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NaNoWriMo is back – and hotter than ever

Thanks to a couple of big commercial successes, National Novel Writing Month – NaNoWriMo – is more popular than ever.

By Husna Haq / November 1, 2011

National Novel Writing Month is a literary marathon that has scores of writers racing to write a 50,000-word novel (about 175 pages) by midnight Nov. 30.

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It’s back, and after the critical success of the authors behind “The Night Circus” and “Water for Elephants,” it’s hotter than ever.

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That’s right, Nov. 1 marks the beginning of the 13th annual NaNoWriMo, or National Novel Writing Month, the literary marathon that has scores of writers racing to write a 50,000-word novel (about 175 pages) by midnight Nov. 30. The ideal participant, we think, is the (fill-in-your-profession-here)-by day, writer-by-night who’s been dying to write a novel for years but is too scared to start. The idea here isn’t to write a bestseller – just to reach 50,000 words by the end of the month. “The kamikaze approach,” says NaNoWriMo, will force participants to “lower … expectations, take risks, and write on the fly.”

The first step to officially participate is registering with NaNoWriMo. Their robotic word counters track your progress. You’ll even receive “pep talk” emails from such acclaimed authors as Jonathan Lethem, Audrey Niffenegger, and Erin Morgenstern, cheering you on throughout the month.

NaNoWriMo was launched by founder Chris Baty in 1999 with 21 participants, mostly Baty’s friends, who “wanted to make noise.” Last year, some 200,500 participants joined, with 37,500 completing 50,000 words.

Should you choose to take on the challenge, you’ll be in good company. Many of the manuscripts written by NaNoWriMo participants have been published, a handful widely-acclaimed, and one or two have even been made into movies.

One NaNoWrMo success story is Erin Morgenstern, who began writing her bestselling and critically acclaimed book "The Night Circus" during National Novel Writing Month in 2005. Sara Gruen also began writing her book-turned-movie, “Water for Elephants,” over the course of a past NaNoWriMo. They’ve both turned into unofficial success stories for NaNoWriMo alumni.

Sure, writing a novel in 30 days sounds like a scary – maybe crazy – endeavor. But you won’t be alone. “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,” says NaNoWriMo, on its website. Indeed, NaNoWriMo has participants from more than 40 countries around the world, including France, Germany, Spain, and the Netherlands.

As we’ve written in past Chapter and Verse posts, we all have a novel hiding in us somewhere. Now is the time to set yours free.

Husna Haq is a Monitor correspondent.

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