National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) took off this last November with 312,860 writers enrolled around the world. People from six continents have taken the NaNoWriMo challenge to write a fifty thousand word novel in the month of November.
NaNoWriMo has seen over 250 published novels from participants since 2006 released by traditional publishing houses, independent, small press and self-published sources. These include Sara Gruen’s “Water for Elephants” and Erin Morgenstern’s “The Night Circus.” The novels published vary in languages, speaking about how widespread this writing month is throughout the world.
The online communities of writers stay in contact with each other and inspirational authors through forums, messaging and email. In addition to the online community, there is a network of volunteers who host write-ins in place such as coffee shops and libraries where local writers can discuss, collaborate and write among similar company.
These volunteers oftentimes are the municipal liaisons (ML)s of a specific area. Stevie Bonine, one of the MLs for the Pittsburgh, Pa area has also taken on the Greensburg area as well. In the Pittsburgh area alone, there were 5,618 writers enrolled near the end of November yet the numbers continued to grow quickly.
Bonine organized a write-in every Sunday evening from 6:30 to 9 at the Millstein Library in Greensburg. “My favorite part of NaNoWriMo isn’t the writing, actually, it’s the community. There’s never been anything like NaNo that has brought so many people from so many different walks of life together. These people have become my life-long friends,” said Bonine
In addition to write-ins located in the expected public locations, colleges get involved and host their own. In the Greensburg area, Seton Hill University (SHU) and the University of Pittsburgh at Greensburg also participated. Enrolled students were encouraged to join these write-in groups but they were open to anyone in the public as well.
“This is our third year of holding NaNoWriteIns. There’s mostly writing at the meetings, as well as eating dinner. Sometimes people brainstorm, though, or ask for help or ask a question,” said Nicole Peeler, an assistant professor of English at SHU.
SHU held weekly write-ins every Monday evening from 5:30 to 7:30. With different hosts holding write-ins at many different dates and times throughout the week, participants could meet several times during the week in different locations and work with other NaNoWriMo writers in addition to writing during personal time.
“Anyone who wants to write in community is welcome, you don’t have to actually be writing for NaNo. It’s more about that sense of community and uniting people interested in writing, and maybe interested in doing Nano or writing a novel eventually, than it is about winning NaNo,” said Peeler.
On a WordPress blog regarding NaNoWriMo, author, screenwriter and songwriter John Palisano said, “It’s about freeing yourself from those constraints and having fun with writing again. Even if writing is your day job, or your dead-serious hobby, NaNoWriMo can be a fun and fulfilling experience.”
In order to be considered a winner of the NaNoWriMo challenge, one only has to beat the fifty thousand word count goal. Peeler said, “We have had a number of winners, including three students who did their Nanowrimo novels with me as an independent study, based on worlds and plots they’d created in one of my creative writing courses. It was great fun!”
The NaNoWriMo events begin with kick-off parties among the writers and writing commences at as early as 12:01 a.m. on the first of November and last until 11:59 p.m., Nov. 30th. In addition to meeting with the other NaNoWriMo communities, participants received pep-talks from professional authors to encourage their continued word count. This year’s authors included James Patterson, Marie Lu, Lev Grossman, Rainbow Rowell, Patrick Rothfuss, Catherynne M. Valente, Bella Andre, Malinda Lo, Holly McGhee, Ralph Peters, and Jeff VanderMeer.
MLs such as Bonine organized kick-off parties and other events during the month. “We’re planning on setting up a Thank God It’s Over party for Greensburg students since the regional TGIO party is so far away for everyone,” said Bonine.
NaNoWriMo’s role in the lives of writers is not just limited to the month of November, however. Throughout the year, NaNoWriMo holds a number of other events for interested writers of all ages and in all stages of the writing process.
These include novel revision in January and February, Camp NaNoWriMo taking place in April and July, then back to prepping for the next November. Other NaNoWriMo-style events include SciFiWriMo (Science fiction writing month), a 48-hour film project, NaPlWriMo (National playwriting month) and many more.
In addition to their online database full of support and tips for writers, NaNoWriMo’s founder Chris Baty also published a book titled “No Plot? No Problem!” It is essentially a text companion to writing a novel in 30 days.
Because NaNoWriMo is a nonprofit organization, it runs on donations from individual contributors, corporate sponsors, foundations, grants and merchandise. Certain companies offer rewards for those that reach their fifty thousand word count. These include copies of books, online writing applications such as Scrivener and Wattpad, as well as other software, editorial services, discounts and memberships on webpages where people can continue writing.
“I can say with confidence that I wouldn’t have written the same books if I’d written them any other way. The compressed nature of a NaNo-novel makes for a tighter plot. It reinforces the importance of not taking a day off. NaNoWriMo isn’t a writing exercise for me. It trained me to be a pro,” said Hugh Howey on NaNoWriMo’s official website.