Books & Review
Updated: Oct 31, 2012 10:22 AM EDT


Participants' novels can be on any theme or genre of fiction, and in any language.
(Photo : Flickr)

Writing can be an intimidating prospect. For many, putting words on the page is a tortuous, dreary process, only equaled in dread by panic attacks and "Keeping Up With The Kardashians." National Novel Writing Month, beginning Nov. 1, aims to change that.

An annual Internet-based creative writing project, National Novel Writing Month - or NaNoWriMo if you want to get all YOLO with it - challenges participants to write 50,000 words of a new novel between Nov. 1 and 30. Participants write either a complete novel of 50,000 words, or simply the first 50,000 words of a novel to be completed later.

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Writers wishing to participate must register on the project's website, where they can post profiles, and information about their novels, including synopsis and excerpts. Word counts are validated on the site, with writers submitting a copy of their novel for automatic counting.

Participants' novels can be on any theme, genre of fiction, and in any language. The contest allows everything from fanfiction to novels in poem format, or even metafiction. "If you believe you're writing a novel, we believe you're writing a novel too," says the websites FAQ.

Planning and extensive notes are permitted, but no earlier written material can go into the body of the novel, nor is one allowed to start early, and finish 30 days from that start point. The novel must be new, cannot be co-authored, and must be submitted in time to be verified.

Organizers of the event say that the contest is simply an excuse to get people to start writing, period. The deadline is just incentive to get the story going, and get deep in the fray of writing, a sentiment embodied by the website's slogan, "No Plot? No Problem!"

To win NaNoWriMo, participants must write an average of 1,667 words per day. There is no fee to participate, registration is only required for novel verification.

The "contest" awards no official prizes for length, quality, or speed. Anyone who reaches the 50,000 word count is declared a winner. Beginning Nov. 25, participants can submit their novel to be automatically verified for length and receive a printable certificate, an icon they can display on the web, and inclusion on the list of winners.

Freelance writer Chris Baty began the project in 1999 with only 21 participants. In 2000, it was moved to November "to more fully take advantage of the miserable weather."

Since then, the contest has ballooned. By the 2010 event, over 200,000 people wrote novels. 

Some participants' books have even become formally published, successful novels, such as "Water for Elephants" by Sara Gruen, and "The Night Circus" by Erin Morgenstern.

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