Oakland, Calif. --- www.NaNoWriMo.org --- October, 2007 --- There are some who say writing a novel takes awesome talent, strong language skills, academic training, and years of dedication.
Not true. All it really takes is a deadline – a very, very tight deadline – and a whole lot of coffee.
Welcome to National Novel Writing Month: a nonprofit literary crusade that encourages aspiring novelists all over the world to write a 50,000-word novel in a month. At midnight on Nov. 1, more than 100,000 writers from over 70 countries – poised over laptops and pads of paper, fingers itching and minds racing with plots and characters – will begin a furious adventure in fiction. By 11:59 PM on Nov. 30, thousands of them will be novelists.
NaNoWriMo is the largest writing contest in the world. In 2006, over 79,000 people took part in the free challenge. And while the event stresses fun and creative exploration over publication, sixteen NaNoWriMo novelists have had their NaNo-novels published, including Sarah Gruen, author of New York Times #1 Best Seller, Water for Elephants.
Around 18% of NaNoWriMo participants "win" every year by writing 50,000 words and validating their novels on the organization's website before midnight on Nov 30. Winners receive no prizes, and no one at NaNoWriMo ever sees the manuscripts submitted.
"The 50,000-word challenge has a wonderful way of opening up your imagination and unleashing creative potential like nothing else," says NaNoWriMo Director (and eight-time NaNoWriMo winner) Chris Baty. "When you write for quantity instead of quality, you end up getting both. Also, it's a great excuse for not doing any dishes for a month."
For the past eight years, Baty has sent out weekly pep talks to participants in November. This year, he's passing the pep talking torch to established authors, including mystery writer Sue Grafton, master storyteller Tom Robbins, and renowned fantasy writer Neil Gaiman.
Last year, Christee Gabour Atwood attracted national attention as she completed 50,000-word challenge in the window of a Waldenbooks while wearing a chicken suit.
Why? “Because I knew that someday someone would beat the record of writing a book in a store window, but I doubted that anyone else would be silly enough to do it in a chicken suit. It’s my moment in history … as pitiful as that sounds.”
Atwood is keeping her 2007 “NaNo Identity” secret at this time and plans to reveal it in the window of Waldenbooks in Baton Rouge, Louisiana on November 1.
The daily word-count goal is 1,667 words. Municipal Liaisons around the world organize local meetings to provide writers with advice, inspiration, and support. This year Atwood serves as the ML for much of the state of Louisiana.