NaNoWriMo

By Meghan Davis, intern, ALA Public Programs Office

Writing 50,000 words in one month may seem like a huge task, but that is the goal of NaNoWriMo, or National Novel Writing Month. The novel-writing mission, which takes place each November, launched in 1999 and had over 533,000 novelists participate in 2013. The official website describes it best:

Valuing enthusiasm and perseverance over painstaking craft, NaNoWriMo is a novel-writing program for everyone who has thought fleetingly about writing a novel but has been scared away by the time and effort involved. Because of the limited writing window, the ONLY thing that matters in NaNoWriMo is output. It’s all about quantity, not quality. This approach forces you to lower your expectations, take risks, and write on the fly.

Make no mistake: You will be writing a lot of crap. And that’s a good thing. By forcing yourself to write so intensely, you are giving yourself permission to make mistakes. To forgo the endless tweaking and editing and just create. To build without tearing down.

As you spend November writing, you can draw comfort from the fact that, all around the world, other National Novel Writing Month participants are going through the same joys and sorrows of producing the Great Frantic Novel. Wrimos meet throughout the month to offer encouragement, commiseration, and — when the thing is done — the kind of raucous celebrations that tend to frighten animals and small children.

A number of popular novels have come out of NaNoWriMo, including (according to the New York Public Library): Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen (2006), BreakupBabe by Rebecca Agiewich (2006), Self Storage by Gayle Brandeis (2007), Take the Reins by Jessica Burkhart (2009) and The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern (2011).

Check out the history of NaNoWriMo here.

Programming Resources

The NaNoWriMo website includes a wealth of resources for libraries, including a Library Outreach Guide. Libraries can sign up to participate and receive "Come Write In" kits with promotional materials. In addition, your area may have a NaNoWriMo municipal liaison, a volunteer dedicated to organizing events in your area and monitoring your regional forum, available to assist. Partnering with a liaison can help you coordinate events, share write-in space, and/or have your events listed on your region’s official calendar.

School librarians should check out the Young Writers Program and sign up to receive information on ordering a free classroom kit with a progress chart, stickers, and buttons.

Library Programs

The Princeton (N.J.) Public Library offered their own Camp NaNoWriMo in June. Participants wrote 15--minute, timed writings each Saturday morning from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. The writer with the highest word count at each meeting won a free drink at a coffee shop.

The Mesa County (Colo.) Library held “Come Write” sessions in their Central Library every Sunday afternoon from 1 to 5:p.m. during NaNoWriMo 2013. Participants were provided snacks, electricity, wifi and caffeine at the library, and were asked to provide their own computers, word counts and creativity. These events were held in combination with Youth Writers Projects to provide young writers with help building their skills.

A kick-off party featuring games, prizes, word wars, and giveaways was held by the Salem (Ore.) Public Library during NaNoWriMo 2013. The party featured a pot-luck and connected so-called “Wrimos” together so they could support each other throughout the month either virtually or in person. The library continued to host three-hour themed write-ins throughout the month of November.

For writers still finishing their novel at the end of the month, the New Orleans (La.) Public Library hosted an-all day Last Chance Write-In at their Main Library in 2013. This event was the last in a series of NaNoWriMo parties the library held at its Main and Jefferson Parish Library branches throughout November.

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