Wednesday, October 28, 2009

NaNo Writers

My good friend, Brenda Bensch, agreed to be a guest blogger today. For those of you who are budding novelists, she has a very important message.

Take it away, Brenda...

NOVEMBER: NAtional NOvel WRIting MOnth is Almost Here!

Are you NaNo Writer? Would you like to be? What’s a NaNo you ask? As a six-year veteran of the insanity, let me tell you: it’s a month when you challenge yourself to do the impossible: write an entire novel in 30 days. A month when you get weekly encouragement (and entertainment) from famous writers, family and friends. Well, all right, the family and friends may ridicule and laugh, but you will get wonderfully encouraging words from famous writers. In the last couple of years, emails have been sent to NaNo writers from such people as Piers Anthony (Xanth series), Meg Cabot (The Princess Diaries), Janet Fitch (While Oleander), Sue Grafton (A is for Alibi, etc.), Sara Gruen (Water for Elephants—which she wrote on NaNo!) and Katherine Paterson (Bridge to Terabithia).

How did all this madness begin? In 1999, in the San Francisco Bay area, a free-lance writer named Chris Baty got a “batty” idea: he wondered if he could write an entire novel in a month. Having decided to give it a try, he talked twenty crazy friends into writing with him. They decided they would settle on 50,000 words as their goal. (At around 250 words per double-spaced page, that’s only 200 pages, a little over 6½ pages a day—and that’s do-able!)

While only six of them “finished,” they all learned something valuable: some found they never wanted to write a novel again. Others immediately wanted to sign up for an MFA program in creative writing. In his hilarious how-to book No Plot? No Problem! Baty claims his great revelation was this: “The biggest thing separating people from their artistic ambitions is not a lack of talent. It’s the lack of a deadline.”

Most of the original 21 dropped out, but others took their places the next year with 140 participants and 29 “winners”—those who crossed the 50,000 word mark. Last year almost 120,000 participants from over 90 countries celebrated the anniversary by producing nearly 22,000 winners with a reported output of 1,643,343,993. I say “reported” output, because the first three years when I didn’t “win,” I didn’t report my word count at the end either—and I can’t be the only one who wimped out. The truth is I had great fun, pushed myself during a very busy month and came up with three great ideas which are now being developed into full-length novels. This year, with any luck, will be my third “win.”

Give yourself a deadline! This free event all happens on line. Sign up at —or at least look at their website and have a few laughs. Be brave and begin on Nov. 1 (at midnight, if you’d like). Sign up to be in the Utah::Salt Lake or Utah:: Elsewhere area. Go to their opening party, or their weekly write-ins. Or not. Meet other crazies, like yourself, who are attempting a monumental task. Write. And write some more. The beauty of it is, no one cares about the spelling, the grammar, the syntax, the beauty of the language. All anyone cares about is the number of words you produce. Then, sometime in the last few days before midnight on Nov. 30, send in your manuscript (encrypted, if you like), and let their phantasmagoric computer compute your words. You’ll receive a winner’s certificate (online) if you achieve the goal. And if you don’t make the goal? What if you only write 200 words a day for 30 days? Then you’ll have 6,000 words on paper you didn’t have before. That’s being a WINNER in my book!


  1. Thank you for all that fascinating background! I am in total agreement on the finishing aspect he talks about. that was my problem for years. Well, decades, actually. Now I have to write like crazy to make up for lost time.

  2. I understand completely...the writing to make up for lost time. There's just not enough hours in the day. Thanks for stopping by.

  3. Okay, I've been convinced to give it a try. It's back to getting up at 4:00 a.m. to write so that I can accomplish this, but I have to get back to writing. Thanks for the kick in the butt on this!

  4. Valor, Good. I'm glad you've been convinced to write. But 4:00 a.m.? That pesky need to sleep thing...gets me every time. Is there anyway we could write in our sleep?



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