Have you ever heard of NaNoWriMo?
Half of you are cheering wildly and showing off your NaNo swag, while the other half is simply scratching their heads. Don't worry, non-NaNo friends. Everything will be okay. I've been there, too!
If you're a NaNo pro, you probably know what I'm going to talk about in this post simply from experience. But if you're one of the head-scratchers, or even if you've heard of NaNoWriMo but have never participated, this is definitely the post for you.
Believe me, you're not gonna want to miss this...
So what is NaNoWriMo anyway?
The short answer: NaNoWriMo is a worldwide writing adventure during which thousands of people attempt to write an insane amount of words in a single month.
The long answer: NaNoWriMo–short for National Novel Writing Month–is a worldwide event that occurs every year during the month of November. During this time, participants are challenged to write 50,000 words of fiction in just 30 days. That equals 1,667 words a day!
And while writing that many words may sound crazy, rest assured that it can be done! Hundreds of thousands of writers from around the world participate in NaNoWriMo every year, and the online communities that spring up during this time are simply amazing.
If you're hesitant to get involved in such a time-consuming project, we'll talk below about the benefits of participating in NaNoWriMo. But in case you're already chomping at the bit to get started, here is how you can get involved:
1. Sign Up. First things first, you'll need to sign up for an account over on the NaNo website. You can then fill out your profile, check out the FAQs, and begin making writing buddies in the NaNo forums.
Don't forget to add me as your writing buddy! You can find me by searching Kristen A Kieffer or by clicking here. Once you're on my profile, click the button in the top right corner of the header to add me. I'll make sure to follow you back!
2. Create Your Novel. Sometime in October, you'll be able to "create" your NaNo 2015 novel. You can give it a title, add a description, and even include a cover photo.
3. Write Away. When November hits, it's time for you to write up a storm! Update your word count, gain badges, and watch as you grow closer to winning NaNoWriMo. To learn all the details, check out the "How it Works" page on the Nano site.
4. Win! In order to become a NaNoWriMo winner, you must complete and validate your 50,000 words in the month of November. There is no limit on the number of writers who can win, so everybody has a chance of taking home the cool prizes offered by NaNo's sponsors.
One of those prizes just so happens to be 50% off of my favorite writing software - Scrivener! To learn about why I love Scrivener so much, check out this post in the Story Writing with Scrivener blog series.
But why would you even want to write 50,000 words in a month? I have ten of my top reasons listed below, but one ultimate reason trumps all. The amazing sense of pride that fills you when you validate your 50,000 words is incredible. It simply can't be beat!
How do I know?
Because I participated in NaNoWriMo in 2014, and it was one of the best experiences of my life. Here's my NaNo story...
In June of 2014, I realized that what I wanted most in life was to become a published author.
I had already been developing The Dark Between, my current work-in-progress, for around two years. Though I had written a few scenes and played around with my story world, I really hadn't taken writing seriously.
But something clicked in me early that summer, and I realized that writing this novel wasn't something I wanted to do solely as a hobby anymore. I wanted to make it my profession. But the truth was, I had absolutely no experience with actually writing a novel as a professional would.
I had no writing routine, no accountability partners, and only a handful of pages that were nothing but self-indulgence. All I really had was a wild dream, my crazy story idea, and sheer will power. I thought I was ready to tackle the world.
Well, tackling the world turned out to be a whole lot harder than I'd expected. Throughout that summer, I struggled to develop every aspect of writing: a process, a style, a half-decent plot. Needless to say, I didn't get very far.
While doing a little Pinterest research one day, I came across a program called National Novel Writing Month.
I had barely made my way through their homepage before I was hooked. Writing 50,000 words in a single month sounded absolutely insane, but I knew that I needed to step up my game if I ever wanted to finish my novel. And this program was the perfect opportunity to do just that.
So I signed up, eagerly awaited November 1st, and then tackled my project with gusto. And you know what? I wrote 50,014 words that month. I won NaNoWriMo!
But it certainly wasn't easy.
Writing approximately 1,667 words every day was exhausting, and somedays I didn't meet that quota. I had to binge-write on my days off from work so that I could catch up on my word count, and the work I completed was sloppy, embarrassingly so. But I wrote the words. I got the first half of my story down on paper. I made 50k happen.
And it was a positively exhilarating experience that completely changed how I looked at writing. I can't wait to participate in NaNoWriMo all over again this year!
I'm currently wrapping up the second draft edits on The Dark Between, so during this year's NaNo I'll be drafting a brand new project called Dreamworld. My goal is to complete the whole first draft during NaNo–roughly 70,000 words (yes, I'm insane)–but even if I only do the first 50k, I know I'll be proud.
Why? Because participating in NaNoWriMo offers writers an incredible host of benefits. Allow me to break down my top ten reasons for why you too should participate in NaNo this November:
1. Establish a Writing Routine. Writing consistently is the key to becoming a stronger writer, but learning to keep up a writing habit can be quite difficult. With NaNoWriMo, you have no choice but to establish a writing routine if you want ultimately want to win, which was exactly the push I needed to pick up my writing pace last year.
To learn more about how I finally nailed down an everyday writing routine, check out this post.
2. Knock Out a Draft. New to novel writing? In between projects? Have a plot bunny that just won't leave you alone? NaNoWriMo is the perfect time to knock out a draft.
A full novel averages around 75,000 words, but writing just 50,000 in November will mean that you knock out 2/3 of your first draft in a single month. And that's incredible progress, if you ask me! A few extra days of work in December and you'll have a completed first draft. Hurray!
3. Gain community. While you can certainly fly solo if that's your deal, NaNoWriMo is not an event that leaves you without a strong support system. With over 310,000 participants in 2013 alone, the online community that NaNoWriMo offers is simply massive!
In addition to the official NaNo forums, social media communities spring up like weeds! The NaNo team also coordinates in-real-life events in most regions - moderated by writers just like you - so that you can chat and work alongside other participating writers in your area.
4. Learn to Stop Self-Editing. Self-editing during the first draft is one of the biggest mistakes that new writers make. First drafts are meant to help you discover the story, not perfect it. When you edit as you go, you waste an insane amount of time on something that you will probably change in a later draft anyway. Silly, right?
With NaNo's high daily word count, you simply won't have the time to self-edit if you want to win. 1,667 words will probably take you between 45 minutes and two hours to write. Imagine how much longer it would take if you edited your work as you went.
5. Try Out a Different Style. Writing a novel takes months, if not years. If you've been working on just one project for a long time, you've probably nailed down the style you use throughout that piece.
But who likes to remain stagnant? If you want to grow as a writer, use NaNo as the opportunity to try out something new. Write from the perspective of the opposite gender, try out a different point of view, or change up the tone of your prose. Don't be afraid to get creative!
You're only committed to your NaNo project for one month. If you end up hating the style you chose to explore, simply return to what suits you best when December rolls around.
6. Explore New Genres. If trying out a new style doesn't interest you, why not give a new-to-you genre a shot? By writing something in a different genre or age market, you broaden your horizons, expanding the scope of your writing experience.
And who knows, you might just discover a new favorite genre!
7. Learn to Focus. NaNoWriMo is a huge commitment. It takes time and effort to write 50,000 words. If you're going to pump out 1,667 words every day using only your limited writing time, you'll need to ditch any bad habits that plague your work.
Social media. Text messages. Those silly Buzzfeed quizzes. Even excessive research can interrupt your writing process and distract you from your productivity. Take the 30 days in November to break out of the procrastination cycle. It's a healthy habit that will stick with you even after NaNoWriMo is over.
8. Defeat Writer's Block. I've mentioned in the past that writer's block should never keep you from writing. In fact, I'm a firm believer that writer's block is simply a form of doubt and we all know how doubt is just another name for fear.
If you want to win NaNoWriMo, you have to stand up to your fear by working through writer's block. If you don't, you'll never see your 50,000 words through.
9. Take a Well-Earned Break. I know what you're thinking: "Kristen, how on earth is writing 50,000 words in a single month a well-earned break?" Yeah, I know. It sounds insane, but hear me out.
You need to take a break between writing each draft of your novel. This will help you return to the piece with fresh eyes so that you can edit it like a boss. But what should you do during this break between drafts?
Start in on a new project!
Whip up the first draft of a new novel. Try out short stories. Indulge by writing a fluff piece. Whatever you choose, use NaNoWriMo as a chance to take a breather from your current project and try out something fun!
10. Draft Some Promotion. Are you publishing a novel within the next few months? NaNoWriMo is the perfect time to draft some promo work to expand the scope of your launch.
Readers love free and inexpensive content, especially when it relates to past or upcoming novels. By writing a few short stories or novelettes to offer potential readers, you whet their appetites for the full novel. Soon, they'll be begging for more!
Jenny Bravo of Blots & Plots will be putting this marketing strategy into place very soon. She's currently creating two novelettes to promote her incredible book, These Are the Moments. If you haven't checked it out yet, what are you waiting for? Go grab your copy now!
Have I piqued your interest with those top ten reasons? Fantastic! I would love for you to join me and the 300,000 other writers who will be participating in NaNo this November. But before you jump in, here are a few things you need to know:
It's not only in November. Can't participate in NaNo this November? No worries! The NaNoWriMo organization also offers month-long writing camps in April and July so you can get in on the fun all year long!
All word counts are welcome. In order to become an official NaNoWriMo winner, you have to write 50,000 words in the month of November. However, if you know that completing that goal won't be impossible for you this year, don't hesitate to participate anyway.
Set your own goal and start writing! You may not receive an official winners' sticker, but you will gain access to the amazing community NaNoWriMo has to offer.
Likewise, if you're dreaming bigger than 50,000 words, go for it! I knew several writers last year that attempted upwards of 200,000 words in a single month. Absolutely crazy, right? Will I ever do that? Probably not, but I was super excited for my friends who chased down those crazy goals.
Your NaNo work will suck. Here's the thing about NaNoWriMo: it's not meant to help you write a Pulitzer-worthy novel. At least, not in that single month. Crafting a well-developed novel takes time. NaNoWriMo's goal is to help you get the first draft down on the page quickly so that you can move on to the real work: editing.
So if you choose to use NaNo to write your first draft, know that the work you do this November will suck. Why? Because every first draft in the history of the universe has sucked. It's just the way first drafts roll.
You see, novels aren't simply written. They are rewritten time and again until the truest form of the story emerges. Only then will it become a masterpiece.
However, if you take the time to pre-write your NaNo project before November rolls around, you'll set yourself up for a successful first draft. You see, the more time you put into understanding your project before you begin, the less time you'll have to spend on editing it later.
Think of pre-writing as scouting out the perfect slab of stone from which to carve a statue. If you take the time to examine the stone for imperfections before digging in, you'll be less likely to stumble upon flaws in the stone later that would mar the masterpiece. Make sense?
If you're ready to set your own first draft up for success, you'll need to pre-write your NaNo project before November 1st. Not sure where to begin? I'm super excited to announce my brand new digital workbook, The Pre-Write Project.
The Pre-Write Project is a five day pre-writing extravaganza meant to help you set your story up for success without sucking up weeks of precious writing time.
With over 50 pages of worksheets and insights, it will walk you through the process of establishing your story idea, getting to know your characters, building a killer plot, researching your story topics, and creating an epic story bible to use as you write.
And to build a bit of community around this project as we all prepare for NaNo, I'll be hosting some Twitter fun every day in October
using the hashtag #PreWriteProject. I'll be sharing exclusive tips, offering a little inspiration, and chatting it up with all of you lovely Pre-Writers!
To make sure that you don't miss out on any new product launches, sign up for my email list–the Novel Newsletter.
In addition to product launch updates, you'll also receive weekly emails with exclusive writing tips, email-only sales on my digital products, and access to the Library of Resources which contains over 25 free workbooks, templates, worksheets, and ebooks to help you write your best novel yet.
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Will you be participating in National Novel Writing Month this year? I'd love to hear about your project and your favorite reasons for participating in this crazy writing challenge. Sound off in the comments below!
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Kristen Kieffer is a writer of fantasy fiction and the creative writing coach behind She's Novel. She's made it her mission to help aspiring authors write sensational novels because obliterating expectations is her jam. Her other passions? Coffee and Tolkien, of course!