As we have all seen, the coronavirus has changed the rules for almost everything. Change is hard for almost everyone, and I know dozens of people who are reeling from the onslaught of unexpected challenges 2020 has brought. But for many, this year of change has opened doors to areas they might not have ever explored. New careers, new writing schedules, and new NaNoWriMo participants are popping up everywhere!
For those who don't know what I'm talking about...
What is NaNoWriMo?
This is for those who are new, those who haven't looked in a while, or for those who are looking for writing friends. Below is a quick primer on NaNoWriMo:
- That funny word stands for National Novel Writing Month.
- The website is www.nanowrimo.org
- The goal is to write 50,000 words in 30 days (November).
(This averages out to 1,667 words per day.)
(You don't HAVE to write all 50K. I usually do 20-30K.)
- If November doesn't work, there is Camp NaNo in April and July.
- NaNoWriMo is a website AND a community, with regional groups and activities.
- Participants are addressed as Wrimos.
- It is a fantastic place to find new writing friends who live near you.
- There are Pep Talks by well-established writers.
- There is a Young Writers Program (YWP) for kids.
- Their NaNo Prep page contains a Master Class for writers.
I'm not kidding on that last point. Here are some examples from the NaNo Prep page:
The NaNo challenge is my birthday present to myself each year. Every year, I love it. And every year, I hate it. I rarely have time for the full 50K -- there's simply too much to do in the tiny little month of November -- but I always have a grand time.
I love the community, the late-night writing sprints, the before and after parties my local team throws. I love the write-ins, the pep talks, and the excitement of uploading my word count. I adore getting the chance to encourage my peeps and watch everyone chase their goals.
I tend to arrive at December 1st super invigorated and a little bit out of breath.
How has the COVID pandemic changed NaNoWriMo?
People are more tired than usual.
Writers are almost always stretched to the limit. Between family responsibilities and the day job, it's hard to squeeze that writing in. But you add in a pandemic that stretches on for months? US elections? Hurricanes? Homeschooling? Eddie Van Halen passing away this week?!! Fuggedaboutit.
People are "up to here" with this 2020 business.
I say f#@% it. Let's go play on the pages with our pals. NaNoWriMo gives you a chance to put yourself and your writing first for once, and encourage other writers to do the same.
Note: Last year there were more 455,000+ writers from all over the world participating in the challenge. (That's a lot of encouraging.)
Many people are still locked down.
In the big COVID states like California, where NaNoWriMo is headquartered, many people are still mostly staying home. Gatherings for any except immediate family are prohibited in cities like Los Angeles and San Francisco. The NaNo team has already asked for "no in-person write-ins."
But when has something like that ever stopped us enterprising writers? Each region has set up a group meeting area via a service called Discord, which went into use last year. I expect there will also be some Zoom and Google Meet write-ins.
As the mother of a school-aged child, I am insanely excited about this. Finally, I don't have to go anywhere to meet up! I don't have to wedge it in, or schedule childcare. In my opinion, this is the best thing to happen to NaNo since chocolate chip cookies.
I'll be able to tell you on the back end if the virtual write-ins equal more words on the page.
NaNo opened up the regions and made forums easier.
I don't know if the world being locked down motivated the NaNo team to open things up, but you are much less constrained this year.
Message from the NaNo team:
We’ve reorganized how the forum works. Most forums are muted by default. You can view ALL muted forums by scrolling to the bottom of the main forum page and clicking the + button by the Muted Categories section. There are two ways to unmute them! The first is to manually visit each forum you’re interested in, click the notification bell in the upper right corner, and choose your preferred notification settings. The easiest way is to go to your preferences and set the forums you want at the notification settings you prefer. “Regular” will unmute a forum without adding special alerts.
The NaNo team has also added private affinity groups for those who wish to join them. Their statement: "Joining these groups will grant access to special forums for BIPOC, people with chronic illness, neurodivergence and disabilities, 18+, teens, and LGBTQIA." Link to announcement thread.
Basically, in my "Regular" area (mentioned above), I chose the genres I cared about and THREE regions where I have friends I want to write with. This is a marvelous way to either meet new people, or write with both your team "back home" and your local team if you have moved.
What hasn't changed?
Well, I still want you to come buddy up with me at "jennyhansen" on the NaNo site! And you still need to get ready for the challenge - clear the decks, bribe your family, make some extra meals.
Here are some earlier posts about NaNo prep.
- 10 Tips to Rock NaNoWriMo
- A Tale of Two NaNoWriMos
- Why I Still Participate in NaNoWriMo (After 8 Years and a Book Contract)
And my most important bit of advice?
Run your own race.
Set your own goals.
Write your own story.
This writing life is a marathon, not a sprint. The moment you forget the joy of your writing is the day it becomes drudgery.
"Working hard for something we don't care about is called stress. Working hard for something we love is called passion."- Simon Sinek
One last note...the sponsor offers are amazing this year! A free upload from IngramSpark, a KDP how-to class, major deals off writing software. I love that they expanded this section for 2020.
Do you participate in writing challenges? Do you do NaNoWriMo? What do you do in advance of a writing immersion to get ready? Share with us down in the comments!
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By day, Jenny provides corporate communications and LinkedIn advice for professional services firms. By night she writes humor, memoir, women’s fiction, and short stories. After 18 years as a corporate trainer, she’s delighted to sit down while she works.