Image Credit: Image courtesy of National Novel Writing Month
November is National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo for short), and as a concept it originates over twenty years ago. Starting in 1999, it offers a very ambitious but simple challenge: to write 50,000 words of a novel during the thirty days of November.
NaNoWriMo is a non-profit organisation which offers support to writers, focussing on encouraging creativity and crafting linguistic talent, all within the rather limited time period of a month.
However, this seemingly constrained time-frame may actually give many first-time writers the creative push which is often needed as the dark and drawn out days of winter approach. NaNoWriMo as a website offers pep talks by seasoned writers to keep participants motivated throughout the process, tips for writers block and a whole online community of support. All you need to do to ‘win’ is to write the 50,000 words in November.
While perhaps ambitious, the figures speak for themselves. In 1999, there were a meagre 21 participants. However, in 2017 participants had skyrocketed to 306,230. It’s hardly surprising to see the popularity of the challenge, with the ability to track progress, set milestones and connect to others in the same position.
By placing an emphasis on the completion of the 50,000 words, NaNoWriMo encourages writers to get their thoughts on a page with the intention of editing them at a later date. With 367, 913 novels completed, the restrictions which often apply to access creative writing are severely diminished with the support offered.
While NaNoWriMo may seem like an excellent way to encourage people from all walks of life, by giving them an opportunity to create, this has not stopped the month coming under criticism. One article plainly suggested that “The last thing the world needs is more bad books.” It argued that the world is full of aspiring writers who will selfishly create, misplacing energy and resources in order to pursue a fruitless task of producing bad writing. Yet what a miscalculation these types of articles are.
NaNoWriMo has produced a whole host of bestselling books, including Sara Gruen’s ‘Water for Elephants’, which was not only a New York Times number one bestseller but was also adapted into a movie starring Robert Patterson and Reece Witherspoon. Gruen now gives back to the project, talking about the difficulty she faced writing with life’s setbacks such as ill pets and a broken foot.
While of course not every book that gets written during NaNoWriMo will get onto a bestsellers list, this is perhaps missing the point of the project. Particularly during a time where there is huge uncertainty about what the month of November will look like with Covid-19 local lockdowns being announced daily.
For many, this month will offer a time of creative reflection. Writing is good for people's mental health, offering a creative space allows many to escape the toils of the day.
Escapism isn’t the only thing this project promotes, it also fosters global connections with others embarking on the same challenge. 50,000 words is a daunting task, yet having the resources and constant support significantly reduces the risk of giving up after 5000 words.
On average you would have to write about 1667 words every single day to complete the challenge, this fosters a certain level of discipline. Regardless of the outcome of the novel, there is certainly a benefit and achievement brought about by setting a goal and sticking to it every day. Revisions and perfections can wait, putting pen to the page and removing the fear of failure is encouraged. Routine, discipline, connection and confidence is what this organisation promotes.
So how can you get involved? Register on the NaNoWriMo website and create a profile. Within the profile you can post information about your novel, including synopses and short extracts. The site has an automatic word count where you can submit the draft of a novel at the end of the 30 days.
NaNoWriMo is an excellent opportunity for aspiring writers to get started, encouraging any type of novel on any theme, language, genre or fiction. Nothing is off limits in the quest to help people find their voice.
Regardless of whether you choose to participate this year, it is certainly an interesting concept which explores the possibilities of dedication and discipline. It raises the question as to what else one can achieve in a mere 30 days; if a novel is possible, what else?