Let the Preparations Begin

Today is the first of October: pinch and a punch for the first of the month! But aside from the opportunity for random mild violence, the first of this month means that the countdown has begun and the preparations can begin.

I can only be referring to NaNoWriMo.


In case you’re unfamiliar with this phenomenon, it’s all about writing stories. Every year between 1st and 30th November, hundreds of thousands of people around the globe slave away over smoldering keyboards or dog-eared notebooks crafting 50,000 wonderful (or otherwise) words into stories.

NaNoWriMo is short for (inter)National Novel Writing Month. Lead by Chris Baty, NaNoWriMo began in 1999 in San Francisco with just 21 participants (it was in July back then too). In 2000 it ran in November for the first time and 140 people took part. By the third year the event attracted 5000 participants and last year, in 2015, 431,626 people in 633 regions on 6 continents participated and wrote MILLIONS of words. Since the programme began, 250 NaNovels have been published including Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen, The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern, Wool by Hugh Howey, Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell, The Darwin Elevator by Jason Hough and Marissa Meyer’s Cinder. You can read more about the impact of NaNoWriMo here and you really should check out the NaNoWriMo history, in Chris Baty’s own words, here.

So if you’re interested, how do you participate?

Step one is to make a commitment. Decide that you’re going to do it and tell someone. Tweet it, Facebook it, SnapChat it, Instagram it, sing it in your choir or shout it at your neighbours as you run naked down the street… ok, maybe don’t actually do that… but the idea is the same: When you tell someone you’re going to do something it makes you accountable and more likely to succeed. Step two is to go to nanowrimo.org and sign up, choose your nearest region and if you can, go along to a kick-off party to meet some fellow writers (usually happening towards the end of October). Between now and the first of November decide what you’re going to write and do whatever prep you want: Come up with characters, names, places, decide what kind of turmoil you’re going to inflict on your protagonist and just how evil your antagonist is going to be. There’s plenty of advice on how to prepare here and I’ll be doing at least one more blog on the subject between now and November.

This will be my fourth year of participation and won’t be my last. It gives me all the motivation I need to hack together a rough draft, which gives me something to work on the rest of the year. One of the things I love about NaNoWriMo is that you win, not by being in competition with others, but just by participating. An official win is that you start a new project on 1st November and write 50,000 words before the end of the month. Last year I wrote almost 15,000 words on the final day and just made the deadline but even if I hadn’t done that, I would still have 35,000 words written on my novel and that’s a pretty cool achievement all on its own. Plus, NaNoWriMo is fun, it’s friendly and it’s sociable. You may have read, or even heard it said, that writing is a lonely profession. NaNoWriMo is the most social way you’ll ever write a novel because half a million other people are doing it with you and sharing their experience.

I hope you’ll join me and my fellow WriMos this year. If you’re planning to do so or have any questions, leave a comment or get in touch on Twitter or Facebook.


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