NaNoWriMo: A Novel Idea for November (1 of 3)

by Becky Swanberg, author and EMoon team member

Autumn is suddenly upon you, and your to-do list reflects that: dig out your favorite scarves, buy pumpkin scented everything, scheme up a dynamite Halloween costume, outline your novel, etc.

Wait--what? Who’s writing novels?

I’m glad you asked.

Started in 1999, the first month of novel writing was born in the San Francisco area and had 21 participants. Since that first year, hundreds of thousands of people have participated in National Novel Writing Month (often referred to as NaNoWriMo).The movement has steadily grown, adding a website, picking a designated month, and expanding across the country and the globe in the years to follow.

In 2016, almost half a million people on six continents participated in NaNoWriMo. The online community recruits, supports, and celebrates writers as they attempt to pen 50,000 words in the thirty days of November. Volunteers can use the NaNoWriMo website to mobilize their local participants and schedule kick-off events, writing nights, and other activities along the way.  And on those hard days when the word count is lagging and motivation ebbs, participants receive emails from famous authors who cheer them on from the sidelines.


In short, NaNoWriMo is a community, a culture, and a creative marathon of sorts.

If it sounds like this challenge is only for the serious writers of the world, think again. People of all ages and different walks of life attempt the novel challenge. It’s not a vocational exercise so much as it is a creative experiment--and anyone is welcome to step up to the plate. But what would it take to complete?

Let’s break this down for a second. 50,000 words in 30 days means you would need to average around 1,600 words a day to complete your novel on time. (For those of you who don’t use word count as a guide, 1,600 words is a little less than three single-spaced pages in a word document). So you would need to average roughly three pages a day to make steady progress to the finish line.

I know what you’re thinking...your time is valuable. You have a lot of responsibilities. You work hard all day, and in the precious, fleeting evening hours, well, those Netflix shows aren’t just going to watch themselves, right?

NaNoWriMo might be for you. It’s for the people out there who have a story to tell. It’s for the ones who have always had a genius idea for a book. It’s for those who enjoy challenges, who like to be stretched, who know that doing hard things today can plant the seeds of tomorrow’s dreams.

NaNoWriMo is not for everyone. It’s not for the faint of heart, the pragmatic clock-watcher, or the cynic who can’t see the point. But maybe, just maybe, in your grown-up, paying the bills, keeping it all together life, maybe there’s room for a story or two. Maybe there’s a character in you who has something to say. Maybe there’s a voice being silenced that could speak to you or even the world.

And it could all start with one story. Or perhaps...a novel.