National Novel Writing Month

National Novel Writing Month

Updated Nov 01, 2013 at 05:41PM EDT by amanda b..

Added Nov 28, 2012 at 02:12PM EST by amanda b..

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National Novel Writing Month, also known as NaNoWriMo, is an annual online-based project in which participants are challenged to write a 50,000 word novel during the month of November.


Freelance writer Chris Baty (shown below) launched National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) in July 1999 at the age of 26.[1] He gathered 20 of his friends around San Francisco, CA, many of whom were not writers, just to see if they could. Of the group, only six participants completed the challenge of writing an entire 50,000 word novel from start to finish, taking the arbitrary word count from a guesstimated word count of the shortest novel on Baty’s shelf, Aldous Huxley’s 1931 sci-fi novel Brave New World.[3]

Notable Developments

2000: Website Launch

In 2000, a friend of Baty designed a website[4] for the challenge and the group chose to move the start date from July to November to “take advantage of the miserable weather.”[2] That year, 140 people participated from across the globe and Baty chose to set up a Yahoo! Group so participants could discuss their processes with each other. This also led to the creation of the first set of rules for the challenge: the novel must be new, must be written by one person, and must be submitted by midnight Pacific time on November 30th to be verified. That year, Baty verified the word count on the submissions himself, with 29 completed novels that year.

2001: News Media Coverage

The next year, Baty expected a similar amount of participants. However, after mentions on MetaFilter[5], the Los Angeles Times, the Washington Post and NPR’s All Things Considered[6] more than 5000 people, each registered for the site by hand by Baty, signed up.[2] That year, a LiveJournal community[7] was also established for participants who were not on Yahoo! to discuss their progress. Due to the volume of completed novels, it was announced that there would be no official validation that year. Instead, participants chose to validate each other’s works.[3]

2002-2004: Upgrades

In 2002, Dan Sanderson helped modernize the site by creating new progress bars for participants, upgraded forums and an official automatic word counter. That year, 14,000 people signed up, thanks to additional news media coverage from the BBC, NPR and CBS Evening News.[2] By the fifth year of the challenge, Baty began encouraging participants to create their own local chapters for NaNoWriMo, as a way to help foster participation on a smaller community basis. By 2004, more than 42,000 writers registered for the challenge. That year, Baty also published the book “No Plot? No Problem!: A Low-Stress, High-Velocity Guide to Writing a Novel in 30 Days”[8] (shown below) both chronicling his experience with NaNoWriMo and providing a guide for aspiring writers on how arbitrary goals help foster creation.

NaNoWriMo 2013

On November 1st, 2013, NaNoWriMo announced the launch of its 15th annual event on the official blog[30] with a comprehensive guide to completing a 50,000 words novel, offering tips on how to join physical write-ins, schedule time for writing and tools for developing a character. Having been featured on several internet culture blogs[32][34] and news media outlets[33[35] during the days leading up to November 1st, the month-long event drew more than 227,000 signups within the first 24 hours.

In addition to the main event, NaNoWriMo’s sponsor and online writers’ community Wattpad[31] has offered a $2,000 prize to one of the participants who submit their stories to the website, while author Marissa Meyer[36], who turned her 150,011-word project from the 2008 NaNoWriMo into three published novels, has put up a signed copy of her book Arc of Cress as the prize for a participant who can beat her word count by the end of the month.

Social Media Presence

As of November 2013, NaNoWriMo has expanded its online presence to include official accounts on Twitter[10] and Facebook[11], where they have more than 87,000 followers and 136,000 likes respectively. Additionally, since 2004, participants have been sharing photos of novel progress (shown below, left), physical writing spaces (shown below, center) and writer events (shown below, right) in a Flickr pool[14], which has accrued more than 2,100 photos in nine years.

In 2008, the /r/NaNoWriMo subreddit[28] launched, offering daily word count threads for Redditors to keep track of their progress. As of November 2013, the subreddit has gained more than 5,400 subscribers. In 2010, the NaNoWriMo official blog moved to Tumblr[27], where the staff shares tips for writing as well as success stories from people who have published their NaNoWriMo novels. Outside of official avenues, participants use the hashtag #NaNoWriMo on Facebook[29], Twitter[12] and Tumblr[13] to discuss their progress.

News Media Coverage

Over the years, NaNoWriMo has received significant attention from a variety of news and literature related outlets. Between 2010 and 2012, the challenge has been featured on the Chicago Tribune[15], the Los Angeles Times[16][17], and publishing blog Galleycat[20], among others. Additionally, some of these reports, including articles on TIME Magazine[18] and Slate[19], discourage people from participating in NaNoWriMo, citing the fact that the challenge encourages people to often write mercilessly without editing their work. This leads to shopping the unedited piece to publishers before revisions, leading to discouragement when the writer is rejected.

Successfully Published Books

As of October 2012, more than 90 completed NaNoWriMo projects have been turned into published novels.[22] Some of the earliest published novels appeared in 2006 including Rebecca Agiewich’s BreakupBabe[23] and Sara Gruen’s Water for Elephants[24] (shown below, left), which was later adapted into a 2001 romantic drama film. Other novels have been named as New York Times Bestsellers including Erin Morgenstern’s 2011 novel The Night Circus[25] (shown below, center) and Marissa Meyer’s 2012 Cinderella-inspired young adult novel Cinder[26] (shown below, right).

Search Interest

External References

[1]Writer Unboxed – INTERVIEW: NaNo’s Chris Baty, Part 1

[2]NaNoWriMo – History

[3]WikiWriMo – National Novel Writing Month

[4]National Novel Writing Month – Home

[5]MetaFilter – NaNoWriMo

[6]East Bay Express – It was a dark and stormy month…

[7]LiveJournal – NaNoWriMo

[8]Amazon – No Plot? No Problem!: A Low-Stress, High-Velocity Guide to Writing a Novel in 30 Days

[9]Camp NaNoWriMo – Home

[10]Twitter – @NaNoWriMo

[11]Facebook – NaNoWriMo

[12]Twitter – Search results for #nanowrimo

[13]Tumblr – Posts tagged #nanowrimo

[14]Flickr – NaNoWriMo Pool

[15]Chicago Tribune – NaNoWriMo puts a novel idea to the test

[16]LA Times – 12 reasons to ignore the naysayers: Do NaNoWriMo

[17]LA Times – The only advice you need for NaNoWriMo. Period.

[18]TIMENaNoWriMo: Is National Novel Writing Month a Literary Threat or Menace?

[19]Slate – Better yet, DON’T write that novel

[20]Galleycat – NaNoWriMo Tip #1: Read 30 Tips from Last Year

[21]Mental Floss – 11 NaNoWriMo Books That Have Been Published

[22]Galleycat – 90+ Published Novels Began as NaNoWriMo Projects

[23]Amazon – BreakupBabe

[24]Wikipedia – Water for Elephants

[25]Wikipedia – The Night Circus

[26]Wikipedia – Cinder

[27]Tumblr – NaNoWriMo

[28]Reddit – /r/NaNoWriMo

[29]Facebook – Posts Tagged #NaNoWriMo

[30]NaNoWriMo Blog – A 100% Awesome, 100% Thorough Guide to NaNoWriMo 2013

[31]The Bookseller – Wattpad and NaNoWriMo link up

[32]Just Another WordPress Weblog – NaNoWriMo 2013: Want to Write a Novel?

[33]USA Today – It’s NaNoWriMo time: Pledge to write a novel in a month

[34]BuzzFeed – 17 Struggles Of Getting Ready For NaNoWriMo

[35]The Telegraph – NaNoWriMo: how to write a novel in a month

[36]Marissa Meyer – Announcing the Write Like Crazy NaNoWriMo Challenge!

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