Posted on November 19, 2010


For almost three weeks now, I’ve been posting a lot on Twitter and Facebook using the “nanowrimo” hashtag. Heck, I’ve even mentioned it on LinkedIn. What the heck am I talking about?

“Nanowrimo” is a contraction of “National Novel Writing Month.” The idea started in 1999 in the San Francisco Bay area. That July, 21 people got together and spent a month churning out novels. The next year, they had a website and seven times as many participants. That was also the year they moved to November, to take advantage of bad weather. By year three, they had over 5,000 registered participants. It’s been going, and growing, ever since.

As far as I can tell, the term is totally unofficial. In reality, they have participants from all over the world. There is no “prize” per say. If you have at least 50,000 words uploaded and verified on the site by midnight local time, November 30th, then you’re a “winner.”

Now, you may argue that 50,000 words isn’t much of a novel, and the event organizers agree. However, it’s an attainable goal, and that’s the point. They just want you to create, even just a little bit, every day for  a month. The idea is to get people to stop procrastinating and write.

I participated last year, and didn’t get very far. This year I hooked up with Renda Dodge, who is the Seattle Municipal Liaison for Nanowrimo. I went to her Speed Drafting workshop, and something she mentioned there happened to me: Right before November began, a new idea came into my head that completely supplanted the novel that I planned to write. I was very lucky. This new idea was for how to tell a story that I’d thought about for a year or two. I knew the characters and the setting, and had a pretty good idea of the situation. November was just an opportunity to put it on paper. Well, onto my hard drive anyway.

What’s been different for me this year was something I picked up in the workshop: That the most important thing was to get the words down. Editing, proofing, and re-writing could wait until after November. It was okay to write crap, as long as I made my word count. Now, I’m trying to write words that advance my plot and develop my characters, rather than crap, but I don’t have to be thrilled with everything that I write. It doesn’t have to be perfect. I’m not supposed to spend time editing yesterday’s words as a warm-up for today’s writing.

So far, it’s been wonderful. I’m on-track to make my word count this year. I’m very excited. I think I might have an actual novel on my hands, and not just a 50,000 word novella. If you’ve always wanted to take a shot at writing, sign up at, and next year we can try it together.

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