(The Start of) Everything a Creative Writer Needs to Know About NaNoWriMo


Dear Creative Writer,

We interrupt your regularly programmed list of Definitions, Challenges and Rules to discuss NaNoWriMo. Here’s what it means:

The sizable term NaNoWriMo is short for the even more sizable title National Novel Writing Month. As in November. As in the writers’ month of insanity.

The goal is to write a “whole entire novel” starting on November 1 and ending at 11:59 p.m. on November 30. If you haven’t finished working on your official word count at 12:00 a.m., then you didn’t win.

As for Thanksgiving and all of that other holiday planning? Well, good luck with that!

That’s the short version, of course. Here’s the long version, which explains why I put “whole entire novel” in quotation marks. Twice now.

National Novel Writing Month is an unofficially official annual event among the global writing community that challenges creative writers everywhere to write 50,000 words in the space of one November.

Now, a real novel isn’t 50,000 words. That’s a pretty low word count for a traditional definition that calls for 70,000 to 120,000 words depending on the genre. But whatever. NaNoWriMo doesn’t sweat the details.

At least not in that case. Everything else is pretty rigid, including how:

  • National Novel Writing Month starts on November 1. Not a second earlier.

  • It ends on November 30. Not a second after.

  • Feel free to go over that 50,000 word count in your NaNoWriMo pursuits, though there’s no additional brownie points if you do. And there’s definitely no leeway for being under. You either hit that goal or you didn’t win it.

Why the powers that be chose November for such a hardcore pursuit, I’ll never know. Maybe it’s because creative writers are all sadists and masochists in disguise. I mean, just look at what we gleefully do to our characters!

We’re drunk on fictional power. So it shouldn’t be surprising at all when we get some non-fiction influence and display the same amount of willful cruelty.

The only worse month to have chosen for NaNoWriMo would have been December.

While I suppose that proves there’s a limit to how sadistic creative writers can get, that’s not saying much. I’m sure if there was a National Non-Fiction Writing Month, NaNoFiWriMo, it would be set in something much more reasonable, like February.

Now that’s a good-for-nothing month that needs a little sprucing up.

It’s freezing. It’s snowy. It’s dark… All qualities that make it pretty perfect to snuggle up with one’s laptop or notebook, and never-ending cups of hot chocolate in order to plug out 50,000 words.

Maybe I’m just bitter because I never got to have a pool party for my February birthday. But the more I think about NaNoFiWriMo, the more I want to try this out… Just as a creative writer.

Admittedly, February is also the shortest month of the year, so there’s that. But hey, the one time I did NaNoWriMo, I had it conquered by like November 22.

Let’s just not mention how I wasn’t running my own business back then, how I was working at a dead-end job that allowed me way too much free time, and how I’m a happily unmarried introvert with no kids to take care of.

Details, sweetie. Details.

Actually, speaking of details, make sure to stay tuned for this week’s Writing Rule on Friday. It’s going to be a very important cautionary note for anyone insane enough to take on the National Novel Writing Month challenge.

Creative writers, beware: NaNoWriMo can kill!

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