What is NaNoWriMo
Writing Advice

What is NaNoWriMo?

NaNoWriMo, or National Novel Writing Month, takes place every November and encourages authors to write a book in a month. It sounds impossible, but it’s not. I’ve done it multiple times, and I’m here to help you through it. In this article, we’ll discuss not only what NaNoWriMo is, but also offer a few tried and tested NaNoWriMo tips and tricks and go through the official NaNoWriMo rules

What does NaNoWriMo stand for?

National Novel Writing Month. But NaNoWriMo sounds much, much cooler.

Founded by Chris Baty in 1999, the aim of the non-profit is to help writers achieve their goals and enjoy a sense of community. And like Baty himself, the process is meant to be fun. It’s meant to be empowering. It’s meant to challenge creatives to stop procrastinating and GET THE JOB DONE. Leave your excuses in October, where they belong.

NaNoWriMo Rules

The rules are posted on the official NaNoWriMo forums, but they are quite simple:

Write a novel at least 50,000 words long during the month of November. They must be written in November, and they must be yours. No plagiarism, copy-pasting, or re-using of old material is allowed. And it must be a novel. Other projects such as poetry are encouraged during Camp NaNoWriMo, held in April and July, but November is novel writing month.

At face value, it may sound impossible, but it is important to note that NaNoWriMo doesn’t expect a publication-ready, perfectly polished manuscript at November’s conclusion. The aim is to produce a 50-thousand-word draft. The keyword here is draft. A raw, rough, unedited book that holds the potential to become something wonderful, as the success stories below can attest to.

NaNoWriMo Tips

  1. WRITE EVERY SINGLE DAY: at risk of throwing another cliché at the wall and hoping it’ll stick, consistency is key. You cannot afford to miss a single day. As true write-a-thon enthusiasts know, the compound interest will cripple you. To achieve a 50k word target in November, you should write 1667 words per day. Let’s say you miss a day. That brings that number up to 1724. Miss another day, you’re up to 1785. Take weekends off, and you’re up to 2272. [Side note: don’t take weekends off.] Ideally, you should aim to write more than your minimum quota every day, to give you some breathing room because, as we know… life happens.
  2.  WARN EVERYONE: tell your friends and family not to expect much of you for those thirty days. Forewarned is forearmed, and no one can make you feel guilty for not attending social gatherings if you’ve prepped them in advance. This is your time. Don’t feel guilty for taking it. The world will understand… eventually.
  3. DO NOT PREPARE: I know this sounds counterproductive, but NaNoWriMo is the very opposite of the usual novel writing process. In this case, writing IS a sprint, NOT a marathon. The more you try to prepare, the less flexibility you allow yourself, and the less inclined you will be to “pants” it, which is what you need to do to succeed. I’d suggest having a very basic plot and then letting the story unfold as you go.
  4. DROP YOUR STANDARDS: for the month of November, give yourself permission to write junk. There is no room for perfectionism during this chaos. You can fix it all once you’ve won.
  5. DO NOT GIVE UP: Say you have a few bad days. It happens, we get it. But you are also capable of more words than you realize. I once wrote 17000 words in a day.  Yes, you read that correctly. Seventeen thousand words. In a single day. Admittedly, my head hurt for a full twenty-four hours afterward but I did what I had honestly believed was impossible. And so can you. If you fall behind, get back on the horse and catch up as quickly as you can. In a world full of procrastinators, be a WriMo.

For more tips and tricks, you can read Chris Baty’s book, No Plot, No Problem

Is NaNoWriMo Worth It?

This is a question I get asked more often than I can count, and my answer has never wavered. A resounding YES! Last year over four hundred thousand writers took part in NaNoWrimo’s programs, including NaNoWriMo Camp and the NaNoWriMo Young Writer’s Program. Of those, over fifty-one thousand writers met their goal to become NaNoWriMo Winners, which means that over fifty-one thousand draft novels were written, many of which will go on to be polished, perfected and ultimately put out into the world for readers to enjoy. Based on those impressive stats, I’d say that makes it worth it.

There are also high-profile success stories. Check out these three insanely popular books that started out as NaNoWriMo book babies:

  • Fangirl, the critically acclaimed Young Adult novel by Rainbow Rowell, has won more awards than I could count.
  • The Night Circus, Erin Morgenstern’s debut novel, spent seven weeks on the New York Times Bestseller list.
  • Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen, was adapted for the big screen, starring none other than Reese Witherspoon in the main role.

So, how do you win NanoWrimo?

Follow the rules listed above, and make sure to update officially on the NaNoWriMo website at https://nanowrimo.org/ to be declared an official NaNoWriMo winner.

What do you win?

Other than bragging rights, NaNoWriMo organizers have secured discounts ranging from ten to a whopping fifty percent off, from various sponsors, most of which supply writing-related software. You will also receive a nifty little digital banner that you can display on your socials or your website.   

I hope this article has helped you understand the NaNoWriMo process a little bit better. I’ve written multiple drafts in a month, and while it’s not sustainable, it’s a brilliant exercise in productivity, consistency, and meeting deadlines.

Until next time, write hard!


NaNoWriMo FAQ’s

Is there an entry fee?

No, entry is free, though you can make a voluntary donation.

Do I have to write in a specific genre?

Absolutely not. All genres are welcome.

Can I use AI to write my novel?

I would think not. Using AI to write your words would defeat the purpose.

Do I write on the NaNoWriMo website?

No, you use whatever medium you prefer – be it pen and paper, MS Word, Scrivener, or typewriter.