National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo www.nanowrimo.org) is an online contest open worldwide to writers and aspiring writers of all ages. They have the regular writing contest, which is to write a 50,000-word novel in 30 days (November 1-30). They also have the same contest in the Young Writers Program: 50,000 in 30 days (November 1-30) for ages 17 and under. They have a similar contest April 1-30 called Script Frenzy for those who like to write scripts rather than novels. And they just started Camp NaNoWriMo to write novels over the summer (July and August 2011 was the first year).
This is a totally free contest and you can sign up anytime throughout the months that the contests are held (example: November 25 or April 17). And you win cool prizes like a certificate of completion and badges to put on your website announcing to the world that you are a participant or winner. I know. You’re thinking, “What’s the point?” The point is that this is for YOU, the writer. I think this is a really awesome concept. I give this contest a 5 out of 5.
What I really like about this contest is that it is on an honor system. The rules are that you must write a completely new story starting from page 1, line 1, and first word. (It’s ok to outline, though) You must write 50,000 words between November 1 and November 30 and upload your manuscript for verification when you hit 50K. It even tells you how to encrypt it if you’re worried about people taking your idea. If you cheat in the contest, the only one you are cheating is YOU. This is a great experience to see what you can really do. And it is totally ok if you don’t reach 50K by the end of the month. Everyone is still cheering for you because you started that novel.
There is a great support system of pep talks emailed to you if you want. You can subscribe to forums. And there is a forum for everything you can think of for every genre and style of writing. You can participate in write-ins in your area. A write-in is just meeting somewhere with other writers who are doing the contest too. This is a great way to network with local authors in your area. There is a region for you almost anywhere around the country and around the world.
NaNoWriMo is run by a non-profit organization called the Office of Letters and Light. That’s NON-PROFIT which means they do it out of the kindness of their hearts. But they have no aversion to a donation of $10 or so. You can even buy cool T-shirts, hats, coffee mugs, decals, etc. to help support the programs. They partner with school, libraries, and educators. This is about promoting reading and writing and enjoying the craft. This is the 13th year that they have hosted the contest. This is my 5th year entering the contest. I’ve won 3 times (completed one year at 11:50pm November 30th, whew!). Didn’t even get close 1 time. And “Was I supposed to be doing something this November?” 1 time.
But I have had fun every year. I just stop thinking about writing that perfect novel and just write for the enjoyment of writing a story. So what if the novel you wrote in November sucks. YOU WROTE A 50,000 WORD NOVEL IN 30 DAYS! That’s AWESOME! Besides that’s what December is for: editing.
By the way, they also have sponsors now that are also offering cool prizes like free copies of the book you wrote during the contest or discounts on writing software if you do win.