She Writes Guide to: NaNoWriMo
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What is it?

A community challenge in which writers all over the country (and the world!) commit to writing a 50,000 word draft of a novel in one month, from November 1st to November 30th. National Novel Writing Month is a nonprofit organization and their mission statement says it all: National Novel Writing Month believes in the transformational power of creativity. We provide the structure, community, and encouragement to help people find their voices, achieve creative goals, and build new worlds—on and off the page.

What to do to prepare:

Choose your project! She Writer PM Kester shared her process for figuring out what to write about. Key tip: make sure it’s something that will keep you going with energy and motivation for thirty days.

Do the research—and possibly and outline—before the month starts. That way you can hit the ground running.

Read up on some of the best writing advice out there to get you inspired. She Writes Press publisher Brooke Warner’s post “The Best Writing Advice Changes Everything” is a great place to start! She Writer Edith O’Nuallain provided a roundup of NaNoWriMo tips from around the web here, and SheWriMo columnist Andrea King Collier shared her tips here.

Find a way to make it work for you. You don’t have to participate in the challenge exactly to the letter (ha!)—you can write memoir instead of fiction, you can tap into the energy of the group to tackle a long-delayed revision, you can simply commit to writing “fresh words” every day. (See She Writers’ Jude Walsh Whelley’s “Notes from a 2016 NaNoWriMo Rebel” and Patricia Robertson’s “Ready, Set, Stop! NaNoWriMo Is What You Make It!”)

Read Tayari Jones’ post “NaNoWriMo? It’s Not For Everyone.” You may decide it’s not for you.

Setting goals:

To write 50,000 words in a month, you’ll need to write 1,600 words a day. Some participants set different goals for weekdays and weekend days, depending on their schedules and when they have the most writing time.

Remember, NaNo is about pushing yourself to write, not to write perfectly. In her post “It’s NaNoWriMo! Don’t Worry About Being Perfect,” She Writes columnist Maria Murnane shared a universal writing rule she applies to NaNoWriMo, “If you try to make every sentence sound perfect NOW, you'll never get anywhere.”

Keep things in perspective. As She Writer Patricia Robertson observed after NaNoWriMo in 2015, when she didn’t quite meet her goal, “NaNo isn’t meant to encourage writing for one month, then go back to not writing at all. It’s meant to jumpstart your writing if you are blocked and to encourage writing throughout the year.” That is a great outcome!

Ways to connect with others doing the challenge:

Start a NaNoWriMo 2017 group right here on She Writes! Past year’s groups have provided support and tips. Be the first to start one this year by clicking here, and let She Writes Chief Content Officer Kristin Bustamante know so she can help you spread the word!

Join a region on the NaNoWriMo site. If you do, you can connect to fellow participants close to you. NaNoWriMo also sponsors in-person and virtual events.

Blog about your NaNoWriMo experience for She Writes! Lots of She Writers have done this in the past, including Patricia Robertson, Zetta Brown, and Pam McGaffin. If you’d like to engage the She Writes community this way, start posting, and let Kristin Bustamante know.

What to do after NaNoWriMo:

Take some time to process the experience. Writing 1,600 words every day for a month is an intense, immersive experience, and it’s important to sit back, relax, and think about it afterward, to reap all the valuable writing lessons you may have learned. SheWriMo columnist Andrea King Collier wrote “8 Great Lessons From the Race Against the World” after her experience; another She Writer shared “’Failing’ At NaNoWriMo Was The Best Thing That Ever Happened To My Writing.”

Keep writing! NaNoWriMo is a way to jumpstart your writing, get a huge number of words on the page, and set you up for success as you revise. But if you stop on November 30th, you may not capitalize fully on the momentum you’ve built.

Stay in touch. If you have connected with fellow She Writers during the challenge, by starting a group, friending them, or by blogging, keep those connections going by asking someone to be your virtual writing buddy, or start a virtual writing group.

NaNoWriMo offers challenges year-round. Check out NaNoWriMo’s “Now What?” events and content to find out how you can continue to benefit from this fabulous nonprofit for writers.

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