Thursday, November 29, 2012


Three members of my writers' group undertook the National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) challenge that takes place every November. All are unpublished novelists in widely differing categories: YA, mystery, and mainstream. All have day jobs. Only one actually signed on to the challenge at the website, but they all disciplined themselves to write a minimum of 1667 words per day.

NaNo has grown rapidly since it began and this year nearly three billion words have been written by those who signed up on the website. I suspect that many more writers participated but did not sign up. The site provides much support and encouragement for those that do; forums, ideas, suggestions, and solutions are available if a writer gets stuck. Participants can also join local NaNo communities. For example, Vancouver's NaNo has nearly 5000 writers this year and Toronto nearly 8500. I also know of unregistered, small NaNo communities that were established locally.

I asked our writers how they managed, what they learned, and what they were going to do with their output:
  • Two actually wrote a 40-50,000 word novel from scratch.
  • One decided to flesh out a previously written manuscript and ran into severe time restraints. She didn't complete the process. Also commented that starting a new ms would have been a better decision.
  • Two met their minimum words/day and often wrote more when they could.
  • The writer with a young family had the most difficulty in finding time to write. 
  • There was no similarity in the time of day chosen to write; two even did some at work!!
  • Two were delighted that they actually managed it; that a novel's first draft could be written in a month.
  • Both were pleased to have developed the habit of daily writing and swear they'll continue.
  • Our writers' group will continue to encourage them to maintain the habit.
  • Plans are afoot to revise the two complete mss and to pitch them to commercial publishers when ready.
  • All will be workshopping their chapters at the writers' group. 
I saw a huge increase in the participants' confidence in their ability to write daily and in the quality of their output. Now they are believers -- in themselves!


  • If you participated in NaNo, how did you get on? 
  • What did you learn?
  • What would you do differently?


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