It’s October… NaNoWriMo’s Coming! Are you ready?

It’s nearly the middle of October, which means one thing for thousands of people around the internet: almost time for Nanowrimo!

Nanowrimo stands for the National Novel Writing Month, and it is a free, non-competitive opportunity for writers all over the globe to go from zero words to 50,000 over the course of the month of November.

In short, it is the opportunity to write the first draft of a novel.

Started in 1999 in the San Fransisco bay area with a modest number of writers (21), Nanowrimo has grown to over 400,000 in 2013.  It is a serious occasion in the writing world, because it gives everyone – from first time wannabe writers to established and published writers – that most-needed phenomenon: a deadline.

But you don’t have anyone looking over your shoulder, no editors breathing down your neck, no teachers looking to see if you would meet your goal.  It’s just the writer and the computer and the imagination going wild.

And it’s a fantastic thing to do.

I first found out about Nanowrimo because of its now-defunct sister program, the Script Frenzy, where screenwriters worked on first drafts of film scripts over the month of April.  Unfortunately, that program was retired, but participating in the Frenzy led me to Nanowrimo.

Thimblerig's Ark Cover Art copyI’ve enjoyed Nanowrimo in two ways.  First, I was able to finally complete my novel, Thimblerig’s Ark, because a draft was written and edited during subsequent Nanowrimos.  Second, as an upper elementary teacher specializing in reading and writing, I’ve taken two classes of fifth graders through Nanowrimo through the Young Writers Program, and I’m currently preparing a class of 6th graders to go through the month of insane writing.  I’ve done this in international schools in Kazakhstan and China, and it’s been a huge success as I’ve watched ten and eleven year old children blossom as writers.

This is the wonderful thing about Nanowrimo – it gives us an excuse to do the thing that we could be doing at any time, but which we have a hard time actually sitting down and doing – writing without abandon.  In November, anyone (with understanding family members) can excuse themselves from the bulk of other responsibilities for thirty days while they get their story out of their head and onto the page.

And writing the first draft is the biggest challenge, isn’t it?

So if you are one of those people sitting around thinking that you would like to write The Next Great Novel, but you don’t have the time, consider taking part in Nanowrimo.  It won’t cost you a penny, but it might just be the thing that helps you to achieve that particular dream.

And you still have half a month to get yourself ready.  What are you waiting for?

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