Do you have to be an “author” to write a book, or is it true that everyone has at least one good book in them? The folks at NaNoWriMo would enthusiastically agree with the latter. But wait: NaNoWriMo, you ask … what’s that?
It’s National Novel Writing Month, an annual creative writing project that takes place every November. During that month, participants undertake the writing of a manuscript of at least 50,000 words. Writing must begin on or after November 1 and be completed by November 30.
The first such event took place in 1999, but in July rather than November. It attracted 21 participants. In 2000, the effort moved to November — a time of year more likely to keep participants indoors and at their desks. Today, NaNoWriMo is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization with programs that operate around the world and in thousands of classrooms, all with the goal of empowering writers to write. In 2018, NaNoWriMo had 403,542 participants, about 10 percent of whom “won,” which means that they met the 50,000-word goal.
It’s free to participate and the rules are simple. Novels must be started during the month of November and reach 50,000 words by 11:59:59pm on Nov. 30. Novels reaching 50,000 words that are incomplete may be added to later. All themes, genres and languages are OK.
There are no official prizes, although various sponsors each year may offer their own rewards and incentives to writers. And you might even get published. More than 400 NaNoWriMo novels have been published by mainstream publishing houses. Notable titles include Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen, The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern, and Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell.
In 2004, NaNoWriMo launched a writing workshop targeted at K-12 students, called the Young Writers Program. Unlike the parent program, participants in the Young Writers Program, who must be less than 18 years old, get to choose how many words they write — usually around 30,000. Teachers register their classes and get starter kits for their students … stuff like pencils, stickers and Common Core-aligned lesson plans.
Today, there’s even a summer camp! There are resources online for writers of all ages, and a store that sells NaNoWriMo clothing, posters and more. If you’d like to become a “Wrimo,” all it takes is a visit to the website. And if you need help with writing, Morris Tutoring employs a staff of teachers who are experienced and certified at all academic levels.
Images courtesy of NaNoWriMo.org.