Writers in the Storm

A blog about writing

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October 7, 2020

Has the Coronavirus Changed NaNoWriMo?

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:

  1. That funny word stands for National Novel Writing Month.
  2. The website is www.nanowrimo.org
  3. 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.)
  4. If November doesn't work, there is Camp NaNo in April and July.
  5. NaNoWriMo is a website AND a community, with regional groups and activities.
  6. Participants are addressed as Wrimos.
  7. It is a fantastic place to find new writing friends who live near you.
  8. There are Pep Talks by well-established writers.
  9. There is a Young Writers Program (YWP) for kids.
  10. 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:

Yes, all those plotting method boxes are clickable on the prep page. (SCORE!)
The front page of the NaNoWriMo site has THIS - the most important message of all.

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.

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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About Jenny

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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.

When she’s not at her personal blog, More Cowbell, Jenny can be found on Facebook at JennyHansenAuthor or at Writers In The Storm.

14 comments on “Has the Coronavirus Changed NaNoWriMo?”

  1. I'm a huge fan of NaNoWriMo, Jenny. I've participated three times and each project went on to become a published romance with Harlequin Love Inspired. NaNo is a great way to get words on the page during those 30 days of November. After that, everything can be rewritten. I always encourage anyone who wants to write a book to give NaNo a try.

    1. I've always done it with whatever project I wanted to get words on. I know there are many who say to start only new projects, but I don't subscribe to that. Do what works for you!!

  2. I did it a few years ago and knocked out a book. Mind you, it was the FIRST DRAFT of a book. A contemporary Christmas romance. With twins. Who look like Barbie. And Dolly Parton plays a part...as herself. Anyway, I found NaNoWriMo really freeing. I had no pretense that I'd produce a FINISHED draft in a month. So that made the goal more reachable. I put it on the shelf to age while I tackled some other projects. I plan to spruce it up for a holiday release in 2021. Besides, I need time to reach out to Dolly and her people for permission...or perhaps an endorsement. How about film rights???? Hey, a boy's got to dream. And this boy dreams big!

    1. That book sounds awesome! I hope you get Dolly. 🙂 I love that your marketing brain is always looking for the cool media tie-in. It's such a leg up for your books.

  3. If I do NaNo this year it'd be my seventh in a row. It was my intention to do it this year (especially this year!), but I was thrown a curve when an Apple security update sent my computer into a tailspin on September 25th. I'm still hopeful, though (this coming weekend should decide a lot). In the meantime, I'm doing what I can on my ancient laptop. The most likely outcome is that I'll do it even if I have to write on a stone block.

    I have few responsibilities so time isn't a factor for me. In recent years I've treated October as my NaNo planning month where I do at least some work on characters, worldbuild if necessary, and draft a narrative outline. When November arrives my foot is already to the floor and I draft like a woman possessed (a tip from Ray Bradbury). I've won each year, but, more important, since 2016 I've come away with drafts I'm proud of. Typically I'm so wound up that I draft short stories in December.

    1. I hope you get everything working so you can do NaNo!! I will cross my fingers for you. I agree with you...there is something so invigorating about the Fast Draft. Please do send me a buddy request if we aren't already connected.

      Now, for me to get in and update the project for this year (which will be the same one as last year since I got completely sidetracked)!

      1. I'm pretty certain that I'm going to do it, no matter what I have to do, so I'll send a buddy request and try to be inspiring. Thank you. I'm Mystic Silver 759 for a reason that eludes me now. Probably because my first NaNo was a spontaneous decision made at 11:30PM on October 31, 2014.

  4. I tried NaNo a few years ago and didn't get much done--maybe it was the story I was trying to write. But last year I signed up with a brand new idea I loved and knocked out 30,000 words--a win for me. Now I'm deep into editing this 86,000+ word fantasy romance and still loving it. I'm doing my own version of NaNo this year with editing goals instead of words. Like Jenny says, you can make it whatever you want. Story is what it's about!

    1. YAY!!! I hope you jump in again...and friend up with me!! One year, I signed on to just do a bunch of short stories and it was so great - every time I got stuck with one, I moved to another. This Swiss cheese method worked and I got three great short stories done during NaNo.

      It's about the writing, not the definition of "what counts."

  5. I've signed up several times in the past. I find it frustrating that I can't go back and adjust things in a WIP to mark it complete or even what I did.

    I'm not doing something right. lol I had hoped the update would fix things, or at least fix them the way I needed.


    1. They should have all your previous projects in there, but it only tracks you for the 30 days. I just deleted a few projects that never took off and that made me feel tons better. 🙂

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