But I don’t want to go among mad people,” Alice remarked.
“Oh, you can’t help that,” said the Cat: “we’re all mad here. I’m mad. You’re mad.”
“How do you know I’m mad?” said Alice.
“You must be,” said the Cat, “or you wouldn’t have come here.”
Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland
50,000 words in 30 days? That’s madness! Or is it? Over 400,000 people participated in this month of madness last year. You should join us!
What is National Novel Writing Month? Why 50,000 words?
National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo as it’s affectionately known by participants around the world, began in 1999 with 21 participants who decided it would be fun to write an entire novel in a month. They settled on 50,000 words because it was the approximate word count of the shortest novel on founder Chris Baty’s shelf—Brave New World—and the number stuck. Of the original 21 participants, only 6 reached the 50,000-word goal. Now the percentage of participants who “win” at NaNoWriMo hovers at about 17%.
I first participated in NaNo in 2012 and have participated to some degree each year since. Most years I start out with good intentions, but wander from the path about mid-November. In 2014, I managed to make it all the way to the finish line with just over 50,000 words.
What do I win?
While NaNoWriMo doesn’t offer traditional prizes to those who write 50,000 words by November 30, there is the satisfaction of setting a goal for yourself & reaching it, as well as the prize of 50,000 words on paper (or screen). You’ll also get a badge on your NaNo profile & a fun certificate to print out to prove you did it.
So why should I sign up for NaNoWriMo? I can do that on my own.
But will you? True, 1,667 words a day (what the daily goal works out to) isn’t that crazy. But for whatever reason, signing up on the website, creating a profile & this year’s book, & finding yourself surrounded by other enthusiasts is surprisingly motivating. Seeing that progress chart creep closer & closer to 50,000 words makes skipping your daily writing session to binge on Netflix less appealing. And something about the atmosphere of NaNo makes it easier to fling words onto the page with abandon, ignoring your inner critic, something I find incredibly difficult most days.
Also, while NaNoWriMo doesn’t offer prizes, they do have many sponsors who offer incentives to both participants & winners. In 2014 I won a coffee mug and a sheet of fun writing stickers from one of the sponsors. Last year, I signed up for The Great Course’s free month & ended up loving it so much I stayed with the paid subscription. In 2014 I also purchased Scrivener at the 50% discount offered to winners.
Just a few of this year’s sponsor offers:
- Scrivener is offering their extended free trial for NaNoWriMo participants. It extends the usual one-month trial to run instead from October 15th to December 7th, giving you time to both begin your planning early and export your final product. Participants can then purchase the program at a 20% discount, while winners receive 50% off.
- The Great Courses Plus is offering a free trial for the month of November with a 50% discount for the next 6 months for all participants. The Great Courses Plus offers lectures on a wide variety of topics, including writing instruction. (Note: Their website states that you’ll receive 50% off for the first 2 months, but their announcement on the NaNoWriMo page says 6 months.)
- IngramSpark is offering this year’s participants free title uploads & free revisions from November 1 to March 31.
You can find these offers along with many more on the NaNoWriMo member forum.
50,000 words in 30 days is a lot, but doing a little planning ahead of time can increase your chances of success.
My favorite tool for both planning & writing is Scrivener, and I’ve created a template to use for my own work. It’s designed with mystery novels in mind & contains lots of planning worksheets, as well as some tips & research links I find helpful. You can find it in the Quill & Glass Shop. (If you’ve never worked with templates in Scrivener, this tutorial will help you out.)