Nanowhat?: My Adventures with NaNoWriMo

~ By Tanya Agler

When I first heard about NaNoWriMo in late October 2012, I thought Mork from Ork was making a comeback. What was NaNoWriMo and why did it matter? I sat in bed reading their website and details behind National Novel Writing Month (or NaNoWriMo, for short). My heart started thumping as I read about the challenge they extended: write 50,000 words of a book in one month. My mind raced as I considered accepting this challenge. I had been writing a work of nonfiction, but I wanted to return to the world of fiction. My wonderful husband (WH) came into our bedroom, and I blurted out the details of the writing resource I had just discovered. WH’s eyes glazed over, but he nodded his head. “If you need to do this, I’ll see you in December.”

For the past two Octobers, WH has joked that he wants to start a support group for significant others of NaNoWriMo participants, but he always looks at me and repeats the same line. “I’ll see you in December.”

What’s the big deal about NaNoWriMo?

1. Encouragement and Support. National Novel Writing Month was established in 1999. Their mission statement located on their website is as follows:

National Novel Writing Month organizes events where children and adults find the inspiration, encouragement, and structure they need to achieve their creative potential. Our programs are web-enabled challenges with vibrant real-world components, designed to foster self-expression while building community on local and global levels.

Last year, over 300,000 writers participated worldwide on six continents. On the NaNoWriMo website, a participant can locate his or her particular region and see if there are any events in their region. Often writers get together and have “write-ins” where they all meet at a location, introduce each other, and get to writing. I love write-ins where I hear about plots from different genres, usually eat something yummy, and write. Whether it’s online or in person, strangers come together in support of each other and with respect to different genre to help their new friends brainstorm or participate in a writing sprint.

2. Routine. There’s a saying that doing something for 21 days will turn it into a habit. Writing that many words over the course of a 30-day month requires some consistency and desire. Getting into the habit of writing every day and seeing pages of written words coming together and coalescing into a story can be the push some writers need to turn their passion from a hobby into a profession.

3. It doesn’t end November 30. During NaNoWriMo, the website provides tools for the writers participating in the challenge. From published writers who give pep talks through encouraging e-mails to charts that maps progress, there are ways for writers to start believing the ideas in their heads can become stories. But the journey doesn’t end when the calendar page is flipped to December. The focus turns toward editing the words and shaping the first draft into a novel. In the past, prizes for those participating have included a discount on Scrivener and five free copies of the novel through CreateSpace.

At the end of November 2012, I had won my first NaNoWriMo, completing the first 50,000 words of my first post-maternity leave novel. NaNoWriMo helped me discover how much I love writing. I love trying to come up with characters, dialogue, and plots. From there, I discovered Romance Writers of America and my local chapter. Thanks to an awesome published author who gave her time and talents to give me my first critique based on the first chapter tooled during NaNoWriMo, I learned more about the craft of writing. While NaNoWriMo isn’t for every author, I personally love to talk or blog about how this event literally changed my life. I’ve met new people, I’ve learned about the importance of discipline, and I’ve loved hearing about encouraging stories of people learning how to stop dreaming and start writing one word at a time. If you want to become my NaNoWriMo buddy, my moniker is tlagler. If your significant other has also lost you to the challenge of writing 50,000 words in one month, he or she can contact my WH about that support group.

Tanya Agler is a write-at-home wife and mother of four (ages 16, 11, 5, and 5). A graduate of The University of Georgia, she and her family reside in metro Atlanta where she is a member of Georgia Romance Writers and Contemporary Romance Writers. She is participating in her 3rd NaNoWriMo, hard at work on the beginnings of her fifth novel. You can read her blog at You can also reach her on Facebook (Tanya Agler) or Twitter (@tanyaagler). 

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