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NaNoWriMo 2020

After six months of our daily routines being thrown into bedlam due to the pandemic, some of us may be looking for new diversions to while away the hours. Now may be the ideal time to start writing that novel you’ve been thinking about for years. November is the 21st annual National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo, when hundreds of thousands of writers around the world begin crafting their magnum opus. Although November is over two months away, now is the time to develop your idea and start planning to write.

Writer Chris Baty started NaNoWriMo in 1999 as a challenge to write a 50,000 word novel in one month. The first participants established a rule that authors adhere to today: no editing is allowed during the month of November, only writing. Altogether twenty-one writers in the San Francisco Bay area took part that first year, and the event has grown exponentially since. Today, NaNoWriMo is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization offering many resources for the hundreds of thousands of writers, or Wrimos, who take part in the event.

NaNoWriMo encourages authors to begin their preparations in mid-September by spending a week developing a story idea. Authors should then create believable and complex characters, draft a detailed plot, and build a world in which the story will take place. These activities should be done by mid-October, when authors need to start planning time to write daily.

Planning your life around this lofty (but attainable) goal can take some effort and creativity, as authors need to write 1,667 words every day for the entire month of November1Editor’s Note: To put this in context, this post– excluding this footnote–is 450 words.. Happily, NaNoWriMo has many resources available to help writers plan their novel and develop good writing habits. A good place to start is by downloading NaNo Prep 101, an extensive guide to assist with novel planning.

Writing a novel may like an impossible task at the outset. The blank page can be threatening and anxiety-inducing. But as Eleanor Roosevelt advised us many years ago: “You must do the thing you think you cannot do,” because by doing so “You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face.” When you sit down to write each day, the act of writing will get easier, creative effort will beget further creativity, and you will develop discipline that will carry over to other areas of life.

Participation in NaNoWriMo is free of charge, you won’t need to wear a mask (unless you choose to write in a public space, of course), and social distancing is a natural by-product of writing. It seems like the perfect activity to help pass the time as we all wait for life to return to normal.


1 Editor’s Note: To put this in context, this post– excluding this footnote–is 450 words.

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