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What is NaNoWriMo?

Tricia Christensen
Updated: May 23, 2024

National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) is a writing contest begun in the Unites States in 1999, by Chris Baty. The goal of the NaNoWriMo is to write a 50,000-word novel between November 1st, and midnight of November 30. Anyone can enter the contest, and anyone who achieves the writing goal of 50,000 words of a cohesive novel wins.

NaNoWriMo was meant to inspire writers to create, and it has become an exceptionally popular contest. Winners of NaNoWriMo have the satisfaction of completing a novel, but are awarded no other prizes. In fact, NaNoWriMo is often followed with NaNoFiMo, in December, which is designated as National Novel Finishing Month. Even if a novel is unfinished at 50,000 words, it still qualifies as a winner.

The NaNoWriMo does tend to emphasize quantity over quality. Writers must write approximately 2.5 single-spaced pages a day in 12-point font. This does not leave a lot of time for editing, though writers who are quick typists could theoretically produce a fairly well edited work in that time period. Writers are not limited as to subject; any fiction genre is allowed, and novels can now be written in any language.

NaNoWriMo is now a 501c3 corporation, which gives participants access to laptops if they don’t have them, and pays for launch and celebration parties. As well, NaNoWriMo raises money for reading charities and donates approximately 50% of its net intake to designated charities. Funds are raised either through direct donation or purchase of items like mugs and t-shirts.

Some laud the efforts of NaNoWriMo but say they don’t spend enough time making sure people don’t cheat. However, the only reward of winning is writing 50,000 words and perhaps a complete novel, so cheating does not mean anyone gets additional rewards for being a winner.

NaNoWriMo has proven a popular contest. The first year only 21 people participated. Nearly 60,000 competed in 2005 and almost 10,000 were actually winners. In 2005 the total number of words produced by all participants was over 700 million.

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Tricia Christensen
By Tricia Christensen
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a Language & Humanities contributor, Tricia Christensen is based in Northern California and brings a wealth of knowledge and passion to her writing. Her wide-ranging interests include reading, writing, medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion, all of which she incorporates into her informative articles. Tricia is currently working on her first novel.
Discussion Comments
By sunnysideup — On Jun 14, 2011

I have been putting off writing my first novel for quite some time, focusing on every other type of writing instead. This contest just might be the very thing to get me started.

My best friend is a poet and she is horrified by the thought of slamming out 50,000 words in one month. But I understand her viewpoint because she deliberates over every single word in a poem and a single poem can take her a year to craft sometimes.

I guess that's why there's not a similar competition for poets, although it might be really interesting!

By Jester39 — On Jun 13, 2011

I have never considered writing a novel in a month although I do know writers who compete in NanoWriMo every year.

What I'd like to know are the statistics that tell us how many of those completed novels actually end up on book store shelves or sell as eBooks.

I'm not putting this project down, it's obviously for good causes all the way around. I just wonder how many people succeed in publishing their novels after competing in this event.

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a Language & Humanities contributor,...
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