This November, more than 300,000 would-be novelists will aim to write a 50,000-word novel by 11:59 p.m. Nov. 30 as part of the 17th annual National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo).
NaNoWriMo, also a nonprofit organization that believes every story matters, began in July 1999 in the San Francisco Bay area with 21 erstwhile novelists and has grown enormously into a Web-enabled structure offering inspiration, encouragement, and structure to would-be novelists worldwide.
Since 2006, hundreds of novels first drafted during NaNoWriMo have been published. More than 250 have been traditionally published, including Sara Gruen's Water for Elephants. Hundreds more are self-published books and/or e-books.
In 2010, while her husband, Air Force Lt. Col. Hans Anker, was deployed to Iraq, Deana Anker took up the challenge of NaNoWriMo to pass the final month of his absence. “I thought I had found a way to distract myself from the isolation and boredom that had taken over my life, but what I really found was so much more; I found my passion,” she says.
Anker is as-yet unpublished but participates every November. “I didn't win every year,” she confesses (winning means actually writing those 50,000 words), “but I always had a kid right before November. It's a huge time commitment, but just for one month. You can go outline and research and plot beforehand.” Anker has completed several novels and is now seeking a publisher or agent.
A NaNoWriMo strong point, she says, is contact with other writers. “I really like the huge community on their website,” she says. “There are a lot of events you can attend. Many are online, and there are real in-person events in many areas, such as our capital region in upstate New York.”
Many of these local groups grew from the website, and there are a number of online forums as well. “It helps to talk about plot problems or where your story is going with other people in the very same circumstance,” she says. In fact, you can visit these forums even if you don't try a novel.
Think you might be interested? Start now by bookmarking www.nanowrimo.org. You'll find resources to inspire, challenge, and prepare you to write that novel. Updates are available on the website's blog, on its online forums with a community of like-minded writers, and on Facebook and Twitter. You also might find an in-person writers community in your region.
In preparing, NaNoWriMo suggests: Commit right now. Employ the many resources, which include tips for getting started, tips on completing a first draft, archived pep talks from well-known authors, plus pointers on characters, plot, and conflict. Attend a webinar or tweet-chat in the months before November.
There is no fee for entering, although the organization hopes participants who are “ably-financed” will make a tax-deductible donation toward hosting and administrative costs.