NaNoWriMo Young Writers Program
Writing Advice

All About NaNoWriMo YWP

NaNoWriMo YWP, or the NaNoWriMo Young Writer’s Program, is a creative writing challenge for young, aspiring authors. It provides a fun, interactive platform that promotes goal setting and accountability, which massively increases your likelihood of writing that book you’ve been wanting to write.

NaNoWriMo: What is it?

NaNoWriMo, or National Novel Writing Month, takes place every year, its primary purpose is to get writers to write 50,000 words during the month of November. Founded back in 1999 by teacher-speaker-writer, Chris Baty, the concept is based on the fundamental principle that stories matter. As an author published in both the U.S. and S.A., I must admit that I wholeheartedly agree.  

NaNoWriMo Young Writers

NaNoWriMo YWP is quite literally NaNoWriMo for Young Writers. The NaNoWriMo YWP Contest differs from NaNoWriMo in that it is open to aspiring authors between the ages of thirteen and seventeen (eighteen is permissible, so long as the student is still in high school). The word count is also not set at 50,000. Instead, writers aimed for a predetermined goal, which is set either by themselves or by the educator who set the project.

Is NaNoWriMo worth it?

Without a doubt, yes. Writing a book always seems to be something that people want to do, but never get around to. This program eliminates excuses. It creates structure and a clearly defined goal. You know how anyone can work out, but that doesn’t mean that everyone works out? Sometimes we need a boot camp… and NaNoWriMo is a boot camp for writers.

Nanowrimo Words Per Day

The NaNoWriMo daily word count is not prescribed, but the math is clear. If you want to write 50,000 words in 30 days, you need to write 1667 words per day. If your number is different, divide whatever it is by 30 days, and you will find the daily word count you need to hit if you want to stand any chance of becoming a NaNoWriMo YWP winner. It would help if you aimed to write every single day. Skip a day, and your daily goal grows. Skip another and you’re dealing with more compound interest. Skip a week and you might not be able to catch up… I said NaNoWriMo would be worth it, but I never said it would be easy.

Before you get too despondent or opt to throw in the towel before you’ve even begun, let’s look at the pros and cons of NaNoWriMo and the Young Writer’s Program in particular.

NaNoWriMo: Pros and Cons

PROS:

  • Habit forming: The key to forming new habits is to set a specific goal (which NaNoWriMo clearly does), to make it fun (ditto), and to find social support (ditto again.) Writing daily for thirty days proves not only that you can find the time to do so, but it also makes writing every day a habit. Whether you are a NaNoWriMo winner or not, post-November you will be far more inclined to get words down than you were before you signed up. 
  • Accountability: Joining this program holds you accountable. You have set a clearly defined target, and it’s quantifiable. Start to falter and your writing community (or your educator) will promptly bring you back to heel.
  • Connection: the NaNoWriMo platform enables you to connect with like-minded people, and an entire community of young writers, just like you!   
  • Tech detox: Spend November doing something productive, rather than mindlessly scrolling TikTok. Forget “BookTok made me read it” and focus instead on “NaNoWriMo made me write it.”

CONS:

The major cons of NaNoWriMo consist of the three F’s:

  • Fatigue: When you’re writing this much, burnout is real. Just keep in mind that fatigue is not a condition, it’s a symptom. It will pass.
  • Frustration: Wrestling with a plot in such rushed conditions can be frustrating. Remember that NaNoWriMo is not the vehicle for the perfect story. Expect a rough draft at best.
  • Failure: it is possible (likely even) that you might not become a NaNoWriMo winner your first time around. Writing every day isn’t always possible, and life happens. Whatever the outcome, if you have managed to get words down on paper/screen, you are that much closer to your goal of writing a book. Just keep going. The only guarantee of failure in this industry is quitting. 

So, NaNoWriMo is tough, and you are about to be exhausted, and frustrated. You might cry a little. Don’t despair, all is not lost. I do have a few tips and tricks up our sleeve to help you through, but before I get to that, let’s take a quick look at the rules.

NaNoWriMo Rules

By its very nature, the YWP is aimed at young writers. The fact is that almost everyone participating is a minor, and as such, the organization has a responsibility to protect participants and ensure that their experience is a fun, but safe one.

A few important NaNoWriMo YWP Rules are:

  1. Hate speech is prohibited.
  2. Cyberbullying and name-calling are not tolerated.
  3. Trolling is not permitted.

It is advisable that you read the full Code of Conduct before you begin.

NaNoWriMo Tips

Now that you know what you’re in for, it’s time to share a few tried and tested tips and tricks that have successfully gotten me through NaNoWriMo before. I’ve broken these down into dos and don’ts, but the most important thing to remember is that contrary to usual writing advice, in the case of NaNoWriMo, writing is a sprint and not a marathon.

Dos

  • DO write every single day – including weekends.
  • DO work on your novel even after November ends.
  • DO let your parents/guardians know in advance that you will be participating, so they know what to expect. Forewarned is forearmed and if they understand how important this is to you, your parents will likely become your biggest cheerleaders.

Don’ts:

  • Don’t be too hard on yourself if you fall behind or fail to finish. There’s always next year.
  • Don’t doubt yourself. Once you’ve committed, there’s no turning back, and you need to believe in your heart of hearts that you can do it.

NaNoWriMo Teachers

The beauty of the NaNoWriMo YWP program is that educators can act as facilitators and use November as a creative writing challenge for their classes. NaNoWriMo is the perfect platform for teachers wanting to encourage their students to hone their creative writing skills. Other than the obvious bragging rights students are entitled to if they successfully complete the program, teachers can motivate and reward their students in whatever way they see fit. Signing up as a class through NaNoWriMo creates a healthy, lightly competitive edge, and the success rate climbs when undertaken as a group effort.

NaNoWriMo Students

Bragging rights aside, the entire NaNoWriMo YWP experience is intended to be fun. The sense of accomplishment, if you can successfully complete your NaNoWriMo challenge, is second to none, but there is also the bonus of being able to connect with other young writers. For teens who are serious about writing, or those wishing to pursue a career as an author, this program is invaluable. The NaNoWriMo Young Writers Program is the surest way to tick “write a book” off your bucket list.

Before closing, I would like to address any aspiring authors who might be plagued with self-doubt because of their age, and who might think that they aren’t ‘old enough’ yet to sign up for NaNoWriMo YWP. Let me remind you that Christopher Paolini was only fifteen when he started writing Eragon, and eighteen when it was published. It went on to sell more than 33 million copies. Daisy Ashford wrote The Young Visiters when she was just nine years old.  Anne Frank, Alec Greven, SE Hinton, Christopher Beale… all these authors, published as children, proved that when it comes to writing books, there is no age limit.

I do hope that if you had at all considered participating in the NaNoWriMo Young Writers Program, this article has encouraged you to go for it.

Until next time, write hard.

MD x

FAQ’s

Can I participate in NaNoWriMo YWP if I am under 13 years of age?

Yes, but you will need parental consent and must sign up under your parent or guardian’s email address.

What should my word count goal be?

This depends on a variety of factors and might be prescribed by your educator if this is a class project.