Ready, Set, Write!
The concept of NaNoWriMo is simple: Between November 1 and November 30, each participant will crank out a 175-page (50,000-word) work of fiction. Easier said then done, right? The key is that this is a 'seat-of-your-pants' approach to fiction intended to make novel writing accessible to everyone. As the organizers say, you're writing the 'Great Frantic Novel', not the 'Great American Novel'. NaNoWriMo asks participants to forgo painstaking editing or obsessing over mistakes and just focus on writing, writing and more writing.
It's already November 2nd, so if you haven't gotten started yet, now's the time to jump in. The organizers have a great website where writers can register as participants, get support on the forums, procrastinate on the blog and catch up on the details on the FAQ. The website also offers tools to update your word count, post story excerpts and track your progress. Participants who reach 50,000 words by midnight (local time) on November 30 can upload their novel to be verified. Writers with a verified 50,000 words will be added to the Winner's Page and given a certificate, web badge and supreme bragging rights. Even if you don't make the Winner's Page, you'll get the satisfaction of having embarked on this project - and you may find yourself with a draft of that Great Novel after all.
Chris Baty, founder of NaNoWriMo
10 Years of NaNoWriMo
Founder Chris Baty launched NaNoWriMo in July, 1999 in the San Francisco Bay Area. He gathered 21 friends who agreed to give it a try for no other reason than because they were twenty-somethings with time on their hands who figured being novelists was almost as cool as playing in a band. At the end of the month they were surprised by two things: The finished products weren't terrible and, more importantly, the process was a lot of fun. Baty and his friends enjoyed the experience so much that he decided to make it a public annual event. He moved the event to November (since chilly autumn weather is, after all, more conducive to novel writing than the sunny summertime) and created the NaNoWriMo website to bring this project to a larger audience. Out of the 140 people who signed up for year two, 21 people met their goal, and many of them gathered for an after party to let off steam, share their work and meet their fellow 'WriMos.'
The project has been growing ever since. Once bloggers caught wind of the event, participation numbers jumped from a few hundred to a few thousand - in 2008 over 120,000 participants took part, with more than 20,000 of them reaching 50,000 words. Participants looking for a little 'IRL' support can find other WriMos in their area on the NaNoWriMo forums or through websites like Meetup.com.
You've got the will to write and a great story idea, you've signed up for the NaNoWriMo website - so what now? Before you start, it's a good idea to figure out what software you're going to use because the right tools can even make writing 50,000 words easier. Many people opt for good old Microsoft Word, possibly the planet's most popular word processing software. People who want a little more portability in their writing software often go for the web-based Google Docs, which allows you to access and work on your document from any internet-accessible computer.
There are also a few pieces of software available to help you map out your story ideas and overcome writer's block. Mac users should check out Scrivener, which helps you outline ideas, take notes, track themes and keywords, storyboard your novel and more. Windows users may be interested in Character Keeper, which helps you track character relationships and plot lines. If you've got an iPhone, you may also be interested in Writer's Block Buster, an iPhone app that offers thought-provoking questions, hypothetical scenarios and other tools to help get those creative juices flowing.
No matter what tools you're using, the best tips and tricks will come from other NaNo writers. Once you're started, hop over to the NaNoWriMo forums for tons of advice on plot development, story realism and finishing those 50,000 words.