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Saturday, October 15, 2011

NaNoWriMo 2011: Be afraid (but only a little).

It's time, once again, for NaNoWriMo.

If that first sentence made you go, "Uh, what?" then it's also time for an explanation. If you're not a writer, aspiring or otherwise, you probably won't care. See you next post. :-)

NaNoWriMo is the crazy-catchy nickname for "National Novel Writing Month." I suppose that "Novelember" was taken. Anyway, a guy named Chris Baty started NaNoWriMo in 1999 with 21 participants. Last year, there were over 200,000 participants who collectively wrote over 2.8 billion words. I'd say it's growing nicely.

The goal is simple: write 50,000 words of a novel between midnight on November 1st and 11:59:59 pm on November 30th. That's 1667 words a day, every day, for 30 days. That may sound daunting, but it's really not all that bad. 30 words a minute for an hour will put you ahead of the pace (1800 words). For some, it can actually be relatively easy...

...if you've prepared yourself. So here are some tips.
  • If you're an outliner, pre-NaNo outlining is allowed, so go nuts.
  • I recommend you use a program that is geared towards novel writing. I use (read: love the holy crap out of) yWriter. It's also completely free.
  • On a related note, you may want to check out Yarny for writing if/when you're away from your own computer. I've messed around with it a bit; looks handy.
  • Start strong and get ahead.
  • If you can't do that, for Pete's sake don't fall behind. The remaining word count can pile up fast, and many a writer will quit if they get a few thousand words behind.
  • Have writing buddies. Whether official NaNo buddies or just people you know, keep yourselves updated on your progress. Friendly support/competition = motivation.
  • Peruse the regional NaNo boards. Each region has a dedicated forum, and people often organize "write-ins" at local coffee shops, libraries, bookstores, etc.
  • Put fingers to keys and start banging.
  • Don't get too crazy with the editing. The way I write enables me to do a lot of editing on the fly, but the goal is the most important thing. It doesn't matter what your first draft looks like, because you'll just have to rewrite it anyway.
Before you know it, 50k baby!

In 2006, I tried NaNo for the first time. I signed up five days late. I started slow. I needed like 12,000 words in the last four days.

But I did it. It was my first real writing accomplishment.

If you really want to be a serious writer, but the excuses just keep piling up, you need to do this, just to prove to yourself that you can.

One last thing*: Don't think that what you end up with is necessarily 50,000 words of slop. Several NaNo projects have gone on to commercial success. I'm about to release my own NaNo "Odinsons." I never really thought about the symmetry of releasing my book during NaNoWriMo, but it makes perfect sense.

*One more last thing: If you really want to stay motivated, friend me. I'll shame the bejeezus out of you, and I hope you'll do the same for me.


  1. Great post, Dan. Awesome tips and I'll be checking these links too. Just "friended" you so the shaming is on, I suppose. Thanks!

  2. Great tips! This'll be my third year doing NaNo. Last year I kind of cheated (by using a previous work) but this year I'm starting fresh. Looking forward to it!

  3. Thanks for the advice and the motivation! This will be my first year doing NaNo, I look forward to the challenge!