Are you up for writing 50,000 words? What you need to know about National Novel Writing Month

Published November 10, 2020, 8:21 AM

by Vianca Gamboa

Your debut novel should not stay in your drafts

If the youth relies on a prompt to get started with their overdue fiction stories, then NaNoWriMo does not come uninvited this year—it is a saving grace. After years of meandering, and now with all that quarantine journals and stories kept in a safe box for posterity, it is the best time to join.

National Novel Writing Month, commonly known as NaNoWriMo, began in 1999. Its purpose is to challenge people to write for the whole month of November. It begins at the stroke of midnight and lasts until the 30th of November. The output? A 50,000-word first draft of a novel.

The figure seems daunting, and it is. You’re writing a novel, remember? But it isn’t a content nor a competition in any traditional sense. If you “win” by reaching the word count on the NaNoWriMo website, you beat your own self-doubts and hesitancies. And isn’t that the best type of “win?”

If you are thinking of joining NaNoWriMo, we have compiled answers to some frequently asked questions to get you started before it’s too late:

Is it a contest or a competition?

No. As previously mentioned, it is not a contest nor a competition in the traditional sense. You don’t compete with other writers, but you do get “winner goodies” like laurels and badges that you can proudly display. They will remind you, also, of what your craft when you finish your novel.

If it isn’t a contest, then what is it about?

Think of it as your own Annie Wilkes. Maybe that is a bit dark… But NaNoWriMo just offers you that reason and push you may need to write. And then you decide whether your work gets to see the light of day.

Will I get published?

The chance of NaNoWriMo publishing your novel is slim, but the challenge is not about that. It is far, far from that actually. This speed, if we’re being honest, compromises the quality of the work and disregards important steps in the creative process that a writer treads to enrich their craft, such as book consumption and outdoor inspiration.

A lot of participants use NaNoWriMo as the starting point that finally gets them to put pen to paper. They get out of it a rough draft or an outline.

There are, however, several notable titles that got their start as NaNoWriMo works. This includes Stephanie Perkins‘s Anna and the French Kiss, Erin Morgenstern‘s The Night Circus, and even Sara Gruen‘s Water for Elephants, which was adapted into a film starring Robert Pattinson and Reese Witherspoon. So you never know what your NaNoWriMo work may end up as.

But if it doesn’t get published, why should I do it?

NaNoWriMo gives you a push and a goal. It gives you a perspective on what you can achieve every day of the month, inclusive of day jobs and everything that may come in the way of writing your novel–from writer’s block, to starting-out jitters, and even your own self doubt every once in a while.

How would it classify our works as a “novel?”

According to the NaNoWriMo website: “We define a novel as ‘a lengthy work of fiction.’ Beyond that, we let your decide whether what you’re writing falls under the heading of ‘novel.’ In short: If you believe you’re writing a novel, we believe you’re writing a novel, too.”

Can I write my novel in Filipino?

Of course! NaNoWriMo actually encourages writers to create more novels in their native language for cultural promotion.

How many pages is 50,000 words?

It depends on your font, your font size, and your spacing, but roughly 175 pages if double-spaced.

What writing platform should I use?

NaNoWriMo doesn’t offer its own writing platform, so it really depends on what you’re comfortable with. Traditional writers may love the thrill of pen and paper, while the typical 21st-century writer just lets the words flow on the old-reliable Microsoft Word or Pages (and even Notes). Others yet may want a little fuel and chaos from content management systems like WordPress, and some (like I never was) use methodical apps like Editorial to curate outlines and organize their thoughts coherently.

The best platform is the platform that works best for you.