Write On! Review: National Novel Writing Month

How long does it take to write a novel? For some, it takes a lifetime, but for the challenge-driven writer, it takes a mere 30 days.

For those writers who’ve been hiding in a cave with me, National Novel Writing Month (aka NaNoWriMo) is a challenge to write a 50,000-word novel in the month of November.

Having just learned of NaNo last year on Twitter, I decided to explore it for myself.  What better place to investigate than the official website.

At first click, I see lots of sparkly, fun areas to explore … ooooh … a store! Let’s start there. Posters, T-shirts, stickers, oh my! It’s a shopper’s delight. My guess is this would be an excellent procrastination tool during the challenge. Bookmark that one.

I toggle my mouse over some more links. Apparently, they want donations. Makes sense. Judging from what I see so far, a lot of work has been put into the organization and promotion. I respect hard work. Bookmark.

While you’re waiting for NaNo to begin, you can decorate your profile–even put a halo on yourself for a $10 donation. Now, that’s not a bad deal.  I wonder if they offer that in Heaven?

Let’s see what else is lurking. Procrastination Station–come to Mama! Click. You can actually record yourself singing. Hmmm … I shall find other ways to procrastinate, thank you very much.

Young Writers’ Program: What better way to keep your kids out of trouble than to challenge them to write a novel with you. Make it a fun competition, with a common goal. It might even get that teen talking to you. Just sayin’.

If the website isn’t enough, NaNo also has a blog: The Office of Letters and Light. I clicked, not knowing what this blog could possibly be.  As I scrolled down, I found this: “For most NaNoWriMo participants, the Office of Letters and Light is a mythical place, on par with Hogwarts and that treehouse the Keebler elves live in. While most people have a general idea of what emerges from such places, few ever actually get to go inside.”  Well, there you have it, as described by Sarah Mackey, the new intern at OLL.  Bookmark.

I’m convinced.  I’m signing up.  Let’s see where I can go after I officially declare my insanity and put my goal “out there” for all to see.

I’ve entered the land of My NaNoWriMo. I now have a picture, can search for buddies to support me, and list the topic of my novel and a description.  While I love the idea of having buddies, I did find it hard to figure out the search process.  That could definitely use improving, especially since I would guess it’s one of the most sought after features.  I’ll put a suggestion in the box. Wait? Is there a box?  Hmm… “contact” was a little hard to find, and even then, tells you to check all the FAQs before bugging them. That needs fixing too.

Despite a few not-so-easy features, I understand from past users the site has gotten better and better every year. You can sign up for meetings and updates with NaNo writers in your area and meet people in person. Or you can participate in a Write In at an area library with other NaNo-ites.

There are links to Pep Talks, Word Count Widgets, and a plethora of other nifty gadgets for distraction-purposes.

All in all, the site is very comprehensive, offering tips, support, and connections, as well as plenty of procrastination opportunities.  In fact, the whole concept has great synergy with the Write On! Online goal platform: post weekly goals on Facebook and monthly goals on the website. This is just one BIG goal to bite off.

While only 20% of the participants “win,” anyone who tries is a winner in my book.  Yes, cliché to say, but in truth, anything that helps you get words on the page is a worthy goal, whether you get to 50,000 or not.

I suggest exploring it now, so when November 1st hits, you have no excuses.  That’s my plan. Procrastinate in October; write my fingers to the bones in November.

Join me. Buddy me. My username is jeannevb. Warm up your inspiration and click on the site to get started.  It’s that simple.

4 of 5 Purple Pencils

Post your NaNoWriMo profile link in the comments section, so the Write On! Members can support each other.

Remember, to declare NaNo as your November Write On! Goal.

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27 Comments
  1. Jeffrey Spivak 6 years ago

    What, in God’s name, is the purpose for undertaking such a meaningless activity? To write 50k words in haste cannot yield anything but a muddled, misguided first draft. If the only goal is to “complete the race” the only reward will be that such foolishness is finally over.

    If you’re a writer, write. If you want to be a writer, write. Just don’t waste thirty days on a useless sprint when you hone your style and produce a few great pages.

  2. Stephanie Olivieri 6 years ago

    Here is my profile..(Micheline is my pen name)

    http://www.nanowrimo.org/eng/user/158809

    I love the NaNo and have had great success with it, even publishing my first NaNo novel :0)

  3. Debra Eckerling 6 years ago

    I am a firm believer that whatever it takes to get someone to write, is a tool worth using! And if you are racing with yourself – and with others – to write through your blocks and get through your first draft, then that is awesome. The point is to get those words down without overthinking, stalling, and making other things in your life a priority.

    Thanks to Stephanie’s encouragement, I participated in my first NaNoWriMo last year, and it was an amazing experience! The novel does need an edit – or two – but certainly a good attempt at a first novel …

  4. Stephanie Olivieri 6 years ago

    Jeffery~ I have done it three times and one of my books from it was published immediately. You say if you are a writer to just write, well then why is it a

    “waste of thirty days on a useless sprint when you hone your style and produce a few great pages.”

    How is it a waste exactly? I am sorry, but I think you are wrong to be so negative. Every writer works differently and this is great fun!

  5. Stephanie Olivieri 6 years ago

    As well, the one I did last year has been requested by three of the major publishers. Yes I did spend time reworking it, but it is, and was definitely not, a “muddled, misguided first draft” as you say.
    I am shocked that anyone would have such a discouraging attitude to something that is fun. If you expect everything you write to win a Pulitzer than yes this isn’t for you.

    For the rest of you, it’s fun! Do it. Also Debra, sorry I had to reply to Jeffrey.

  6. As a NaNo virgin, my purpose in taking on the challenge is because I have a deadline, and this will help me meet it. I write well under pressure.

    If all the challenge does is motivate writers to write SOMETHING every day, what’s the harm? Like I said in the piece, only 20% succeed in the word-count goal… but 100% of those who try write more than one word. That is something. Believe it or not, writing happens one word at a time.

    I’m honored to be participating in my first NaNo. I intend on enjoying it and bonding with other writers as I muddle through.

  7. Michelle 6 years ago

    I won NaNo last year… and am so excited about going agin this year.
    Michelle Dennis Evans http://www.nanowrimo.org/eng/user/537990

  8. Jamie 6 years ago

    FYI, Water for Elephants came from a NANO manuscript. And that turned out to be quite a novel. Just sayin’

  9. Teresa Watson 6 years ago

    I write, therefore I procrastinate. I signed up for this year’s event for the first time. My college papers were always written under pressure, usually the night before they were due, and I got A’s every time. 50,000 words in 30 days may seem like an insurmountable goal to some, but even if you do not hit that target, you could end up with the basis of a very marketable novel. It doesn’t hurt to try!

  10. P.I. Barrington 6 years ago

    I wish I could do this. I really do. But I write linear from top to bottom,beginning with the first line and going continuously from there.

  11. Jeffrey Spivak 6 years ago

    Although the enthusiasm is honest, and the results of a few are unbelievable (especially the “I work best under pressure” crowd), I’m still unmoved by the whole idea of furious writing that’s judged initially by the total word count and not on its characters, story arc, style, and situations that eschew the cliche. I don’t need an arbitrary deadline to get me motivated. A book contract will very nicely spell out the requested delivery date of a first draft.

  12. James Bow 6 years ago

    Jeffrey, you are aware that there is a National Novel EDITING Month, don’t you?

    This isn’t my scene, but I won’t begrudge people enjoying things their own way.

  13. ChickenFreak 6 years ago

    Jeffrey, as I see it, the goal is to shut off your inner editor and Just Write. One of my most firmly held philosophies is, “If it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing badly.” Or, rephrased, “Perfectionism bad.” To me, NaNoWriMo is a bazillion people rejecting perfectionism, and I love that.

    Now, if your inner editor is rarely a roadblock to writing, you don’t need the exercise, but for a whole lot of people, NaNoWriMo can uncork writing that just wouldn’t have happened otherwise.

    Or it can just be fun.

  14. Jonathan 6 years ago

    Have decided to throw in wth NaNoWriMo. Why? My reasons are here: http://jonathan-peace.posterous.com/nano-wrimo

    My profile is http://www.nanowrimo.org/eng/user/623216

    This will bust my NaNo cherry although I took part (and ‘won’) Script Frenzy in April.

    Good luck everyone! and remember… have fun!

  15. Jeffrey Spivak 6 years ago

    Now there’s a “National Novel Editing Month” so you can hastily edit your rapidly written novel? Too funny.

    What’s next, 30 days of post-production? How about four weeks to get a marketing campaign off the ground.

    To be honest, I wouldn’t expect an impeccably conceived outline to be finished in a month.

    Oh well, follow your folly.

  16. […] Novel Writing Month. Are you planning to write a novel in a month? Jeanne Veillette Bowerman reviewed the NaNoWriMo website on Monday. Check out the post, and share your NaNo Profile link, so the Write On! Members can cheer […]

  17. Today, Jane Friedman posted on her There Are No Rules blog some links to articles that will help you prepare for NaNoWriMo http://blog.writersdigest.com/norules/2010/10/19/MakeYourNaNoWriMoExperienceCount4ExcellentPosts.aspx

    Enjoy!

  18. Michelle Travis 6 years ago

    Jeffrey,

    I think the best way to think of NaNoWriMo is to see it as the kick-in-the-backside for all the folks who tend to say, “One day I’ll write my novel…” Then they put it off and never start and it remains forever in the realm of “one day…” Well, “one day” is now here. For 30 days in November, unleash your inner muse. Even if it’s crap, at the end of 30 days, you have more down on the page than you did when you started. I’ve had several friends start NaNo, get about 10k in on their initial idea, THEN have their brainwave on the novel they REALLY wanted to write, and while NaNo came and went, they were still writing, still honing… and later published. All because during those 30 days, their creativity was engaged.

    It has been the springboard for several writers, a means to learn and communicate, an intense bootcamp in how to prep for writing a novel, a venue to get to know others in the business, and is generally a positive experience all the way around.

    So with all due respect, even if you don’t support the concept, kindly don’t diss it.

    Michelle

    PS – I’ll be doing it for my fourth year – http://www.nanowrimo.org/eng/user/97609 (username Samuraiko)

  19. Jeffrey Spivak 6 years ago

    “…even if you don’t support the concept, kindly don’t diss it” To Deb’s credit, she made sure that like-minded opinions are not the only ones welcome here. I don’t support the concept. Send your half-baked scribblings to an acquisitions editor and the slush pile is where they’ll end up.

    Sorry to say it Samuraiko but you wrote 4 novels in 4 months and have published none of them. You’re the last person from whom I would take writing advice.

  20. Jeffrey, for someone who has no interest in NaNo, you certainly have a lot of opinions. While I truly celebrate all viewpoints, you’re a tad harsh in the delivery. Perhaps an edit of your comment prior to hitting send would be helpful to keep the tone of our community supportive of people’s right to disagree. Thanks for participating in the discussion.

    Michelle, I look forward to the journey.

  21. Davan Holt 6 years ago

    I have wanted to write a novel for a long time. I love the idea and think this is a perfect motivator and am looking forward to this. See you all along the way. http://www.nanowrimo.org/eng/user/661436

  22. […] more on National Novel Writing Month, go to Jeanne Veillette Bowerman’s review of the NaNoWriMo.org site on Write On! Online. You can also post your user profile link on the blog […]

  23. […]  is National Novel Writing Month. Jeanne Veillette Bowermanreviewed the NaNoWriMo website. Check out the post, and share your NaNo Profile link. Also, read Write On! Track’s reasons […]

  24. Now that NaNo is in day one of the challenge, I will amend this review to say the site is EXTREMELY slow and unable to handle the traffic during NaNo time. Also, adding buddies takes entirely too many steps. We shall all be putting requests in the site’s suggestion box.

  25. Pj 6 years ago

    Jeffrey – That’s exactly the point of the challenge. To spit out whatever comes to your head every day for 30 days, to just write purely, without self-editing. Once the 50K words are out, THEN one can take the time to go back, edit, extract, rework.

    But at least then you’ll have 50K words with which to do so. 🙂

    Jeanne – I’ve added you as a buddy. But enough commenting — gotta write!

  26. […] Read Write On! Track’s reasons why NaNoWriMo is a Good Idea, Jeanne Veillette Bowerman’s review of the NaNoWriMo website, and share your NaNo Profile link. Also, Poets: Writer’s Digest is again offering the November […]

  27. […] EVENTS November is National Novel Writing Month. Are you writing a novel in November? How is it going? Post your profile link in the comments, so we can support each other. Also check out NaNoWriMo articles by Stephanie Olivieri and Jeanne Veillette Bowerman. […]

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