If you’re a writer, you’d be insane not to try NaNoWriMo!

50,000 words
30 days
Are you in?

Image courtesy of NaNoWriMo

November is just around the corner. And as the rest of the (western) world gears up for Halloween, a procrastination* of writers from all corners of the Earth are busy preparing for the ultimate novel writing challenge of typing out 50,000 words is 30 days. (Well, those of us who are plotters anyways. To pantsers it’s just a regular month until midnight on Oct. 31.)

National Novel Writing Month is a self-challenge that started about 20 years ago. Over the years it’s grown into a community with chapters in most major cities, where writers congregate at write-ins (in person or virtually) and encourage each other to get those creative juices flowing and simply write.

Why 50,000 words?

50k is relatively short in terms of a novel. It’s pretty typical for a western and some forms of romance. Science fiction, urban fantasy and thriller novels tend to come in at around the 80k mark. Epic fantasy tends be somewhat longer.

At 50k though, no matter what your genre, you can safely say you’ve written the bulk of a novel. Some people bump up the goal to something closer to a full novel. But to accomplish 50k in 30 days you need to average out about 1667 words per day. For me that’s a commitment of about 2 hours per day on average. For most writers with day jobs, that 1667 words per day tends to hit a sweet spot of manageability.

And if that’s too intimidating, the goal is scalable. You can aim for 20k, or 190k if you want. In my experience, the NaNoWriMo community is all about encouraging writers to meet that goals that work best for them.

Why November?

While no time is ever perfect, November is an awesome month to take on a big writing project. Halloween has wound down. The weather turns cold. It’s a good time to cozy up in front of a laptop with a warm drink of choice, dig out some treats, and open up a brand new a fictional world.

But if you write that fast, will it be any good?

No. Not at all. It will be the first draft of your manuscript. And as Hemmingway said, the first draft of anything is [word inappropriate for a family friendly blog]. Sure, there are people who can pound out something that’s pretty decent the first go around. Most of us write crap.

But you can edit a crappy first draft, and make it less crappy.

The point is that you turn your inner editor off. That voice inside your head that tells you that your writing isn’t good enough, that it’s boring or unoriginal–that voice gets an all expenses paid vacation to Nowhere. During November, you’re allowed to write crap, because that’s what gets you into that creative “zone.” Some writers describe this as flow. The ideas come fast and in real time. As a writer you experience a nearly complete immersion in your fictional world.

What if I fail?

Jack Canfield, one of the co-authors of the Chicken Soup for the Soul series, has this anecdote about a goal he set for himself of earning $100,000 in a calendar year at a time when he wasn’t even making about $8,000. He went through all of these positive visualization exercises, posted a fake $100,000 bill over his bed, and set out on an array of different paths to sell enough copies of his book to hit that goal. At the end of the year, he failed. He missed his goal and he only earned about $92,000. But he went from $8,000 to $92,000!

Let’s say you set out to write 50k works and life happens. You fall short. You only hit 10k. You’ve still written 10k words of a novel!

How to Sign Up

Getting involved is easy. Just head on over to the NaNoWriMo signup page. It’s also worth noting that the official organizers are a registers nonprofit group that focuses on the promotion of writing fluency and education.

Once you’re signed up, you can search out a local region. Amazing volunteers call municipal liaisons organize community events all through November–including planning events in October, and TGIO events in December. You can also buddy-up with other writers through the website, maybe find someone who has similar goals or who writes in a similar genre. These are great ways to connect with other writers.


*I don’t actually know the proper term for a collection of writers. I’m going with a procrastination for now, because it seems oddly appropriate. But if anyone is aware of a better term, please let me know.