each year an ever growing number of budding novelists come together to write a novel, not just write a novel but write a 50000 word novel in the thirty days of November. A tall order you think, yes true but it is also great fun.
A little bit of history.
NaNoWriMo was the brainchild of a man from Los Angeles called Chris Baty. Together with a group of friends in the year 1999 he decided to take on a challenge to write a novel in a month. They had such a great time doing it that the next year they decided to do it again. This time one of them offered to build a web site and the number of participants had grown to 140. This year was when the rules started to be formed, more on them later.
Year three saw the participant level jump to over 5000 and with the growing number of participants came an evolving website and an evolving experience to go with it.
Year on year NaNoWriMo has been growing and evolving until last years participant level reached many thousands.
From a small idea of a few people NaNoWriMo has now grown into a major charity based yearly event.
nanowrimo.org is where it all happens, when you first visit the site you are met by a friendly home page consisting of a book meter that shows how much money has been raised, sections with links to breaking news, wrimoradio, Q and A, a reminder that can be sent to you for when next year is about to start and a cumulative word total for last years event. This year that stood at a staggering 982,564,701 words written by participants all over the world.
Across the top of the page are links to all the other pages of the site where all sorts of information can be found including a very large forum and information about the charity work and FAQ's and the store.
Like what you see, want to join?
Signing up is simplicity itself and its free!!
The usual personal details are required plus things like what you want as your signature on your forum posts and what you want displayed on your personal profile. All of this is editable once you are registered. As with most sites you sign up for you can have a web name that you will go by.
What does signing up allow me to do?
Apart from the obvious take part in the competition signing up allows you to participate in the forums and send messages to other members who you can sign up as writing buddies should you wish. Once a member you can participate in all facets of the site.
Once signed up you get yourself a personal profile page that is well done in the form of a book.
The first page shows your personal details (up to you how much information you want on public display) and shows links to enable you to see your forum posts plus links that allow visitors to your page to send an E mail or personal message to you or access your own website should you own one.
Page two shows your progress throughout the month with a daily word count. Throughout the month this is done on an honour system meaning that you are trusted to post your true total, after all if you cheat the only person you are cheating is yourself so there is little point in lying. This page also shows your writing buddies and how they are getting on.
Turn the page; yes it does turn like the page of a book. This page shows a graph of how the global total is progressing on a daily basis and also shows what is happening in regions of the world in terms of word count. You can post an excerpt of your work in progress for the world to see on the next page.
It is really nice to see your excerpt in the form of a book. I think this is one of the best features of the profile page. You are allowed to post up to 10000 words that anyone can come along and read.
Also on the site are pages for donations and shopping.
As I mentioned NaNoWriMo is run as a charity and donations are encouraged although not aggressively so. Donations can be made from as little as $10 to $5000 dollars. Giving a donation entitles you to wear a halo over your username. Half the money raised is used to run next years NaNoWriMo and the other half goes to charity. To give you some idea of the scale of NaNo now this years total was $249,441 so as you can see it is a worthwhile venture as well as being a fun experience.
The charity that is supported by NaNoWriMo provides libraries and books etc in Vietnam and Cambodia.
In the past two years NaNoWriMo has built two libraries in Cambodia and seven in Laos.
Also supported are a young writers programme and laptops that can be loaned by nanowrimers for the duration of November should their be people who want to participate but can't afford a PC.
The funds raised from selling merchandise are also added to the charity pot. NaNo merchandise is available to buy including T shirts, books and mugs.
OK I'm in its the 31st October. Now what?
Get ready for a great experience. Not sure what to write? Well what you like really as long as long as it is all out of your own imagination anything goes, any genre, any take on any given genre. The limit is only really your imagination. Let it run riot and you will be surprised what flows onto the page.
Of course plagiarism is totally banned and to be honest if you are just going to copy someone else's work then what is the point, the only person you are cheating is yourself.
Of course there is the opposite side of the plagiarism coin, securing your own work. The only piece of your work that is on site is what you choose to put in as your excerpt, you don't even have to do that if you don't wish too so there is very little chance of someone pinching your bestselling idea and as for sending your work for verification I will explain that in a moment.
What is in it for me?
First and foremost personal satisfaction and the thrill of taking part. You are entitled to a participant's icon and if you complete the challenge you earn yourself a winner's icon and a certificate and of course you are the proud owner of the novel you have written. So there is no big prize at the end of it, no fanfare for the winner but that isn't what NaNo is all about. The personal joy at having written a novel and completed the challenge is the prize and after doing it that really is prize enough.
As I have said this is to write a novel of 50000 words in the thirty days of November. That works out at 1666 words every day for the month, a tall order and a real challenge. Your novel doesn't have to be a masterpiece, doesn't have to be a best seller. NaNoWriMo is all about getting you writing, in this case quantity is better than quality. That doesn't mean that you can write one word and copy it 50000 times there would be little point and no satisfaction in doing that would there.
The basic rules are that you start with a blank canvass, you are allowed to have character outlines and an idea of where you want your plot to go but you are not allowed to have done any actual writing of your work before the first of November.
The 30th November, you have made it, 50000 words in the bank and you are feeling well pleased with yourself. There is one more thing you have to do before you can share your glory. You have to send in your work to be verified. Don't worry if you fear for the safety of your hard graft you don't have to send your actual work in fact they advise you not to. What they advise is that you change a few letters throughout your work, change all the E's to Z's and all the T's to X's and a few more and very soon your work becomes intelligible but the word count remains intact (don't forget to keep an original copy yourself before you change it all though) Once your count has been verified your name is added to the winners roll of honour for the world to see and you are now entitled to download your winners certificate. This year 12960 budding authors had their names added to the winning roll of honour.
What else can I do?
There are many other facets to the site should you want a half hours break from writing your novel. There is a very large forum section with a huge array of topics where you can get character or plot help or get encouragement if you are flagging or run out of ideas. Talk about all sorts of writing related subjects or even non writing subjects.
There are also regional lounges where you can make yourself known to other participants in your area to get encouragement and help on a local level. This can lead to NaNo meets where you can join up with other budding authors in the physical world.
There is also wrimoradio where you can listen to broadcasts talking about writing and giving you the spur to complete the challenge.
NaNoWriMo has grown and grown, there are now a number of spin off sites, NaNoFiMo (national novel finishing month) to finish your novel if either you didn't make the 50000 or if you did but there was still more story to tell.
Finished your story but need to work on it, edit bits or rewrite bits then there is NaNoEdMo (national novel editing month). These sites are run along the same lines as Nanowrimo, indeed they are run by participants themselves.
And if you really want to go for it after your NaNo experience you could always try NaNoYeMo, Write a novel and edit it and get it published in the space of a year, very tall order that one.
I've won what now?
What happens next, where will it lead? That is up to you. I can only speak of my own personal experience.
I found out that I could write a passable novel and the experience gave me the encouragement to do something about it. Together with another NaNoWriMo contestant and incidentally a former Ciao member we decided we could and should write a novel together and this is what we have done and now that novel is to be published in May this year and already we have both started personal and another joint novel. So from little acorns and the Nano experience oak trees grow. Without the NaNo experience I don't think the last year would have gone as it has, I don't think I would have written a novel or got to the stage where I can nearly call myself an author so for me that is the prize, that is what NaNo gave me and I am truly thankful for the experience.
What about the rest of the year?
As mentioned above there are the spin off sites and others that do similar things and you can access the site and the forums throughout the year. For me it is the annualness (made up word I know but it fits what I want to say) of the event that makes it special for me, the planning in the couple of months before November and the anticipation as the date draws near really do add to the enjoyment of the experience.
Will I be back?
Oh yes I will certainly be back this year. After failing miserably last year through commitments of getting our novel edited and prepared for publishing I will be back next year, raring to go and with hopefully a really good story to tell. Nano is such a good experience and as you get to know a few contestants it becomes a social event, giving each other encouragement and sharing the experience is half the fun. I won't deny it is tough; it wouldn't be a challenge if it wasn't but it is fun as well and that is what helps to make it a great experience.
So if I have given you the urge to have a go then go for it and feel free to look me up on there next November.
Give it a go, unlock the author inside, you never know you might surprise yourself like I did.
© Docpov March 2007
They say that every person on earth has a book dwelling somewhere inside them waiting to get out, though could you write a 50,000 word novel within the space of one month ? The whole object of this site is to give writers the incentive to write a whole book, and it somehow works.
I have been a member on the site for two years, and have written two novelettes. I call them novelettes because I don't think that 50,000 is a serious book, though what the site does is extraordinary and something I enjoy being part of.
In the month of November every year, people are invited to join up, and to get stuck into writing a book. There are no real prizes, so why would one bother ? Here, the prize is the achievement. If you finish the book, then you are a winner, and to me this means rather a lot, because it disciplines a writer to be able to write within a given time scale, and for me and many other writers, this discipline is what is lacking from their everyday lives. We can't seem to tie ourselves down to writing that novel, though the site is specifically for people who want to take that leap and try.
Nanowrimo, also known as National Novel Writing Month gathered from writers all over the world this year 982 million words, which means in effect that there is a call for a site like this, and that there are budding writers out there willing to try their hand at novel writing.
I like the site layout very much, and after you have registered, there is a friendly forum which is easy to access where you can talk to other writers who are trying to finish their books, talk about plots, or generally get some inspiration if you are lacking it.
Personally, I was too busy writing to be on the forum very much, but it was interesting to see which writers were back this year, and see friends from other sites amongst them. It's a friendly challenge and the only requirement is that you do your best. There is no pressure put upon members to finish, though that dreaded last day of the month is the last time that you can add to your word count, by uploading plain text files, and having your words counted.
What I like particularly about the site is the layout of profiles, and how the first part of your book is presented, in such a manner as to resemble a book, with pages that actually turn, the first of which show the progress that you have made towards your eventual aim. Little by little, uploading my progress every day, I got to the half way mark and there was no stopping me. I really did want to finish, and each year managed to finish a whole story with beginning middle and end, and was reasonably pleased with my progress. 12,959 potential authors finished the process of writing a book, some will get publishers to print them, though all went through the same experience as me of writing within a given timescale, and the range of Countries that participate is amazing.
It's interesting for me to go into the different profiles and read a section of the books that people have read, and you may ask if people cheat. Well, perhaps they do, though really there is little point in cheating, because those that cheat achieve nothing. There was some blurb on the site last year that said that they can recognise if people upload the same stuff over and over again to get their word count up, although I can't imagine the point of cheating when what the site offers you is that chance to get the book out of your system.
You can choose any genre of book, and both mine were romantic ones and probably of little interest to men, although many types of stories are written by both men and women alike and it's not a question of competing with others. It is more a question of competing with yourself, challenging yourself to the discipline of writing a set amount of words per day in order to achieve that final aim. I thoroughly enjoy it, and would recommend the experience to everyone who has ever thought of writing a book. Although your written work must not start before the lst November, what I found was that I was inventing the story in my mind, and that once I had a clear and concise picture of where the story was going, and a beginning, middle and end, it actually made the writing experience easier. I knew my characters and how to make them believeable to a reader. I knew how I was going to begin the story, and the road it was going to take. Strangely enough, last year I had to pad the story out as I ran out of ideas before I finished it, though this year I found that my story fitted perfectly well into the word allowance given on the site, without the need for padding, so perhaps the practice of writing is making me better.
How can you stop plagiarism ?
Well, only an extract of your book is ever shown. They do not show the whole book, so there is little chance of being copied by anyone.
Other options available on the site.
The Nanowrimo had a target this year of 200,000 dollars to collect for charity, fifty per cent of which goes to build libraries this year in Vietnam. They actually went past this target and collected 248,000 dollars, and the way that you can participate in the charitable side of the site is to donate from as little as 10 dollars to 5,000 dollars. It's a good way of collecting money to aid the literacy of countries that cannot afford to stock their libraries, and although my contribution was very small as I am not rich, imagine the good that can be done when you add all those contributions up.
There is also a small shop, with limited items such as a Nanowrimo T shirt, mug, and books on plot forming etc. They also have a radio station, though I must admit that I never used this.
My overall thoughts.
I love this site. It keeps you on your toes, and even if the event is only held once a year, achieving the goal of finishing your book is a wonderful feeling. You actually miss it when it is finished, and people can then go on to edit their books, make them better, and send them on to publishers, or simply to friends. Friends have read my last years book and enjoyed it, some thought it was weak, though that doesn't really matter that much, because books are such a personal thing that you can't please the whole world.
I love the fact that you have private messages and can keep people you meet and like on as friends, and access them easily from your profile and message them with encouragement. I think that the 50,000 word goal is a reasonable one, and although not simple to meet, easy enough to keep your incentive going.
Next November I shall be writing another book, receiving a certificate and feeling that I have achieved something, albeit small in the order of things. It's a good experience and one I shall enter again and again feeling that perhaps with practice, I may just write a book that matters. You can too and I look forward to meeting any new writers next year. I shall keep my certificates because they are reminders of those years when I devoted a month to writing, a really enjoyable hobby, and one that takes me a step further than the short story format that I am accustomed to.