by Catrin Lawrence
As the days draw in and there’s less to do due to a combination of cold and Coronavirus, many writers will be looking for a new challenge or project to pass the time. What could be more challenging than writing a novel in a month?
What is NaNoWriMo?
National Novel Writing Month, better known as NaNoWriMo, is an annual writing challenge
held every November. The aim is to write 50,000 words of your novel-in-progress or even
start a completely new one! NaNoWriMo began in 1999 in San Francisco, when a writer named Chris Baty started the challenge in July. He later changed it to November ‘to more fully take advantage of the miserable weather’ for writing (clearly, he’s never been to Wales in July). Nowadays, thousands of people take part across the world every year, scribbling away to reach their goals. Some people try to go beyond the word limit, or complete 50,000 words in a shorter amount of time. There are stories of writers ‘winning’ NaNoWriMo in half a month or even a week. I once read an article about a writer who completed the challenge in ONE DAY. Unless you’re a highly experienced all-nighter, I don’t recommend this.
How Can I Get Involved?
Getting involved can be very simple; just set time aside every day of November to get to
50,000 words. However, if you want to make it official, go to nanowrimo.org and make an account. Once you’ve signed up, you can announce your project, including a cool cover if you’re artistic or a playlist link for those inspired by music. You can also buddy up with other writers online and join your local region (Wales all the way!) to find weekly write-ins and forums to chat with other local writers. Because of current restrictions, all events will be held online this year, creating even more opportunities than before to take part. If you record your progress on your account, you can win badges for updating more than once a day, or for completing ‘streaks’ (not that kind) by updating your word count several days in a row. At the end of the month, if you reach 50,000 words, you can submit your novel to have its word count verified. If you ‘win’ NaNoWriMo, you get a certificate you can print out (good to show the parents you’ve been doing something during lockdown!), a virtual badge and a place on the winner’s list. Even though November has just started, it’s never too late to take part. You don’t even need a plan for your novel. Just write!
What Can I Write?
Any genre, story or theme you can think of, so long as it’s a novel. Technically, no fanfiction or stories told through poetry are allowed, but as it’s a challenge for yourself, most NaNoWriMo participants don’t really care what you write. I’m using this month to complete a new draft of a YA (Young Adult) fantasy horror. I’ve been developing the world it’s set in for the last ten years. Because my planned word count is longer than the NaNoWriMo challenge, I’m planning on writing 2000 words a day to reach 60,000 words. This is my first NaNoWriMo, so I’m feeling nervous about whether I’ll reach even 50,000 words. I’ve always been the kind of writer who writes a few hundred words in a burst of inspiration before getting stuck on a synonym for ‘walked’. Can I really write 2000 words a day? However, it may be the only free time I have left to complete a first draft before I graduate and begin adulting in the real world. With only four weeks to write three thirds of it, this could be a great opportunity to build up my writing stamina and draft a story I’ve wanted to tell for years. If you’re taking part in NaNoWriMo and want to buddy up (writers are three times more likely to win if they do!) then come find me under the username CatShouldBeWriting. Check out The Waterfront website at the end of the month to see how I did. Will I reach 50,000 words? Will my characters finally come to life on the page? There’s only one way to find out.
Good luck and happy writing!