Preparation time


It’s October 1st, which means that the NaNoWriMo community has just well and truly woken up.
“Isn’t NaNoWriMo in November?” I hear you cry. Well, yes. It is. But October is, to those of us who can’t seem to stop participating in this act of literary lunacy, Prep Month. This is the month where we start planning our new novels, try frantically to get old projects to a stage where they’re either finished or ready to be abandoned for a full month, and generally gear up for the big challenge of November. That means finding writing groups, checking our local areas still have a Municipal Liason, buying merch and notebooks and pens… and luring in the newbies.

Newcomers to NaNoWriMo are often hesitant; writing 50,000 words in 30 days sounds like an immense task and, indeed, it is. Starting to try to recruit them as near to the beginning of October as possible allows them some dithering time before hitting the ground running on November 1st. It even means they can take advantage of Prep Month too. Trust me, there is nothing appealing (though it’s far from impossible) about deciding to do NaNo on the 4th of November, when everybody else seems to be racing ahead.

Still, I’m getting ahead of myself. If you are a NaNo newbie, you probably have some questions:

  • What is NaNoWriMo? National Novel Writing Month (presumably named before the whole world caught the bug) is a big novel-writing challenge in which participants try to write 50,000 words of a whole new novel in thirty days (that’s 1667 per day, on average).
  • Why on Earth would anyone do that? Lots of people feel they have a novel inside them, but no time or motivation to actually write it. NaNo gives you handy progress bars, a sense of being dared to do it, and a community of like-minded mad people to back you up. Focusing on the word count is also a great way to lock up your ‘inner editor’, who might otherwise tell you your writing is terrible and you should just give up (curse that pesky inner editor). Besides, once you get into it, it’s a lot of fun!
  • Can kids and teenagers take part? Yup! There’s a Young Writer’s Programme set up especially for, well, young writers – it’s a great challenge for all ages (and YWP word count goals are variable). There are even lesson plans available for teachers who want to do NaNo with their classes!
  • I don’t want to write a novel, I want to write a cookbook. What’s NaNo got to do with me? I’m glad you asked. If you want to continue an existing project, write non-fiction or a cookbook or a comic or a series of short stories, you will be kidnapped in the dead of night and inducted into a not-so-secret society known as the NaNo Rebels. Or you could just find them on the forums. At any rate, they’re there to write things that aren’t novels, and to help you with your projects too!
  • Does it cost money to do? That depends on you. NaNoWriMo and the YWP are completely free to take part in – they’re run by a non-profit organisation out in the US and they don’t charge participants a penny (or a cent). They do, however, depend on donations to get by (if you donate, you get a nifty halo on your profile picture). There’s also a lot of very tempting merchandise in the NaNoWriMo shop, and I definitely recommend celebrating a win with this year’s Winner’s T-shirt when it comes out (again, it’s not mandatory, but it feels pretty good to wear one!).
  • So what do I get out of it? Well, first and foremost, you get a novel. Perhaps not a whole novel, perhaps not even 50,000 words of novel, but some new writing that is entirely yours and which didn’t exist at the end of October. There are also a whole lot of Winner’s Goodies (and goodies for all participants) available via NaNoWriMo’s sponsors – last year these included free proof copies of your manuscript, discounts on fancy software to help you with your novel, and lots more.
  • Sounds great, but I’m busy in November, does that mean I miss out? Well, there’s never anything to stop you doing it in any other month, but you don’t get the cool progress bars and the word-count validator, or the winner’s certificate. That said, there’s also Camp NaNoWriMo, which offers all those things for two months in the summer and is a little more flexible when it comes to targets and genres. I often try to do one of each, using Camp NaNo to finish off the previous year’s NaNo novel.
  • Does signing up mean my writing belongs to someone else? No. You can even make a separate file and change every letter in your story to an ‘x’ (using Find and Replace) before sticking it into the Word Count Validator, if you’re worried about it being stolen from you. All the writing is done on your own computer (or notebook, if you’re feeling brave) and you don’t have to upload anything to the website if you don’t want to. You certainly won’t be uploading your full novel!

Anyway, I think I’ve banged on about this enough now, but this is your advance warning: NaNo starts on November 1st, and I hope to see some of you getting involved. It’s also likely to dominate this blog during November and I’m likely to be posting my word counts. I’ll also post my NaNo username nearer the time so you can keep an eye on what I’m doing (and let me know how yours is going, if you’re taking part)!

This blog and its contents are in no way affiliated with, or endorsed by, National Novel Writing Month or the Office of Letters and Light. I believe all the information above to be accurate at the time of posting.


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