If you’ve engaged with a nerdy writer for any reasonable amount of time during October or November, odds are the subject of NaNoWriMo popped up once or twice. Now, I’m aware that not everyone’s a nerd like me, so you may not be aware of this exhilarating (yet painful) ritual.
First, a short history: a fellow named Chris Baty started up the whole business in July of 1999. At the time, the participant pool was only 21 people. In subsequent years, the month to write a novel was moved to November to use the nasty weather to the writers’ advantage. In the year 2000, 140 total participants signed up for the event with 29 total winners.
From there, a website was launched and NaNoWriMo only continued to grow. In 2001, Baty was astounded to see that 5000 people had signed up for NaNoWriMo. That year, there were 700 total winners. In the third year, the event now well-popularized on news outlets and freelance blogs, the event garnered a whopping 14,000 participants. At that point, barely three years after the first event, NaNoWriMo was well-established as a writer’s holiday (or ritual, as you’ll soon learn).
So what are the rules? It’s pretty simple: the event starts 12:00 AM on November and ends midnight the 30th of November. Participants must have written at least 50,000 words towards the creation of a new novel by that time, or you do not win. Planning and outlining is allowed, but nothing created before November 1st can make it directly into your novel.
The verification process is just a little bit squishy, but I have literally no idea why anyone would cheat. This is a nerdy writing dork contest where participants try to spill 50,000 words onto paper in a single month. It’s not as if they’re going to get money for this or something. You probably get clout within your writing circle, but why would you care if you’re not integrated into said circle that cares most about honesty and integrity?
NaNo is mainly considered a test of self-discipline. Normally, if you are self-disciplined enough to undertake this challenge, you’d be honest enough to admit defeat. Cheating would be hard to spot, but doing so would undercut the main point of the event: the feeling of self-accomplishment and the show of work completed.
So I’m gonna go ahead and do the dreaded math for you: to complete this challenge, you must write 1,667 words per day at a minimum, though a better number to shoot for would be 1800 or 2000. Whatever gives you the leeway you need should you miss a day or two.
Nevertheless, 50,000 words in one month is what any bestselling writer would call “tough” (Jerry Jenkins once referred to it as “a tall order”, and he writes NYC bestsellers). So, if you choose to undertake this mission next month, know that many other writers know your pain when it comes to writing a novel in one month. No kid, it truly is difficult to to that.
Maybe that’s you. Perhaps you enjoy doing things that experienced writers consider to be hard. Maybe you just want the bragging rights that “you wrote more words than Brandon Sanderson in the month of October”. Perhaps you enjoy the thrill of a tough task: you enjoy competing in the marathon. Whatever the reason may be, you want to compete.
The process is pretty simple: you sit down and write like the self-obsessed nerd like you are every day until you drown in a pile of your own sweat and tears. Once you’re finished, you hand it in at the NaNoWriMo website so that you can get validated and all that fun stuff. So very simple, but definitely not easy.
What turned me on to this seriously was the fact that Brandon Sanderson will be participating and posting his weekly wordcounts for other people to match or exceed. Wait, I get to try and beat Brandon Sanderson in terms of content? Heck yeah. Sign me up.
So yes, I will be participating in NaNo this year, and posting my work on the blog every day. Production of other things will probably grind pretty much to a halt (like my third book, probably coming sometime Spring of 2023) for a whole month so that I can undertake this challenge.
And you, my dear readers, are hereby challenged to undertake this trial with me! I invite you guys and girls to post your wordcounts/content in the comments section once you start writing. Of course, if you are a writer and you turn this challenge down, no one will think less of you. Except other writers.
Good luck, and happy writing!
Be sure to check out my latest novel, Book 1 in the Praetors of Lost Magic Series, and our Publications page. Plus, I mean, it wouldn’t hurt to check out the Resources tab. It’s full of super helpful material and I promise it will help you out. Until then, writers!