I think anybody who’s ever tried to write fiction has at least heard
of the chaos that is National Novel Writing Month, more affectionately known as Nano
An abridged history of Nano
Nano as an event started in 1999 and from there gained momentum, becoming a full-fledged non-profit in 2005. Now it has a bunch of events and programs under its umbrella, from the Young Writer’s Program,
to fundraising efforts, to the (totally fun) spin-off events called Camp Nano
and their Come Write In program. All these efforts are to promote literacy, self-expression, and community-building, all through the love of story-telling.
And to do that, thousands of people engage in a month of creative insanity.
How Nano Works (in theory)
The core concept of Nano is simple – write a 50,000 word novel in one month.
In practice, it’s basically a month of pushing your creative limits (not to mention your sanity). People do online writing sprints, regional reps host live write-ins, there’s the Night of Writing Dangerously, a non-stop write-till-you-drop-a-thon. The forums flood with posts of people trying to figure out plot points, crowd-sourcing character names, and asking (in all innocence, I assume) how many dead bodies you can fit into a car trunk.
But all that’s optional. In fact, most things about Nano are. You have Nano rebels who do works other than novels, Nano artisans who volunteer their visual skills to create character sketches and desktop backgrounds, even people who will tailor make music playlists to suit your writing mood. Really, the only immutable laws of Nano are the 50,000 word goal and the time-frame (though people do
start writing on their own early). But if even that’s too much structure for your wild creative heart, Camp Nano lets you set your own word-count goal.
Why am I doing this thing again?
Aside from the giddy high of having a complete story in your hands (or on your hard drive), Nano does offer lots of perks to writers who cross the 50k finish line before December 1st. Some of the site’s sponsors offer steep discounts on writing software, website memberships, and more for winners. You also get a nifty little banner to display to the world that you finished a thing.
And, if you have trouble staying excited or motivated with your writing, then riding the wave with other writers from around the world can really fire you up. If you’re stuck, get help in the forums, or just read a few threads for a shot of inspiration. Go to a write-in in your area and meet new people. Get an accountability buddy. Road test new writing software (the Nano Technology forum’s got a ton of suggestions), listen to new music, read some novel excerpts.
Honestly, whether you participate every year or not, Nanowrimo is a good time in general, and a very invigorating environment for whatever writing project you’re working on. And you can read more about the site on the Nanowrimo main website
I haven’t decided if I’m going to officially participate in Nano this year, but for the curious, you can check out my account on the Nano website (under a really old pen name).
Are you participating in Nano? Have you found it helpful for your creativity? Let me know what your plans are this year in the comments below.