The greatest book writing challenge has returned! November marks National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), an annual challenge where writers and authors write a book of 60,000 words or more over the course of a month for either fundraising or personal intentions. (Sign up at NaNoWriMo.org if you haven’t already!) It’s not a light undertaking. Writers must average roughly 2,000 words a day—easily done on a good writing day, but close to impossible on a bad one.
The point of NaNoWriMo is not necessarily about writing and completing an entire book. For many, the challenge is to break out of whatever writing rut they may be in and commit themselves fully and completely to writing, often forsaking friends, family, social activities, and anything else that might come between them and their work. Sometimes it’s about setting and keeping goals or just getting back into a regular practice of writing. For others, it’s about taking on a momentous project and being part of a community that’s working toward the same goals.
Many authors eagerly anticipate the challenge and have already been spending the last few weeks (and sometimes months) prepping themselves: researching, plotting, outlining, and ensuring they have everything at their fingertips so that when the proverbial whistle blows, they’re ready to sit down and write. It’s not unusual for some authors—especially those who balance work and family obligations during the year—to hunker down through November and complete the first draft of a new novel, then spend the next six to eight months preparing it for publication.
Other writers (including yours truly when moved to do so) gleefully join in at the eleventh hour, plunging into the chaos. Unprepared, with no notes or research to rely on, these last-minute entrants are usually pantsers: writers who fly by the seat of their pants without planning anything in their story.
For writers who are still on the fence about whether to participate in the great November writing challenge, it’s important to consider that while NaNoWriMo is about setting and meeting a goal, it doesn’t necessarily need to be that particular goal. Maybe 60,000 words is too much to balance alongside your other commitments. No one—especially at this time—is going to scoff at a different goal, whether it’s writing 25,000 words or 100,000.
If you want to participate somehow but are feeling overwhelmed by the sheer magnitude of it all, think about incorporating a kinder approach, similar to what we recommended in Prepping for NaNoWriMo 2020: The World-Is-on-Fire Pandemic Edition: adjust your goals, break down tasks into smaller pieces, and ensure that above all you are taking care of your physical and emotional health.
There are a lot of different approaches to NaNoWriMo, whether you’re looking to modify the challenge, make it more difficult, or even set some new goals for yourself. But by far the most valuable of all is to change things up. Our brains are stimulated by change, and it’s one of the best methods for pushing us out of our routines. It obliterates that part of our mind that goes on autopilot and forces us to reassess our regimens, make way for improved ones, and even stretch out our horizons.
There are a lot of great reasons for everyone to participate in NaNoWriMo. You don’t need to be an author or professional writer; you don’t even have to aspire to be one. But chances are, you have a book or three in your head. This might be the perfect time to see just where those creative hunches can take you.
Don’t put expectations on it, don’t overthink it. While the destination might be 60,000 words, this is really all about your journey as a writer. Whether you’ve never heard of NaNoWriMo or are an experienced veteran, seize the month and get ready to put the proverbial pen to paper!