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What is NaNoWriMo? And should you try it?

When you participate in NaNoWriMo every year, hang out and start making friends with other people who participate in NaNoWriMo every year, and talk about NaNoWriMo all year long… it's easy to forget that there are people out there who have absolutely no idea what you're talking about.

Heck, some of them aren't even sure if “NaNoWriMo” is a real word.

This was certainly the case when a good friend of mine said “are you doing NaNoWriMo this year?” back in 2007 and I didn't have a clue what she was saying. Now, of course, I've been participating in NaNoWriMo ever since, I love it, and I do the exact same thing to anyone who has ever admitted to having a love of writing: I dive right in to telling them they should participate in NaNoWriMo as if they know exactly what I'm talking about.

That's why I've decided to put together this quick-start guide to helping you learn more about NaNoWriMo as well as get ready to participate and even how to win.

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What is NaNoWriMo?

NaNoWriMo breaks down to National Novel Writing Month. It's a world-wide write-a-thon that takes place every November (which just happens to be National Novel Writing Month).

The host of this write-a-thon is NaNoWriMo HQ, a nonprofit organization whose entire mission is to get you to write your story in any way you can:

Writing a novel alone can be difficult, even for seasoned writers. NaNoWriMo helps you track your progress, set milestones, connect with other writers in a vast community, and participate in events that are designed to make sure you finish your novel. Oh, and best of all, it’s free!

NaNoWriMo Website

The goal is to get 50,000 new words written into a novella between midnight November 1 and 11:59 PM November 30. It averages out to 1667 words per day (if you are trying to split up the writing evenly throughout the month).

Why Participate in NaNoWriMo?

Should you do NaNoWriMo this year? That is completely up to you. But there are some pretty good reasons why you should consider it:

  • Establish your writing routine. If you've been having trouble regulating your writing routine, nothing will get you motivated to do it like NaNoWriMo. Being able to finish NaNoWriMo will require at least some level of discipline and routine, rather than the “I'll sit down and write when inspiration strikes” method so many people use.
  • Conquer writer's block. Have you been trying to work on something, but having trouble getting started? The sheer energy that comes out of NaNoWriMo can help you end writer's block for good.
  • Get that first draft done. I know so many people who have such great ideas sitting unfinished. And there's nothing wrong with that (I myself have dozens of projects going all over the place). But NaNoWriMo could be just the jump you need to get at least one of those projects finished.
  • Finally get your inner-editor under control. That inner-editor is not your friend. I know it feels like it — correcting your grammar and helping make sure everything is perfect. But believe me… no friend would ever loom over your shoulder while you're trying to write and say “is that really the right word you want to use there?” They just don't do that. They wait until you ask them for their opinion. NaNoWriMo will help you force this “friend” to wait their turn.
  • Network with other writers. Writing can be lonely at times. Other people don't always understand what it's like to have stories burning within that just need to come out. Thankfully, NaNoWriMo has a huge community, both on its site and in its Facebook group. Need a critique? Some cheerleading? Advice? Name ideas? Just a friend? Come on in and you can have them all.
  • Stop. Procrastinating. Seriously. If you have a habit of procrastinating writing, NaNoWriMo can help you break that habit.
  • Break from your current projects. Sometimes the best thing we can do is take a break from the current projects we're working on and just work on something new. It lets our brains refresh, our eyes refresh, and just gives us a little bit of a reset so we can get back to them rejuvenated and ready to go.

What are the NaNoWriMo Rules?

The NaNoWriMo rules are pretty straight forward:

  • You can start preparing for NaNoWriMo at any time, including preparing your outline, character development, and research.
  • Writing begins at midnight on November 1.
  • You must validate your word count in the NaNoWriMo system before 11:59 PM on November 30 (your local time).
  • You can only count the words you wrote during this time, even if you are using NaNoWriMo to work on a novel you've already started previously.

For more information on NaNoWriMo's Rules and how it all works, check out their knowledge base.

Ready to Start Preparing for NaNoWriMo?

I've put together this guide to help you get prepared for NaNoWriMo. Whether you're a planner or a pantser, you'll find steps to help you get everything you need together and ready to go for November 1.

How do you Survive NaNoWriMo?

If you don't already write for long stretches of time, then sitting at the computer and trying to bang out those 50,000 words might seem daunting. And sometimes, unexpected struggles may popup. I've compiled a list of tips to help you get through these things in my NaNoWriMo Survival Guide.

One Last Thing…

Chances are, this draft that you write up during NaNoWriMo is going to be bad. I mean bad. First drafts, if done well, tend to suck. Bad writing, repeated words, grammar mistakes.


You're not likely to end NaNoWriMo on November 30 and walk out with a publish-worthy novel.

But what you will have is a novel. Your novel. Ready to take the next step and get ready to become publish-worthy.

And it will be amazing.

Did you enjoy this article? Here are some more posts about NaNoWriMo you may like:

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What is the prize for NaNoWriMo?

Every year, sponsors offer the NaNoWriMo participants and NaNoWriMo winners various tools, memberships, and courses at a special discounted rate. But on top of that? If you win NaNoWriMo, you finish with 50,000 words in a new draft that could eventually be published. For anyone who has procrastinated away from writing, that is the best prize.

What are the rules for NaNoWriMo?

Write a 50,000 word novella in a month.
1. Only words written between November 1 and November 30 count
2. Make them 50,000 different words (don't just repeat the same word 50,000 times)
3. It's okay to coauthor, but you must write 50,000 words (your partner can write their own 50,000 words)
4. Yes, you can do prep and research before November 1, but word tracking doesn't start until November 1
5. You must validate your word count before 11:59 PM local time on November 30 to win

What is a NaNoWriMo write in?

A NaNoWriMo write in is when a leader within the NaNoWriMo community sets up an event inside a library, restaurant, or other public place and invites participants from within their community to join them for an in-person writing event. It's a great way to meet other writers in your area and possibly get some great swag as well.

Is NaNoWriMo free?

Participation in any of the NaNoWriMo programs, events, and challenges is free.