New York / Nov. 5, 2012 / by Amy

With the start of November comes NaNoWriMo which, for those of you who have no idea what that is, is National Novel Writing Month. The idea is that each participant writes a whole novel – at least 50,000 words – in 30 days. 

For some, this sounds like a nightmare. For others, it’s the kick in the pants needed to get their creative juices flowing. But for me, it is something that I always wish I had the courage to do.

It is said that everyone has one novel in them. I’m not sure whether I agree with that or not, but while not everything everyone writes in their life is at the level of that chosen by high quality publishing houses, it really is quite something to be able to say you’ve written a decent, enjoyable, and entertaining novel. All in 30 days, no less. 

The process for NaNoWriMo is very simple. You can sign up on the website (, create your own word count banner, and seek support from the many other fellow writers. Of course, you don’t have to do this at all – it’s just all there if you want it. 

Once the month is up, by 11:59pm local time on the 30th of November, you should have uploaded your piece to the NaNoWriMo website for confirmation of your word count. As they say on the website, you could just copy and paste 50,000 words worth of text from elsewhere but since the only prize is your own self-satisfaction, that would be rather defeat the point. 

All this means writing an average of 1666.67 words a day for the 30 days. Which sounds like it could be entirely possible – if you had a good, or even passable, plot or character idea. And this is where I fall down before even beginning an attempt at NaNoWriMo. 

You’d think that after living on a bus for 10 months, I’d have enough material to fill a dozen novels but sadly, my imagination, as per usual, is not up to the task. And while most people don’t start writing their NaNoWriMo novels with a whole plot in mind, you at least have to have somewhere to start. 

Before you go saying that it’s probably all a waste of time and that what gets written is most likely a load of nonsense, there are several authors whose novels started life as NaNoWriMo novels. While they then went through many subsequent drafts, it was that initial push that brought the novel into existence in a way that simply waiting for inspiration to strike might not have. 

And I suppose that’s the joy of the whole process. Even if you don’t have a plot or characters, it is more about taking part and pushing your own boundaries than it is creating the next Man Booker Prize. That said, I’m not sure when I’ll get the courage to convince myself to go for it. 

The only prize, apart from a cool winner’s certificate, is the knowledge that you managed to write a novel in a month. As I said, the quality is not really the point of the exercise. It’s often easier to edit something than it is to get it down in the first place, and even the greatest authors go through a few edits before publication. 

I’m sure some of the texts written would be markedly better than others but on the other hand, I’ve never, ever written that many words as part of one piece of writing so I really have no right to criticize anything NaNoWriMo produced.