National Novel Writing Month

Also known as NaNoWriMo, this is a month in November when authors of all shapes and sizes go haywire.

“Why are you sleep deprived?” you ask.

Oh, you sweet summer child. How naive you are. How innocent.

Your author friend gives you a wild-eyed, harried look and blurts out a number.

“…I’m sorry?” you reply, bewildered. “I don’t understand.”

“Thirty days. Fifty thousand words. No time for sleep. Haven’t bathed since October. My blood is vibrating. I can hear voices.”

If you’re smart, take a step back. Leave an offering of caffeine and snacks. Then run for your life.

National Novel Writing Month is pure insanity at its finest. During the month of November, authors attempt to reach 50,000 words – the average word count of a novel. Why do this, you ask? Because it’s a major procrastination buster for some authors. The looming deadline combined with a fear of failure can motivate even the laziest of writers (*raises hand* that’s me).

For some authors, the tight deadline can paralyze them. For still other authors, they need a looser schedule to write, edit, rewrite, and not focus on the word count, which is okay. But you never know until you try.

NaNoWriMo F.A.Q.

Do I HAVE to write 50k?

Nope. You can dive into the chaos with your own personal word goal. One author I know set a goal of 1 million words (AND SHE MADE IT). Other authors shoot for 25k. Or just editing another project.

If you want a winner sticker on your NaNoWriMo profile though, you’ll have to pass that 50k finish line.

Do I need to start with a brand new project?

The website suggests a clean slate is a good idea. It allows for maximum flailing and messy writing so you don’t stress about all the nonsense you’re spewing into your manuscript at 2am, cramming leftover Halloween candy into your mouth, bleary-eyed and mush-brained.


Some authors work on their second draft. Other authors work on a compilation of projects.

The RULES of NaNoWriMo aren’t the key. It’s the productivity, feeding off of other writers to motivate and inspire you to put your butt in that chair and write.

What does it cost to do this?

Nada. Zippo. Zilch. Entirely, 100% free. All you gotta do is cough up your sanity and a whole lot of sleep.

Can anyone actually SEE my project?

Not unless you want them to. When you upload your novel via cut-n-paste, it’s only for word count purposes. Your novel doesn’t get submitted anywhere.

Why can’t I just cheat?

You sure can. The system relies on honesty. There are plenty of opportunities to cheat and say you finished 50k in like…an hour. But the only person who gets cheated is yourself.

And I’m not just saying that full of threat and bluster. It’s true. The point of NaNoWriMo is to work on your novel. Yes, you’re joining other authors in the writing process, but ultimately, it’s just you and your novel when NaNoWriMo is over.

If you cheat, eventually you will have to explain to your novel why you didn’t write it when you had the chance. And if your novel is anything like my projects, they can give a pretty mean stink-eye. Lots of guilt. If looks could kill, I’d be murdered by a book that isn’t even finished yet.

What do I get when I win?

  • Major bragging rights, like holy cow, you just wrote 50,000 words in 30 days!
  • Treat yourself in the swag shop. Smother yourself in NaNoWriMo merch, proudly proclaiming to the world that you are nuts.
  • Several sponsors have provided generous discounts on writing-related products for not only winners but also participants, i.e. 50% of Scrivener for winners, 20% off for participants.
  • Also, you finished that novel you keep procrastinating on for months…years…like, a really, really long time.

Extra stuff

NaNoWriMo also has a special Young Writers’ Program for those budding authors still in school, looking to learn the art of writing a novel.

Before NaNoWriMo begins, they provide free Prep 101 to arm yourself for battle.

Above all else, my favorite part of NaNoWriMo is the Pep Talks. These are short, inspirational messages from some of the top authors in the business. Some of them are even NaNo participants themselves! A few names you might recognize are:

  • Holly Black
  • Brandon Sanderson
  • Jenny Han
  • Lemony Snickett
  • Malinda Lo
  • Marie Lu

Many of these pep talks are archived and free for your reading pleasure, without a NaNo account here. But you will get even more pep talks straight to your inbox if you sign up.

Have you jumped into the NaNoWriMo fray before? What was your experience like? Did you enjoy it or hate it? Tell me all about it in the comments!

PSST! Want a NaNo buddy? Send me a request @runningfree

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