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NaNoWriMo LibGuide: NaNoWriMo Guide

Director of the Writing Center and Service Desk

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Kristine Frye
Subjects: Circulation

What is NaNoWriMo?

Direct from

"National Novel Writing Month began in 1999 as a daunting but straightforward challenge: to write 50,000 words of a novel in thirty days. Now, each year on November 1, hundreds of thousands of people around the world begin to write, determined to end the month with a first draft. They enter the month as elementary school teachers, mechanics, or stay-at-home parents. They leave novelists.

NaNoWriMo is internet-famous. We’re community-powered (hello, Wrimos!). We’ve hosted authors drafting novels like Erin Morgenstern’s The Night Circus, Elizabeth Acevedo’s With the Fire on High, Rainbow Rowell’s Fangirl, Marissa Meyer’s Cinder, and more. Our website tracks words for writers like Fitbit tracks steps, and our volunteers host real-world writing events in cities from Seoul to Milwaukee like, well… like nothing else. Valuing enthusiasm, determination, and a deadline, NaNoWriMo is for anyone who has ever thought about writing a novel.

NaNoWriMo officially became a nonprofit organization in 2006, and our programs now include community writing challenges like National Novel Writing Month in November and Camp NaNoWriMo in April and July; resource-driven initiatives like NaNo Prep in September and October and the “Now What?” Months in January and February; the Young Writers Program for kids, teens, teachers, and families; plus local initiatives like the Come Write In program for libraries, bookstores, and community spaces, and the Municipal Liaison program for local volunteers.

NaNoWriMo believes stories matter, and we’re here to help you write yours."

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That's great, but why does that matter to me?

Have you ever dreamed of writing a novel? Whether it is your first novel or the final book in a series, NaNoWriMo is the event for you!

50,000 words in a single month may seem impossible, but that couldn't be further from the truth!                           

In 2022:

  • 413,295 writers participated in NaNo programs, including 85,000 students and educators in the Young Writers Program.
  • 791 volunteer Municipal Liaisons guided 671 regions on six continents.
  • 1,038 libraries, bookstores, and community centers supported novelists through the Come Write In program.
  • 378,264 writing goals were set and tracked using our site tools, including 83,000 on the Young Writers Program website.
  • 51,670 writers met goals to become NaNoWriMo winners, including 21,326 young writers.

Hundreds of NaNoWriMo novels have been traditionally published. They include Sara Gruen’s Water for Elephants, Erin Morgenstern’s The Night Circus, Hugh Howey’s Wool, Rainbow Rowell’s Fangirl, Jason Hough’s The Darwin Elevator, and Marissa Meyer’s Cinder.

Each year, authors offer mentorship to our participants through pep talks. Past author mentors have included Gene Luen Yang, Roxane Gay, John Green, Andy Weir, N. K. Jemisin, and Veronica Roth.

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From  the website

What should I use for NaNoWrimo?

Feel free to use any resource that will help you reach your goal. Maybe it's easiest for you to use a text tool on your phone, or a word processing software on your laptop. You may prefer traditional paper and pencils as a chance to be "offline" for a while. Perhaps you enjoy using software like Scrivener; that's ok too!

Just remember the following, which comes from NaNoWriMo's homepage: "Writing a novel alone can be difficult, even for seasoned writers. NaNoWriMo helps you track your progress, set milestones, connect with other writers in a vast community, and participate in events that are designed to make sure you finish your novel. Oh, and best of all, it’s free!"

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But I don't know what to write!

50,000 in November equates to 1,667 words each day of the month. But how do you come up with an idea for what to write? Or how do you find the time to get those words written?

NaNo Prep 101 can help with that. It's a self-paced workshop you can use to prepare for your NaNo writing. You can pick and choose what topics you need help with (like Sparking an Idea if you're struggling with what to write about)

Various topics are covered, such as:

Developing a Story Idea, Creating Complex Characters, Constructing a Detailed Plot or Outline, Building a Strong World, Organizing Your Life for Writing, and Finding and Managing Your Time.

A PDF of the Prep 101 workbook can be found here

I'm convinced, but how do I get started?

The first step to "Winning" NaNoWriMo - that is, finishing your novel- is to sign up for an account. After confirming your account, the next steps will be to set up your profile, select your region, add some writing buddies, and finally, announce your upcoming novel.

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But what if I'm writing alone?

You're never alone with NaNoWriMo!  

By utilizing available resources in your region, it is possible to meet up with other WriMos (NaNoWriMo participants) in your area. One of the coolest things about NaNo is how it builds creative communities all over the globe.

First, you'll want to join your local region on the NaNoWriMo site. There are several Indiana and Fort Wayne groups, and you're welcome to join as many as you like--though only one can be marked as your "home" region. Once you join a region and visit their page, you may find several ways to connect with folks: on the discussion boards, through Slack groups, and on Discord servers. You'll also see events calendars posted with times, dates, and locations for write-ins.

You can also join a Writing Group--or create your own! Writing Groups can operate year-round, not just during November, and there's no limit to how many you can join. NaNo also has Affinity Groups for writers of marginalized identities to connect, share, and exchange resources.

Well, I wrote my Novel. What now?

If you managed to write at least 50,000 words in the month of November, congratulations! You have won NaNoWriMo! This is a great accomplishment, and you deserve a break!   

Once you are ready to continue, the next step forward will be to start the editing and publishing processes. NaNoWriMo offers many partnerships with editing software and publishing companies. These offers can be found under "Writer's Resources" in your NaNoWriMo profile.