For many aspiring novelists, it’s hard to find the time to actually write, however the month of November offers a unique opportunity to do just that.
November is National Novel Writing Month, (more commonly referred to as NaNoWriMo) where anyone has the chance to write a novel. NaNoWriMo is the world’s largest writing event and nonprofit literary crusade. There are no judges, no prizes, and entries are deleted from the server before anyone even reads them.
This may sound too good to be true and for some it is. The catch for writing a novel, which is defined as 50,000 words or more, is that you only have the 30 days in November to write your 50,000 words. Budding novelists would have to write roughly 1,700 words a day, to meet the required word amount.
For senior Ellen Dochat, that’s no problem. She and 36,843 other participants were able to complete their novels by 11:59 p.m. Nov. 30 last year.
“This is my third year participating and it wasn’t easy, especially the first year.”
That seems to be a recurring trend. NaNoWriMo had its humble beginnings in the summer of 1999 when founder Chris Baty, a former editor for a business travel site, decided he wanted to write more. Twentyone participants from the San Francisco Bay Area got together in a cafe to try and write novels in a month.
According to the NaNoWriMo website, their motives were far from the normal “we want to write novels.” Instead they began their quest in order to “make noise.” The 21 participants knew they were in for pain and embarrassment but were surprised to find that they had fun through all the anguish and tears. They also all managed to complete their novels in the allotted time.
“Fun was a revelation. Novelwriting, we had discovered, was just like watching TV. You get a bunch of friends together, load up on caffeine and junk food, and stare at a glowing screen for a couple hours,” says Baty.
The second year, NaNoWriMo was moved to November to take advantage of the weather. That same year, Baty decided to implement some rules for the novel writing.
“From my years of work as an editor, I knew that having a set of unbendable rules and a merciless deadline was absolutely essential in giving writers the mental focus and shared sense of toil necessary to tackle daunting projects.”
The rules for participating in NaNoWriMo are short and sweet: Write a 50,000 word or more novel beginning Nov. 1 to Nov 30, start from scratch (no previously used works can be used), write a novel (if you consider your work to be a novel, NaNoWriMo considers it to be one too), be the sole author of your novel excluding citations, write more than one word repeated 50,000 times, and you must upload your novel between Nov. 25 -30 for word validation.
If you complete your novel in the 30 day period, you are sent a t-shirt.
Because of the growing buzz surrounding NaNoWriMo and the novelty of the web, Baty reluctantly agreed to allow one of his friends to create a website the second year running. The total participants went up to 140 as word of mouth passed the novel craze along.
With more people participating, more structure was needed as the popularity of NaNoWriMo grew. The third year alone saw 5,000 participants – something Baty and the computer servers were not ready for. In fact, their web-host demanded that they find a new home because they were well over the bandwith allotment that they were actually stealing resources from other websites on their server. They were also hacked a few hours into the event which created more problems. Yet they managed to sail through and the birth of the modern NaNoWriMo began.
NaNoWriMo has now been in existence for 14 years and is still going strong. Last year they had almost 300,000 participants with 3,074,068,446 words logged. They even added a new addition: Camp NaNoWriMo for the month of July which acts as a summer camp-themed noveling challenge. There is also the Young NaNoWriMo’s which focuses on students from K-12 and provides teachers a tool to help get their students excited about writing.
Of course the ultimate consequence of participating in NaNoWriMo leaves the author with a novel. Many of the former and current WriMo’s (as they are affectionately called) have actually had their works published, some of them are even bestsellers. Who knows? Maybe yours could be next.