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What’s NaNoWriMo, Precious?

If your friends have suddenly been seized with the writing demon, you’re not alone. National Novel Writing Month occupies the entirety of November. If you’re not a writer and don’t have any idea what I’m talking about, here’s a rundown.

What it is

National Novel Writing Month challenges writers to produce 50,000 words between November 1 and November 30. This pans out to about 1,667 words per day, but because November also includes Thanksgiving, most writers try to work faster than that.

Novels can be about anything, but it’s generally agreed that this isn’t a way to produce a finished piece. Instead, it’s a way to shake off the rust and get your creative juices flowing. Some writers have generated viable first drafts for NaNoWriMo, too. Erin Morgenstern, whose debut, The Night Circus, became a bestseller, drafted her first novel over the course of two NaNoWriMos.

That said, a lot of people don’t worry about writing a cohesive novel for NaNo. Writers have been known to produce short stories, write correspondence, generate computer code, blog, and otherwise dedicate themselves to content creation. 50,000 words of anything is a lot of writing! I’m actually counting this blog post toward my own total.

Well-known authors give pep talks throughout November to participants who register as Wrimos. It’s a creative good time that started with 21 participants in 1999.

How it started

Chris Baty was a hobbyist writer living in the San Francisco Bay area in 1999. He had the idea to challenge writers to generate a novel in 30 days, and sure enough, 21 people took him up on it. That first NaNo was set in July. However, the nice weather proved to be a distraction and the next year, Baty moved the event to wintery, unpleasant November.

2000 was also the year that Baty and a friend set up a website to organize WriMos and help them track their progress. Through a connected Yahoo group, he clarified the rules: the novel had to be new, couldn’t be co-authored, and had to be written and verified entirely within the month of November. Writers who achieved 50,000 words were considered to have “won.” That year, 140 people participated. NaNoWriMo was becoming a national phenomenon.

In 2005, NaNoWriMo was officially so big that it had to be its own company. Baty himself had written a couple of books about banging out a fast first draft, during NaNoWriMo, of course. Thousands of people participated, with membership in this de facto creative organization growing every year. In 2017, over 300,000 people participated from around the world. Tens of thousands met their goal.

How to participate

It’s easy! Just create an account on NaNoWriMo.org and get down to business. It’s not too late to catch up! Regions tend to form groups and write cooperatively, sometimes with food present. Events like all-night write-ins and kickoff parties are common. The NaNo website hosts topical and regional forums where writers can support each other.

A lot of libraries also have NaNoWriMo programs. Some of these are in the Merrimack Valley Library Consortium! Check out Hamilton-Wenham’s library NaNo program while November is still in full swing.

So what are you waiting for? Go write that novel today!