by Jeanette O'Hagan
You may have seen badges and banners proclaiming NaNoWriMo Winner — perhaps in the last few days, maybe at the end of last year — and wondered:
‘What the fuss is all about? What is NaNo and what, if anything, has it to do with me?’
My first introduction to NaNoWriMo (pronounced Nan-No-Rye-Mo) was over three years ago when someone (maybe Michelle Evans) invited me to do ‘the challenge.’ At the time, I had no idea what this strange accumulation of syllables stood for. But I soon found out :)
NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel Writing Month. It started as a simple challenge to write a novel (or at least 50,000 words) in the month founded by freelance writer Chris Baty in the San Francisco Bay Area in July 1999 (the shift to November came in 2000.)
NaNoWriMo is a non-profit organisation that ‘believes your story matters.’
National Novel Writing Month organizes events where children and adults find the inspiration, encouragement, and structure they need to achieve their creative potential. Our programs are web-enabled challenges with vibrant real-world components, designed to foster self-expression while building community on local and global levels.
Through all our programs, we work to empower and encourage writing and vibrant creativity around the world:
Since 1999 it’s expanded to be so much more:
- It acquired a website and a strong social media presence (Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram etc).
- It is now global – encompassing just about every country or region, including Australia and New Zealand.
- It’s expanded to include other months and challenges (like the just recently finished Camp NaNoWriMo in July and the Young Writers Program in November).
- In the July Camp, participants can choose their own goal (minimum 10,000 words) and are not restricted to novel writing. Participants are put in 12 person virtual ‘cabins.’ It’s often seen as a good introduction for the big event in November.
- The Young Writers Program is a school based program that allows those 17 and younger to set their own reasonable but challenging writing goals.
- NaNo rebels add some flexibility by allowing inclusion of editing, script writing or poetry to personal goals.
- There has been an increased focus on what to do after NaNoWriMo – including editing and revising those rough draft NaNo manuscripts, seeking publishers or obtaining special discounts on writing programs/packages such as Scrivener.
- NaNo also has some really cool merchandise.
- It now incorporates local events – like write-ins, actual (not just virtual) camps, or social nights including in Australian capital cities.
- It has a growing number of success stories with over 100 published books including some bestsellers.
- It’s free to participate (though you are welcome to donate to help with expenses and projects).
Back to 2012 — Once I understood the challenge, I thought, ‘There is no way I can write 50,000 words in a month. Besides,’ I thought, ‘my November is packed with study commitments, a real-life camp and the end of the year rush — where would I find the time to write that much?’
I even had people warning against the ‘evils’ or futility of doing NaNo. But it seems I can’t resist a challenge.
‘Why not give it a go,’ I thought, ‘Even if I don’t ‘win’ I can’t really lose.’
So I did and surprised myself by writing 50,000 words and totally enjoying the process. Now I’m hooked on NaNo and just last month completed my second July Camp – with over 230,000 words written as a part of NaNo challenges in the last 2 ½ years.
I was so enthusiastic about NaNo last November, I wrote an ACW post about it (see here), which prompted Narelle to request that I write a series of five posts leading up to November this year.
So over the next few months, I’ll be writing a five-part series:
Part One: What is NaNoWriMo? (That’s this one) 3rd August 2015
Part Two: Why do NaNo (Pros and Cons) 7 September 2015
Part Three: Preparing for NaNo 5 October 2015
Part Four: Ready, Set, Go 2 November 2015
Part Five: Is there life after NaNo? 30 November 2015
We will also be forming a FaceBook group for ACW NaNo participants leading up to November — for camaraderie, encouragement and a touch of friendly rivalry along the way.
So — watch this space. Maybe this year you too could join the challenge.
CampNaNo Winner 2015 banner awarded for completion of Camp NaNo this July.
Jeanette O'Hagan has a short story published in the general market Tied in Pink Romance Anthology (profits from the anthology go towards Breast Cancer research) in December 2014 and two poems in the Poetica Christi’s Inner Child anthology launched in July 2015. She has practiced medicine, studied communication, history and theology and has taught theology. She cares for her children, has just finished her Masters of Arts (Writing) at Swinburne University and is writing her Akrad's fantasy fiction series. You can read some of her short fiction here.