Chris Baty and his friends wanted to write novels. In July 1999, they did something about it, creating the inaugural National Novel Writing Month. At first, it seemed like innocent fun — only 21 writers participated. But it was obvious to all involved that this event could garner broader appeal. In the second year, after being moved to November so as not to spend an entire month in the heart of the summer writing indoors, 140 people joined in the writing.
Today, National Novel Writing Month has become a worldwide event that has seen hundreds of thousands of writers participate. However, each year as aspiring authors decide to participate, they find themselves asking how to prepare for National Novel Writing Month.
Though it may seem like there is still plenty of time before needing to prioritize the event, if you plan on participating (or are even just considering it) now is the time to prepare for National Novel Writing Month.
Here are the basic rules of the competition:
- Writing starts at 12:00AM on November 1st and ends at 11:59PM on November 30th.
- No one is allowed to start early.
- Novels much reach a minimum of 50,000 words before the end of the month. These words can either be a complete novel or the first 50,000 words of a novel to be completed later.
- Planning and extensive notes are permitted, but no material written before the November 1st start date can go into the body of the prose.
- Participant novels can be any genre or language. According to the website’s FAQ, “If you believe you’re writing a novel, we believe you’re writing a novel too.”
Participation in the event is free, and anyone who reaches the 50,000-word mark by the end of November is declared a winner.
For some writers, 50,000 words may seem like an incredible milestone. For others, that may only get them halfway to a typical novel length. Regardless which type of author you are, it’s difficult to sit down at your computer for 30-straight days and crank out thousands of words without hitting slumps or hitches in the plot.
That’s why now — still less than a month to go — is the time to prepare for National Novel Writing Month. Take a couple weeks to prepare, make outlines, and wrap your head around your most interesting idea — one that you know can be developed into a full novel — and ready yourself mentally for a marathon of writing.
Writing a novel is a difficult process. It’s long and frustrating, and many times discouraging. But this event was created to encourage people to write — and it’s also meant to help writers support one another.
National Novel Writing Month isn’t just for amateur writer, either. New York Times Best Sellers have been written during the event, and some established authors — such as Rainbow Rowell — have participated even after having successfully published multiple books.
Whether you’ve participated in National Novel Writing Month before or not, I certainly hope you think about giving it a try this year — and I’ll see you in November, pen in hand.