This entry is written by a California Writers Club student, who has attended our Young Writer Program Workshops through the local libraries. (She’s terrific!) Thank you Marisa for supporting this national event!
Have you ever wanted to write a novel, but found yourself stuck with writer’s block after the third page? Do you have a plot idea that you’d love to write, but don’t think you have enough time?
Then NaNoWriMo is for you!
Short for National Novel Writing Month, NaNoWriMo is a month-long challenge run from November 1st to November 30th. Thousands of people participate in this challenge every November, and thousands win.
So how can you win?
It’s easy and simple: Write a novel in a month. It can’t be anything you’ve already written for; it has to be a new story. You can plan and plot all you want, but no actual writing before November 1st!
… Well, maybe it isn’t that easy. But it also isn’t as hard as you might think.
I speak from experience: I participated in this last year when I was a freshman in high school and won, despite the fact that I’d never been able to finish a novel before. I actually thought I’d fall flat halfway through November, but somehow I kept writing and ended up with over a hundred pages.
For the young writers 17 and under out there, NaNoWriMo has a special site called the NaNoWriMo Young Writers Program (http://ywp.nanowrimo.org/). You set your own word count goal to reach, and update that count throughout November. It’s a great site and has tons of resources, like a workbook that helps tremendously with developing your plot, writing furiously in November, and figuring out what to do with your novel after the month. It also has pep talks to keep you going during the month, safe and moderated forums, and a seriously awesome Dare Machine that generates dares for you if you’re stuck (for example: “We dare you to have someone in your novel kidnapped at the end of the next page.”)
The greatest thing about this challenge is that everybody wins. Even if you only manage to write 2,000 words, you still win. Why? Because most likely, those 2,000 words are 2,000 words more than you would have written in a month. You have a novel (or the beginnings of one) that you wrote with your blood, sweat, and cramped fingers. That is the greatest prize you win out of this challenge. (Of course, there are tons of other great goodies you win through the website upon reaching the goal you set!)
You might be wondering why one would want to spend a whole month staying up late, typing feverishly away at a keyboard, writing as fast and as superfluously as possible. Didn’t all of our teachers tell us that writing fast is writing sloppily? Wouldn’t that encourage people to write messily?
The NaNoWriMo website says, “By forcing yourself to write so intensely, you are giving yourself permission to make mistakes. To forgo the endless tweaking and editing and just create. To build without tearing down.” It’s true; so often writers become so bogged down with the endless rants and critiques of the Inner Editor. Sometimes it’s hard to even write one page without stopping to scroll back up to make sure every single sentence is perfect. I know I’ve done that. But NaNoWriMo gives you a chance to silence that inner editor and let your ideas run free.
You will be writing an extremely sloppy first draft, but that’s all it is: a first draft. Like any type of writing, one has to write a first draft before a second and third, and each time it becomes more polished. Of course, none of that will happen if you don’t write the first draft.
Last year, I gained so much. I wrote a novel, something I did not think was possible, and I learned how to silence my inner editor and get my ideas down on paper. Though I only just became acquainted with this challenge last year, I’ve fallen in love with it. I had a fantastic, amazing experience, and will never look at novel writing or November in the same way again.
So from a participant to a potential participant, I’d like to invite you to join me in this challenge.
HOW TO JOIN THE NANOWRIMO CHALLENGE:
Though you’re certainly allowed to compete independently of the site, I’d recommend creating an account (one for each participant) because you’ll be able to pose in the forums (it’s insanely useful sometimes; only if your parents allow you to) and receive the prizes you’ll win if… or when… you win.
- If you’re 17 or under, go to the YWP site here: http://ywp.nanowrimo.org … Or if you’re 18 or above, go to the NaNoWriMo site here: http://www.nanowrimo.org
- Click on “Sign up!” in the upper right-hand corner. Fill out the information—remember, no using your real name in your username!
- For the official NaNoWriMo site only (and those 18 or older): Check your email and activate your account using the email they send you.
- You’re set! Now feel free to fill out your author’s info, novel’s info, etcetera with as much or as little information as you like!
- For the YWP site only (and those 17 or younger): Set your word goal by going to My NaNoWriMo à Edit Novel Info (in the left column) and in the box at the top labeled “Word Count goal,” type in your word count goal. Remember, don’t set it so low that you can reach it easily, but don’t set it so high that you won’t be able to reach it. A guideline: 1000 words is roughly about 3 ½ pages (double-spaced).
- When the challenge starts on November 1st, you’ll be able to enter your word count in the upper right-hand corner after you log in, and watch as a graph on your profile records your total word count each day!
The Young Writers Program site is very safe. The forums on the site are monitored and can only be accessed by registered users. There are also individual sections for Elementary, Middle, and High School students.
I advise parents to explore the site themselves (http://ywp.nanowrimo.org). You also may want to read the About page (http://ywp.nanowrimo.org/whatis) and the FAQ (http://ywp.nanowrimo.org/views/faq) before allowing your child to sign up.
I’d also like to form an informal group of participants independent of NaNoWriMo and YWP to inspire, help, and encourage each other. This would be a kid-friendly group (though parents are welcome to join).
WHO: Teens and kids who would like to join a friendly, kid-safe NaNo club. (Parents, too, if they’d like to do it as well!)
WHAT: A kid-friendly, safe club to discuss ideas and plots and encourage one another.
WHEN: I’d like to have one pre-NaNo kickoff meeting in October, two NaNo meetings during November, and one post-NaNo party in December. Times: Saturday afternoons (or a mutually convenient time for the majority), with each meeting about an hour. However, the meetings are not mandatory; if you cannot make a meeting, or any of the meetings, that’s fine. I’ll be creating a Google Group so that all of us can stay in touch and encourage each other.
WHERE: Most likely a library, depending on where people live.
WHY: I’d like to really do two things: (1) to encourage kids to participate in NaNoWriMo, silence their inner editor, and attempt to write a novel in November; (2) to provide a kid-friendly club of other NaNo-ers around their age, a safe place to share ideas, receive critiques, and share novel ideas.
Please don’t hesitate to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any questions!
Whew. If you read this all the way to the end, I applaud you. And now, I bid you adieu—in hopes of seeing you very soon for the NaNoWriMo challenge.