In book-writing circles, November is National Novel Writing Month, otherwise known as NaNoWriMo. If you haven’t heard of this annual event, or you’re ready to join the challenge for the first time, this will be a great primer. Here is a brief overview of the rules, along with guidelines to help you win NaNoWriMo.

How do you win NaNoWriMo?

“Winning” NaNoWriMo is both simple and hard.

If you can write 50,000 words between November 1 and November 30 then you win!

However, actually getting to that word count will take some discipline and strategy. Most people break this big number into a smaller, daily word count of 1,667 to make it feel more achievable. For many, this number is still overwhelming, which is one reason NaNoWriMo is such an exciting challenge. Simple, but not easy.

Winners receive digital banners and certificates to use on their website or social media and T-shirts are also available for purchase. Sponsors provide other winner goodies, including discounts to writing software and publishing services. The catch? In order to win, you need to register your project on the NaNoWriMo website and log your word count between November 1 and November 30.

Digital badges and Scrivener discounts aside, the real prize is writing 50,000 words and having a first draft completed in 30 days.

What are the NaNoWriMo rules?

While the goal is writing 50,000 words in the month of November, how you get there is flexible. Here is a breakdown of the NaNoWriMo rules to help you stay on track.

  • On November 1, the challenge begins as the clock strikes midnight, local time
  • On November 30, the challenge ends at precisely 11:59:59 p.m. local time
  • For the official challenge, no, you cannot start early or end late. However, you can plan ahead, take notes, create character sketches, etc. before November 1
  • In order to win, your novel must reach minimum 50,000 new and/or rewritten words by the end of the challenge—but your novel doesn’t have to be complete

That said, “rebelling” is allowed and encouraged, since this is a self-challenge. If your project isn’t a perfect fit and you still want to participate, then do it. For more information on the rules of NaNoWriMo, both official and unofficial, check out this article.

Additional resources to help you prepare for NaNoWriMo from The Write Life

These three articles and resources will help you go further with NaNoWriMo specifically. The first is a free tool to help you outline your book before you start writing. The second will help you prepare for NaNoWriMo more fully. The third will help you in your goal-setting so you can actually win the challenge!

This next set of articles and resources will help you with your novel more holistically. The first will help you get ready to write your novel, but chances are you’re already past that if you’re prepping for NaNoWriMo. The second gives you prompts to get the juices flowing. The third will help you set up routines to write consistently. The fourth is for when you finish writing your rough draft and are ready to self-edit.

Side note: A lot of people have asked us, “When did NaNoWriMo start? How long has it been a thing?”

National Novel Writing Month began in 1999 as a challenge between writing friends and has since grown into a global marathon event attracting hundreds of thousands of participants each year. To date, there are nearly 800,000 active novelists and more than 350,000 completed novels as a result of this annual tradition.

We look forward to seeing you there this November!

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