NaNoWriMoIt’s November 1.

A Thursday.

The day after Halloween.

Some of you may be in a candy coma.

(I am excited that I can now eat the Halloween candy instead of saving it for the trick-or-treaters!)

Some of you may be looking toward U.S. Thanksgiving—which is only three weeks away.

You might think it’s a regular day.

Just another day as we countdown to the end of the year.

But you’d be wrong.

Today is the start of National Novel Writing Month.

NaNoWriMo, as it’s called, is a program that encourages you to write 50,000 words in 30 days.

And, just in case you’re a smart aleck like me, you can’t write the same word 50,000 times (I checked).

While you can have already started working on your novel, you cannot count any of those words in your 50,000 submission.

So if you already have 25,000 words written, you’ll end up with 75,000 at the end of the month—and only the 50,000 you wrote in November will count.

The NaNoWriMo Rules

There are quite a few rules, so I’ll outline them below for you:

  • Write a 50,000-word (or longer!) novel, between November 1 and November 30.
  • Write a novel, which is a lengthy work of fiction. If you consider the book you’re writing a novel, it’s a novel.
  • Be the sole author of your novel.
  • Write more than one word repeated 50,000 times. ?
  • Upload your novel for word-count validation to our site between November 20 and November 30.

There are prizes, encouragement, and lots of fun associated with your work.

But you have to commit to uploading your work on the NaNoWriMo site so you can participate.

You have 30 days to write your novel.

What If I Don’t Want to Write a Novel?

Let’s say you are not into this whole fiction thing and have no desire to write a novel.

That’s fine!

You can participate and write non-fiction…sort of.

The NaNo Rebels exist to allow a loophole in the rules.

While the 50,000+ words you write for non-fiction may not count in the overall NaNoWriMo rules, you’ll still have the start to a really good book.

Perhaps you’ve always wanted to write a business book.

Or you’re obsessed with history and want to do an autobiography.

Or you have a movie script rolling around in your head and are ready to put it on paper.

All of those things count under the NaNo Rebels rules. Make sure to submit your entry in that forum.

Having written two business books, I can speak from experience about how much easier it is to get 50,000 words down on paper that way.

Fiction is HARD.

And you can take a lesson from the guys who wrote Execute.

Their goal was to write it in one week. They did it in eight days.

It’s Not an Easy Undertaking

It’s not easy to complete this project.

I’ve now tried twice and have not finished.

Part of the problem is we have Thanksgiving thrown into the mix, so—at least in the U.S.—we miss a good week of writing.

Of course, if you don’t host the holiday or don’t travel to see family, you’d have an easier time of it.

But, for me, it’s a real challenge because we do host and I begin to prep the Sunday before.

For a week, I’m cooking instead of writing…and it’s difficult to get back in the habit that last week of the month.

Well, that and a five-year-old who doesn’t understand that writing has to be done uninterrupted.

Lessons Learned from NaNoWriMo

As I’ve traversed the NaNoWriMo contest, though, I’ve learned a few things:

  • Read fiction. A lot of fiction. And all sorts of genres…not just the stuff you normally read.
  • It’s a lot harder to write fiction than a business book, especially if you blog for work every day.
  • Practice, practice, practice. Just like blogging here every day makes me a good business author, writing fiction every day would make me a better storyteller.
  • November is a terrible month to take on a project like this. You’ll think it’s a great month because you have a few days off for Thanksgiving, but family doesn’t stop because you have to write.
  • If you write every day, you will get 50,000 words. You’ll spend about eight hours a week.
  • Outline your story ahead of time. Even if you’re starting today, outline your story. Just like you can’t go to a publisher for your non-fiction without a detailed table of contents, an outline of your fiction will help the writing immensely. Decide on the simple things, such as character names and timelines first. If you participate this year, make sure you do all of that beforehand. The rule is you just can’t have started writing…but you can do everything else.
  • Making it public holds you accountable. If you want to comment here or in our (free) community, we will be happy to hold you accountable. There will be so many days you don’t want to write. Knowing we’re all behind you, cheering you on, will force you to do it.

Are You Going to Do it?

I’m sure there are lots more things, but the biggest NaNoWriMo lesson is…50,000 words does not a novel make.

It’s a great start, but—at best—it’s a really rough first draft.

Don’t let that discourage you, though!

Fifty thousand words—and a really rough draft—is better than what you have right now.

And it’s only 30 days away.

It’s not too late to join the party if you’re so inclined.

If you’re participating, let us know so we can help!

Gini Dietrich

Gini Dietrich is the founder, CEO, and author of Spin Sucks, host of the Spin Sucks podcast, and author of Spin Sucks (the book). She is the creator of the PESO Model and has crafted a certification for it in partnership with Syracuse University. She has run and grown an agency for the past 15 years. She is co-author of Marketing in the Round, co-host of Inside PR, and co-host of The Agency Leadership podcast.

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