write a novel in thirty days…?

Yes, you can, this November with NaNoWriMo!

National Novel Writing Month is an organization that encourages people all over the world to unleash their inner creative writer by writing a 50,000-word novel in thirty days. The scribbling frenzy starts November 1 and ends before midnight of November 30. Participants sign up at http://www.nanowrimo.org. The site tracks word count and issues a certificate at the end of the month to successful writers.

Quantity, not quality, is the mantra. The goal is output. About 2,000 words a day should do it.  Just get what’s in your head down on paper. Don’t spend too much time on polishing. Your inner editor will balk, but there is no perfect first draft, is there? Editing is for December!

I learned about NaNoWriMo in late November last year, when it was almost over (sob). I vowed back then to join this year. Having waited an entire year to do this, I signed up five days late. Sigh.

But as they say, “better late than dead!” so here I am, computer fired up and fountain pens inked. This year is the project’s tenth anniversary. What an auspicious moment for me to join for the first time. It’s meant to be.

Here’s more on NaNoWriMo, from their website:

National Novel Writing Month: The Largest Writing Contest in the World Turns Ten!

Oakland, Calif. — There are some who say writing a novel takes awesome talent, strong language skills, academic training, and years of dedication.

Not true. All it really takes is a deadline – a very, very tight deadline – and a whole lot of coffee.

Welcome to National Novel Writing Month, a nonprofit literary crusade that encourages aspiring novelists all over the world to write a 50,000-word novel in a month. At midnight on Nov. 1, more than 100,000 writers from over 80 countries – poised over laptops and pads of paper, fingers itching and minds racing with plots and characters – will begin a furious adventure in fiction. By 11:59 PM on Nov. 30, tens of thousands of them will be novelists.


2008 is the ten-year anniversary of NaNoWriMo, founded in 1999 by freelance writer Chris Baty. In its first year, NaNoWriMo had just 21 participants. In 2007, over 100,000 people took part in the free challenge, making it the largest writing contest in the world. And while the event stresses fun and creative exploration over publication, 24 NaNoWriMo novelists have had their NaNo-novels published, including Sarah Gruen, whose New York Times #1 best seller, Water for Elephants, began as a NaNoWriMo novel.

Around 18% of NaNoWriMo participants “win” every year by writing 50,000 words and validating their novels on the organization’s website before midnight on Nov 30. Winners receive no prizes, and no one at NaNoWriMo ever reads the manuscripts submitted.

So if not for fame or fortune, why do people do it?

“The 50,000-word challenge has a wonderful way of opening up your imagination and unleashing creative potential like nothing else,” says NaNoWriMo Director (and nine-time NaNoWriMo winner) Chris Baty. “When you write for quantity instead of quality, you end up getting both. Also, it’s a great excuse for not doing any dishes for a month.”

At the website, participants can fill out their profile, check out their word count meter, and join groups based on geolocation. The Philippines is represented by 510 affiliates so far, “doing NaNoWriMo the Pinoy way.”

With writers from all over the world, shouldn’t the contest be called WoNoWriMo – World Novel Writing Month? GloNoWriMo – Global? PlaNoWriMo – Planetary?

While we work on finding a better name for the contest, go write down that recurring dream you have about orangutans beside your bed eating muffins and tomato salad. Anything goes here; claim the freedom to expound on whatever you want. Don’t worry too much about it. This is, after all, the activity that birthed the book No Plot? No Problem! by Chris Baty, which advocates “low-stress, high-velocity” writing techniques, and the ‘plot ninja’, “intentionally vague” ideas that jolt your story when it’s stuck in a rut or has painted itself into a corner.

You read the magic words – “novel”, “deadline”, “coffee”, “not doing dishes for a month”. Now go sign up, break out your dictionary, thesaurus, and ten-gallon percolator, and write!

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