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How And Why All Indie Authors Should Try NaNoWriMo

How and Why All Indie Authors Should Try NaNoWriMo

Debbie Young

Debbie Young throws down the NaNoWriMo gauntlet

It's that time of year when author forums everywhere, including ALLi's, are buzzing with excited chatter about NaNoWriMo. In this post, I'll explain the concept, outline the benefits, and point you in the direction of our extensive Author Advice Centre archive of previous posts about different aspects of this special annual writing event.


What is NaNoWriMo Anyway?

  • Short answer: National Novel Writing Month, designated as November
  • Long answer: a month-long campaign fuelled by this super website on which aspiring writers share their progress towards a 50K-in-a-month writing goal

NaNoWriMo is a not-for-profit organisation set up to help authors everywhere increase their productivity and say goodbye to writer's block for good. (Which, many argue, doesn't really exist anyway – but that's another story!)

Just sign up for a free account, add a few personal details, and start writing however you prefer. Each day you log into the account to add your word count for the day, and you're rewarded with a clear graph of your progress and handy motivational details such as badges for various achievements along the way and the opportunity to compare notes with “buddies” that you've chosen.

If you prefer, you can do the whole thing under a pseudonym and not get involved with the virtual socialising (there are some real-life meetup groups too). Just pick what makes you tick. Then, assuming you meet your target, you're awarded “Winner” status – and we all love to win something, don't we?

Why 50K Words? – That's Not A Novel!

  • 50K words = 1666.6′ words per day
  • typical word count of a serious novel =80K
  • 60K for something lighter like a cosy mystery

The idea with NaNo is that you just open your heart and churn out a first draft, non-stop, without looking back or editing. You're not meant to engage the critical part of your brain, just the creative side. It's understood that you'll go back to edit your draft after November ends. Most editing processes involve adding more words rather than taking them down.

On the other hand, if your post-November edit shrinks your ms, all is not lost – you may have just got yourself a novella there! Handy to use as a sample of your work to attract readers to your other books as part of your marketing process.

Just How Hard Is It?

50K in a month might sound daunting, but provided you set aside a reasonable chunk of time each day, you can do it without too much trauma.

Eat the elephant a bite at a time, as the old saying goes.

Personally, I like writing in whole chapters rather than clock-watching my word counter, and that works well for me as the chapters of my (not yet published) cosy mystery novels work out at around 2k each.

Why I'm Hooked

This will be the third November in a row that I've done NaNoWriMo, and so far I've produced the bones of two first drafts of two different novels. I've only just finished putting the meat on the bones of the last year's, after about a zillion edits, but I'm planning to publish the resulting novel, Best Murder in Show, first in a seven-book Sophie Sayers Village Mystery series, early 2017. This year's NaNo project will be its sequel: Trick or Murder. And the very first one I did provided what is now going be number 6 in the series, Murder Your Darlings. Three NaNos = three novels – and without it, I might still have none. I have to say, NaNoWriMo has me hooked.

Not convinced yet? Check out these great posts by ALLi authors sharing their experience of NaNoWriMo:


#Authors - what is @NaNoWriMo & why should you do it? Answers from writing addicts here! - by @DebbieYoungBN Click To Tweet


This Post Has 7 Comments
  1. I realize this is completely tangential (and late to the party to boot!) but it’s worth remembering that there are a lot of great short novels. I personally take inspiration from the fact that The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to The Galaxy is a measly 46,333 words long!

    (and if you’re wondering how I even know that, this site is useful for such trivia: http://www.arbookfind.com)

    My own feeling is that most projects have a natural length. A good writer will say what they have to say, and when they’ve said it, stop.

    Obviously a certain minimum word count is part of what defines the novel form. But ultimately, measuring books by the word seems to me on par with buying equations by the pound.

  2. I’ve been inspired by all I’ve read at Alli and elsewhere about NaNoWriMo. I enrolled on 31st October, and exceeded my target yesterday. I’m thrilled. As I’ve just published my first novel, ‘Death on Paradise Island: A Fiji Islands Mystery’, and am still eating/drinking leftovers from the launch a week ago, I had no time to think or plan at all. I called my NaNoWriMo book ‘Fiji Islands Mystery 2’, jotted ideas for 10 minutes, and started typing. Such a process is totally against my nature: for my first novel I spent four months writing Character Sheets, Scene Plans, drawing maps and sketches of the island, and so on. Was this simply procrastination? I don’t know. Perhaps I’ll find out after NaNoWriMo! I don’t know where the plot’s going, I’m just focussing on achieving the target. Let’s see how it works.

  3. It’s great to hear that you are writing cozy mysteries, Debbie. I can’t wait to read the first one!
    I’m doing NaNoWriMo too this year, having produced the first draft of a novel in November last year (The Good Officer, 4th book in my Nordic contemporary romances will be out 18th November.) I find NaNoWriMo a terrific motivator, and it boosts my productivity for months afterwards. I’d tried NaNo several times before I finally committed to it last year, and the results were so magnificent that I knew I had to do it again. Here is my blog about my NaNo experience and how it got me into a proper writing routine. http://www.helenahalme.com/?p=2394

    1. Thanks, Helena, I hope you’ll enjoy it when it’s ready – will keep you posted on progress! Really interesting to know you’re a NaNoist, because you strike me as very productive and focused with your books 🙂

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