Every year since 1999, both new and experienced writers alike gather in-person and online to attempt to write 50,000 words of their novel during the month of November. This celebrates National Novel Writing Month, or Nanowrimo for short. While completed novels are typically around 50,000 to 110,000 words on average, the goal is not to complete the full manuscript in the month of November. Rather, NaNoWriMo challenges writers to step outside of their comfort zones and write as much as they can in one month. Even if an author’s work isn’t completed at the 50,000-word mark, this annual challenge motivates writers of all skill levels to hone their craft long after November ends.
Authors Must Prioritize Writing
Most people find that they have a difficult time writing a few hundred words in a short period of time. Increasing that word count to 50,000 pushes one to set larger daily writing goals. Procrastination is a common pitfall; fortunately, challenging yourself to a goal as lofty as writing 50,000 words in a month will often force you to make your writing a priority. Developing this skill during one of the busiest months of the year — the holiday season can be notoriously hectic — helps authors learn how to prioritize their writing year-round.
Authors Can Share and Collaborate
Many authors find writing a novel to be a remarkably lonely task. Furthermore, it can be difficult to pull together tens of thousands of words without any accountability to do so. Fortunately, the NaNoWriMo site allows its participants to register accounts to connect with others across the globe. The website also allows authors to announce their word count and track their progress in real-time. These updates are then shared with “buddies” and groups that participants have added to their pages. Activities for writers occur not only via the website but also in person. Live write-ins and virtual events help authors connect to a community of others whom they can count on for support.
Authors Must Complete Proper Writing Preparations
Before attempting to write a large volume of words, new and existing writers alike often have to plan out at least some aspects of what they’re going to write about. This type of preparation should ideally start in September and last through November. From creating an outline, to fleshing out characters, to putting together a writing schedule, authors get the chance to practice their preparation skills. While some authors choose not to write with an outline or any advanced planning, learning how to do so can be invaluable for new writers who aren’t as familiar with the advanced writing process.
Write Without Scrutinizing
When every word brings a writer closer to their intended word count, writers begin to leave the editing for when the novel is finished and instead focus on their first drafts. While it’s tempting to edit and write at the same time, writers are often surprised to learn that editing while they write can stifle their creativity and reduce the potential of their story. The emphasis of NaNoWriMo is writing as much as possible, without giving as much thought to editing during the month of November. Learning to push past your inner critic, write without restriction and make notes of potential edits to tackle later helps new authors improve their craft.
NaNoWriMo Builds Confidence
Unfortunately, less than 20% of participants have ever reached the 50,000-word count since NaNoWriMo began. While the NaNoWriMo website recommends that writers aim for 1,667 words a day, most people still aren’t able to keep up. This means that authors who can withstand the challenge may see an enormous boost of confidence in their writing abilities. While their novel may be far from complete at 50,000 words — and they may still have various edits to complete — writers who complete the NaNoWriMo challenge are able to have the confidence to know that they have finished something that most other writers cannot. With this confidence, authors may move on to continue to write more books.
Completing NaNoWriMo Produces a Near-Finished Manuscript
While many of those who intend to write a fully finished novel rarely succeed, this hurdle can be overcome by those who are able to pen 50,000 or more words in a single month. With a finished manuscript, authors who complete NaNoWriMo will have a book they can market to agents or self-publish.
Helps to Complete a Concrete Writing Goal
Whether the goal is to write 50,000 words in a month as a personal or professional writing achievement, thousands of writers every year find community in NaNoWriMo. Whether it is an author’s first NaNoWriMo or their 10th, successful participants walk away feeling a sense of accomplishment that lasts for years to come.