In today’s episode, I explain my favourite season of the year: NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month).
NaNoWriMo exists in two versions:
- the big event in November, in which the goal is to write 50,000 words in 30 days.
- the two smaller camps in April and July, for which you can set your own goal and edit or outline a novel instead of writing a novel.
All three are annual events, and they are free to join for writers of all backgrounds and experience levels.
Listen to the Episode
Read the Transcript
Sarina Langer 0:06
Hello, and welcome to the Writing Sparrow podcast. I’m Sarina Langer, and this podcast is all about writing, publishing and marketing your book. You can find transcripts on my website at sarinalanger.com. Let’s get started!
Hi friends and Sparrows and welcome back. It’s the 12th of October 2020. This is Episode Six, and today I’m talking about my favourite subject NaNoWriMo. If you’ve been anywhere on social media this month, you’ll have seen other writers mention NaNoWriMo quite a lot, but you may not actually know what it is. So today, I wanted to explain to you what it is and hopefully also get you excited to take part yourself if you haven’t done it before.
NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel Writing Month, and it happens every November. The goal is to write 50,000 words between the first and last day of November. If that sounds like a lot, you’re right, it’s a monster event and I love it so much. There’s always this excitement I get around early October when I realise that next month is NaNoWriMo, and then from there on, I’m just motivated until I eventually get really tired halfway through November, because it’s also really difficult. But I don’t want to put you off already.
So, you can prepare for it if you like. I normally do but then I’m a plotter anyway. But there have also been times when I didn’t prepare for it, and I was kind of surprised by how well it worked anyway. I think the only thing to remember is that you don’t overprepare for it because otherwise, you’ll end up with so many notes come November and so many pages upon pages of information that you’ll end up overwhelming yourself. And I promise you, there’ll be plenty of that during November itself.
You may also have heard of the smaller events that happen twice a year, Camp NaNo. They happen every April and every July, and they’re a lot more relaxed, so you don’t even need to write for them. Just editing or outlining is a perfectly good goal for camp. And your word count goal doesn’t have to be as chunky as 50,000 words, it can be whatever you want it to be. So if you just want to write, say, a 5000 word short story, for example, then that’s fine. If you want to edit 20,000 words of something, then that’s also perfectly good. Whatever you want to work on in the camps is great.
A lot of writers actually use the smaller camps to edit the book they’ve started or finished or continued in November. But you can also start something completely new if you want. The only important thing to remember is that for the big event in November, the idea is to only count the words towards that goal that you’re writing in November. So, say if you’ve already written 10,000 words in October, then they do not count towards your NaNo goal.
Joining NaNo is completely free, but if you fancy it, you can donate to support the good people who keep it running every year, because they do a really smashing job of that. And I… there’s also lots of other events that they put on around the country – maybe not this year so much given COVID – but normally, there’s lots of other events that they run throughout the world, I think. So all the more reason to donate if you want to. But again, you don’t have to, just joining and taking part itself is completely free. So don’t worry about that.
You can do either event, the big one in November or the smaller camps, on your own. But I actually recommend that you join a cabin so you’ll have people to cheer you on throughout the month. A cabin is basically like a private-ish chat room. On the NaNoWriMo website, well, you can join, I think the number is limited to about 20 people, so it’ll never be too packed and never feel overcrowded. And to be honest, most people who join it, or a lot of them anyway, they end up just being silent throughout the month. I think they’re then mostly just there to read all the encouragement from the other writers, but they don’t necessarily take part in any of those chats themselves. So the number is quite small to start with and then it’ll never feel that busy anyway.
I don’t think joining those, well actually it definitely wasn’t possible to join those cabins for the big event in November, they were a camp only thing, but it seems like they’ve changed that for this year. My cabin is still active and people can talk in it, and I’m very excited about that because the cabins are a really good way to talk to other writers and generally keep your excitement going for the month and get that support and encouragement. So they are a really cool thing to join and I recommend that you do if you fancy maybe the more social part of such a pig monster event.
You will have to declare your project on the website to take part officially and you can also collect badges that way. So I think you got, say, one if you’ve written 1666 for the first time and then you get another badge if you’ve written for seven days in a row, things like that. And that’s always quite fun. I like collecting badges. All of those things will also help keep you accountable and get your excitement going as NaNo gets a little harder every week.
I’m not selling it, am I?
But the most important part of NaNo is that you do not have to make it to 50,000 words, okay? You don’t need to write that many. Because let’s be honest, that’s a monster goal for just one month. So don’t worry if you don’t. Just have fun, enjoy the excitement, get swept up in it as I normally do. And if you, if you make it, then yes, that’s a fantastic feeling obviously, 50,000 words in one month is a huge achievement, but NaNo’s really, really hard. It’s really easy to burn yourself out on it, trust me on that, I’ve done it once or twice, and especially if you’re also working at the same time, maybe even full time, and you’re trying to keep a family alive. That’s a lot of pressure to put on yourself.
So just remember that all progress is good progress. And it’s totally fine to just join for the hell of it, especially if it’s your first time doing it. Enjoy it, do your best to reach 50,000 words, and if you make it, great, if you don’t, who cares? Look at all those words you’ve written during November and just… or maybe if you hadn’t joined NaNo, maybe you wouldn’t have written all those words. So that’s a great achievement already. Well done. Just join and enjoy the NaNo madness cause there’s a lot of that.
I’ll leave it here because I want to keep the episode short as promised. But in two weeks, I’ll do another NaNo specific episode on how to prepare for it without overpreparing for it.
The action step this week is to join the fun, join the madness, sign up for NaNoWriMo and declare your project. Make sure you stock up on tea or coffee or whatever your brew and make sure you have a few snacks ready as well, because you’ll want them and you’ll deserve them. You can sign up at nanowrimo.org but don’t worry, the link is also in the shownotes, so you can just click that. If you would like to join my cabin, get in touch. There’s limited availability, but I’ll fit you in if I can. The more the merrier or you know up to 20 people because that’s the limit. The easiest way to do that is probably via social media. The links for that will just follow in a second. See you there!
If you enjoyed today’s episode, maybe learn something along the way, hit the subscribe button. You can also connect with me on Twitter @sarina_langer, on Instagram and Facebook @sarinalangerwriter, and of course on my website at sarinalanger.com. Until next time! Bye!
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