by Kim Switzer
National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) is a fast and wild writing challenge that happens every November. People across the planet write their hearts out, trying to complete a 50,000 word novel in thirty days.
Have you tried NaNoWriMo? You should—it’s a great way to get your words flowing and get your stories out on the page.
Admittedly I’m biased in favor of NaNo. I’ve been signing up for it since 2003 and actively participating since 2006 (turns out you actually have to write something to get to 50K). I’ve taken part as a writer (and a winner seven times). I’ve been the Portland, OR municipal liaison. I’ve attended and hosted local write-ins and events and participated in the online forums. But most importantly, I have written. I have written in November even in years when writing was a struggle. NaNo did that for me.
Being part of NaNoWriMo, joining in the Portland community, getting active on the forums, immersing myself in NaNo culture for a month has showed me that I can write a lot of words in a fairly short time. It has proved to me that I am a writer. It helped me jumpstart a stalled writing life and become a regular writer again.
NaNoWriMo isn’t just for beginner or restarting writers, though. I think it offers something for every writer. Community. Goals. Stretching yourself. Testing your capabilities. Badges and bragging rights. And a pile of words you didn’t have on October 31.
Things to do during NaNo:
- Write-ins: this is when a group of people meet somewhere like a coffee shop or library to write together. It’s very motivating to look up and see that everyone around you is writing and helps you get back to your writing instead of opening a game of solitaire.
- Word Wars and Word Sprints: this is where people gather on forum threads or on Twitter to write as much as they can in a set amount of time. There are sprints for anywhere from 10 minutes to an hour. This is a great way to build up some word count very fast; there’s not much more motivating to a lot of us than knowing we’re racing against the clock and our fellow writers.
- Night of Writing Dangerously: this is an annual write-a-thon down in the Bay Area where WriMos from all over converge to have dinner and drinks and write for six hours. And there are prizes!
Of course, there’s way more to NaNoWriMo than I could ever fit into one blog post or even ten. NaNoWriMo is too big to fit into one little post. It’s fun. It’s a challenge. It’s a way to meet people in your local writing community and to meet writers from around the world. It’s a way to give your writing a push, get a pet project off the ground, prove to yourself just how much writing you can do. It’s an experience worth having, and I hope you’ll give it a try.
NaNoWriMo will be featured at the 2015 Willamette Writers Conference. Kim and other NaNo experts will be holding free sessions for teachers and parents, young writers, and every writer. Participants may choose to buy a “Stay the Day” pass for the remainder of the conference that day.
Kim Switzer is a former English teacher, current writing coach and teacher, and long-time NaNoWriMo participant. She was the municipal liaison in Portland, Oregon for four years and is still active in the Portland NaNo community online. She teaches writing workshops and coaches writers online and in person in the Portland area.