One of the Best – and Worst – Ways to Get Your NaNoWriMo On


One of the best ways to motivate yourself before and during NaNoWriMo is to find a writing group or pal. That’s why today’s Challenge (as posted on Innovative Editing’s Facebook page) urges you to do exactly that:

Find a NaNoWriMo Group.

Since National Novel Writing Month starts (and ends) in November, it might seem a bit silly to be defining it, setting challenges for it and establishing rules about it in September. But here’s the thing about NaNoWriMo: It isn’t an endeavor to take lightly. Like a marathon, you have to train beforehand if you don’t want to humiliate yourself or get seriously hurt. (Hey, writer’s cramp happens.)

If you don’t prepare properly, you’re not going to cross that lauded literary finish line. So here’s what you need to know now...

If you’re a newbie to the whole NaNoWriMo thing, then you’re probably going to want some guidance along the way: an expert opinion on what to look for, where to go and when, and how to navigate the NaNoWriMo.org site, which – honestly – I’ve always found to be a low-budget mess.

The official National Novel Writing Month organization gets hundreds of thousands of dollars (if not a million) of donations every year, and it has I-don’t-care-to-look-up how many subscribers. Yet its public portal is a weird mix of simplistic and complicated, both of which I find annoying.

In its defense, the site does say it’s going to revamp things in October 2017, so we’ll see.

As it is though, I recommend using NaNoWriMo.org for two things: keeping track of your official word count, of course, and looking for writing groups.

For that latter purpose, don’t bother looking under the “Find a Region” subtab once you’ve set up your official account. You’re going to want to jump right over to “Come Write In” instead. It’s under the same “Regions” tab on the main menu there, just at the bottom.

And speaking of the bottom, scroll right to the end of that subsequent page to the “For Participants” subhead, then click on the “Find your local Come Write In” button.

That’ll bring you to something useful, like an easy-to-search-for list of locations that host NaNoWriMo-specific writing groups and gatherings.

When I start typing in “Pennsylvania,” for example, Aaron’s Books in Lititz comes right up. So does Ardmore Library in Ardmore, Avenue 209 Coffee House in Lock Haven, and Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh – West End – in Pittsburgh.

In all, there are three pages of Pennsylvania-specific places where writers can gather to write during the NaNoWriMo month of November. If you’re in PA, then call your nearest place up and ask them for additional information.

If you’re not in PA, then start searching for your state.

While you’re online, switch over to social media, specifically Facebook, where you can also look up state and local writing groups such as Maryland NaNo, which can be great sources of WriMo encouragement, venting and direction.

Sadly, I haven’t yet been able to find a Pennsylvania one to match, but I’ll let you know if I ever do.

On the plus side, regardless of where you are, social media can be a great source for NaNoWriMo fellowship in general – sans the searching. All you have to do is put up a post, send out a tweet or do whatever the heck you do with Instagram (I still haven’t figured it out yet) asking if anyone else is participating this year.

You might be surprised at who and what you find that way.

With all of these wonderful resources at your fingertips, just be aware that your fellow National Novel Writing Month writers could be a major distraction just as much as a major motivation. I’ve been part of too many groups by now where supposed writers just sit there chatting instead of getting words down on paper.

And since getting words down on paper (and then more words. And then more words) is the only way to win this unofficially official competition, make sure to establish some clear personal or group boundaries in the process of finding your new writing group friends.

You can get to know them better over a coffee or hot chocolate later – after NaNoWriMo is over.

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