If you haven’t heard of National Novel Writing Month (aka NaNoWriMo), let me explain. Every year in November, thousands of participants (310,095 in 2013) write 50,000 words by 11:59 on November 30. They start the month as high school English teachers, mechanics, college students or any other profession and end the month as novelists.
This is thanks to NaNoWriMo. Also a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, NaNoWriMo works through programs designed to foster self-expression while building community on local and global levels.
So, the real question is: How does NaNoWriMo inspire users to participate? And then, after the hell of writing 50,000 words in November, how do they get them to participate again next year?
The website is not just a place where participants go at the end of the day to enter their word counts. Writers find incentives, pep talks from well-known authors, forums and friends. NaNoWriMo offers help, something that is much needed when writing a novel in 30 days.
When I joined in 2008, I got stuck numerous times. I almost gave up four or five times. But then I’d get a pep talk in my inbox from an author I loved, and I’d get my fingers typing again. I watched my word count rise, and by the end of the month I had a solid start to a novel. (Granted, I was 18, so the novel is actually a big piece of crap. But it was such a good challenge and so instrumental to becoming the writer I am today.)
Let’s talk about some of the content that inspires writers to keep on writing.
Weekly to-do lists keep participants on track and focused and remind them to take it all one step at a time. There are things coming that they can look forward to, so they better keep going.
Pep talks from well-known authors get participants excited. If Neil Gaiman, Veronica Roth or James Patterson can’t get you excited or give you a kick in the rear, then you need examine your priorities.
And, finally, forums. Talk to other participants about your plot, worldbuilding, characters. Join discussions about the genre in which you’re writing and your favorite authors. Do some word sprints or word wars with other users.
We’ve discussed the value of user-generated content before, but we should revisit that in terms of NaNoWriMo forums. They’re a huge draw. You’re all in this together. While your local friends are (likely sane and) not writing a novel in 30 days, you can connect with people toiling through the same challenge. There are people I know on Twitter and via the NaNo site that I met in the forums.
So, what can we take away from the awesome content that NaNoWriMo offers? First, good content makes a huge difference in inspiring folks to take action, and user-generated content is important for allowing communities to connect, grow deep bonds and rally around an idea.
Have you participated in NaNoWriMo before? Let me know in the comments!
If you enjoyed this post by Vanessa, read more of her work.
Vanessa Levin-Pompetzki – Digital Media Coordinator