Ask a Ghostwriter— What Is NaNoWriMo?

Sep 19, 2019 | Editing, Ghostwriting

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NaNoWriMo is a funny sounding name. It always makes me think of an animal made up in a child’s imagination. But what is NaNoWriMo really?

For those that take part in NaNoWriMo is coming up just around the corner in November and it is no laughing matter.

For most normal people, writing a novel is a daunting notion. Given any amount of time, churning out (at least) 50,000 words is tough sledding. National Novel Writing Month — stylized as NaNoWriMo — challenges its participants to do just that: write a novel. Only caveat is that, as the name implies, they get one month to do it.

That’s right, writing a full, 50,000 word novel in one month. November has 30 days. 50,000 words. That equates to 1,667 per day just to keep up.

Sounds like torture. Who would do such a crazy thing?

The idea was dreamt up in 1999 in San Francisco by Charles Baty sounds almost preposterous. The key word in that last sentence may just be “almost” because in 2015, over four-hundred and thirty thousand people participated with over forty thousand completing the grueling ordeal.

The numbers are astounding. But answering the key question, what is NaNoWriMo requires a deeper look at something more than numbers.

NaNoWriMo Answers “How”

To a lot of would be writers, NaNoWriMo is a golden opportunity. Let’s be honest about something. There are a lot of wanna be novelists out there for whom answering the question of “how” is as challenging as “what”.

How to write your book can be as tough as what you will write about, or who your characters will be. A lot of us have a story.

But how is it going to get written? That can be a significant barrier. NaNoWriMo answers the “how” for those struggling with the process.

NaNoWriMo Offers Support

What is NaNoWriMo? Try a gigantic support group of nearly half of a million like minded creative crazy people.

Going through the process of writing a novel can be life changing. It’s an endurance test. It is not unlike climbing a mountain or running a marathon.

It’s something to be proud of. It’s a thing you can say, “hey, I’ve done that”.

If you examine other “life” accomplishments, people are not usually expected to achieve them alone. People climb mountains or rocks in groups. Runners have someone on the next treadmill over.

NaNoWriMo makes novel writing a group activity. At least it accomplishes this as much as it can be.

Sure, you still have to face the blank page alone. But between the robust on-line presence, gatherings and groups, help is as close as a click if you’re having a rough go at your daily 1,667.

NaNoWriMo Is Identity

I don’t like to say the “why” here. We write novels for one reason. Because we have a story we feel strong enough about to tell.

The first time through though, taking on the identity of “novelist” is tough. You’re better off telling your Thanksgiving guests that you have to take it easy on the wine because you’ve become a spelunker or are suddenly all batty about badminton. A novelist though?

NaNoWriMo doesn’t give you the why. That’s up to you. Instead, it gives you that much needed identity out of the gate.

“Hey, Uncle Morty, I’m participating in NaNoWriMo.”

NaNoWriMo Is Tribe

This piggybacks on the last one and I believe it is critical. It is perhaps the most critical spect of all.

What is NaNoWriMo? It is a built in tribe.

A few established or experienced writers participate in the exercise. By and large though, NaNoWriMo is a club for first timers. Of those four hundred and thirty plus thousand in 2015, a vast majority were first timers.

Putting yourself in the club of writers is intimidating. After all, names like Stephen King, Barbara Kingsolver, Margaret Atwood and J.K. Rowling are in there. Heck, good old William Shakespeare is in there. He’s president.

NaNoWriMo gives first timer writers the necessary shelter of one another. You can wait until you’ve written your second (or third, or fourth, and so on) to say you’re a writer with a capital W.