Wednesday, October 21, 2020

To NaNo or Not To NaNoWriMo

It’s October, and you know what that means. Pink ribbons, ghosts, candy corn, sugar skulls, autumn leaves, pumpkin spice everything... and a bunch of writers fervently getting projects prepped before November 1st. This last might seem odd, but now that I’ve mentioned it, you’ll see it everywhere. It might be accompanied by secret-handshake-like references to NaNoWriMo, or sometimes just NaNo. I promise this is not a reference to a weird supernatural writing cult. It’s National Novel Writing Month, and if you’re a writer or thinking about being a writer, it’s worth peeking at.

Very simply, NaNoWriMo is a one-month writing sprint tracked online at their site, You log in word count every day of November, with a goal of logging 50,000 words by the end of the month. Those words don’t need to be good. The book doesn’t even need to be done. You just need the 50k words to “win” NaNo.

If that seems daunting, consider the second part of NaNo: the support. There’s a huge community of writers participating in NaNo every year, and they are super welcoming. They have message boards and Discords, and in the days before Covid, real-life in-person writing meetups. The people involved are generous with their expertise and imagination: you got a plot problem, you can definitely find a group willing to brainstorm. Note, I haven’t run across anybody willing to read pages, but that’s just because everyone is hyper focused on writing. Sometimes folks exchange manuscripts after November.

I’ve done that, or at least I’ve read other writers’ excellent NaNo books, many of which have gone on to lure agents, get published, and win awards. And when I say many, I mean many: I’ve been NaNoing every year since 2004.

But here’s my dirty little secret: I have never, in all those years, “won” NaNoWriMo. I’ve started books that I finished later, and I have written 50k words in a month, just never one book in that particular month, as tracked by the NaNoWriMo site. Never.

So maybe this year is my year. Who knows? But if you decide to join the cult, er, take the plunge and you want a buddy, I’m Viv

Happy wording, worders!

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