robottype1No, its not the name of a character from yet another insipid children’s TV show. It stands for National Novel-Writing Month. Although it’s international, rather than national, and the target output is barely a novel, but look – I’ve only just started this post and you’ve got me criticising, already. Yes, it’s your fault.

NaNoWriMo is an annual activity, wherein deluded fools prospective writers the world over, attempt to write a novel in a single month. According to the rules, you can research and plot your novel beforehand, but you cant write a single word of it until November 1st, and you must finish it (with a minimum of 50,000 words) by November 30th.

That’s 1,667 words per day, fact-fans.

Last year, over 120,000 people entered, and more than 20,000 of these crossed the finish line. That’s 20,000 people who might not have otherwise written a novel. In one month. Pretty good going!

So what does this tell us? First of all, it tells us that it is possible to write a novel in a month (in fact, after day 2, someone I know that’s entering is already up to 20,000 words, which is a bit frightening, to tell the truth); more importantly, it tells us that it only takes a bit of motivation (in this case, the NaNoWriMo goal itself) to keep up a steady wordcount every day.

So, what do the “winners” get for successfully completing NaNoWriMo? They get the satisfaction of having completed it – oh, and an original novel sitting in their “My Documents” folder on their desktop. A pretty fantastic prize by any stretch of the imagination!

NaNoWriMo is a great idea – it shows wannabe writers that it is possible to write that novel, that it is possible to find time every day to write, that they can be writers if they want to be (note: I never said good writers – that comes with craft and art, not just tenacity).

But NaNoWriMo is just the start – you can’t be a writer one month a year, but you can use the month to give yourself that kick up the backside you always promised yourself, and to start writing that novel!

And if you don’t manage to finish? If you only manage 500 words a day instead of 1,667? Doesn’t matter. If you manage 500 words a day every day (to put that into perspective, 500 words is less than you will have read in this blog post), then after 3 months you’ve written over 45,000 words. After six months you’ve finished a 90,000 word epic, and by this time next year you’ve not only finished your 90,000 word genre-shattering opus, you’ve also written the sequel. That’s 2 novels in a year, for just 500 words a day!

Of course there are the revisions, the copy edits, the proofreading, etc, but just think – if you’d started this time last year, you’d already be shopping your first novel/s around literary agencies.

And NaNoWriMo? A fantastic way to kickstart your motivation, and it’s not too late to begin. Head on over to the official website and get motivated!


  1. Excellent stuff. As a species we tend to be oblivious to the long arc in doing something and it is good to be reminded of it. 500 words a day. Sounds almost human! NaNoWriMo? Kudos to those who do it, but clearly an act of lucid madness!

  2. Neil Gaiman wrote a wonderful pep talk for NanoWriMo participants (and writers in general) here:

  3. WIP writers are also welcome: I signed up for #nanorebel because it wasn’t a good time for me to start a new project. But we rebels are still ‘official'(whatever that means)nanowriters.

  4. It’s not just for the wannabes either. Quite a few of we published ones (I’m writing novel no. 17) really enjoy (& in my case, need) that impetus of having signed up to NaNoWriMo and use it as a good and companionable kick-start to get that next work rocking on.

    Judy Astley

  5. I was tempted but am finishing my wip and need to focus. I admire those that manage to take up the challenge and complete it.

Leave a Comment