What is NaNoWriMo?

Last modified date


“National Novel Writing Month is a nonprofit that believes your story matters. We provide the structure, community, and encouragement to help people find their voices, achieve creative goals, and build new worlds—on and off the page.”

NaNoWriMo Mission Statement

The 19th annual National Novel Writing Month, also known as NaNoWriMo, kicked off on November 1, 2017. NaNoWriMo participants aim to write a 50,000-word novel by November 30. The contest is open to participants above the age of 13, who can register for free on the NaNoWriMo website.

This year, the contest is expected to have over 400,000 writers. Participants come from across the globe. Last year, there were writers from 646 different regions, on 6 different continents.

Tens of thousands of these writers complete a novel each year.

NaNoWriMo’ers write their novel on their preferred platform, such as Google Docs or Microsoft Word. They then track their progress by copying and pasting their novel-in-progress on their NaNoWriMo account, which can track word-count goals.

The NaNoWriMo site serves a greater purpose than just tracking words, however. The site links authors together, providing a platform where questions can be answered, events can be scheduled, and motivation can be sparked. Participants build a community through the contest, and encourage one another to meet their writing goals. Those with a NaNoWriMo account can even add “Writing Buddies” that can view the account holder’s progress, and ensure they stay on track.

The goal for reaching the end of the contest is the novel in itself; there are, however, other benefits which can be reaped from participating. NaNoWriMo’ers can apply to sponsors for rewards, such as publishing offers, discounts, and free subscription-trials. Check out a full list of NaNoWriMo rewards here.


The first NaNoWriMo event began in 1999, with only 21 participants. According to Chris Baty, NaNoWriMo’s founder, the group began writing “for the same dumb reasons why twenty-somethings start bands”:

“Because we wanted to make noise. Because we didn’t have anything better to do. And because we thought that, as novelists, we would have an easier time getting dates than we did as non-novelists.”

In the event’s second year, the groundwork was laid for what the contest would become today. A NaNoWriMo website was built, and the online accessibility caused a surge in writers. With addition of an online platform, concrete rules for NaNoWriMo came into demand. Baty recalls being reluctant to create guidelines for the literary race:

“Who had time for namby-pamby rules? A literary revolution was afoot here, people! Write first! Ask questions later! A novel-writing tornado was ripping through our very heartlands! When a tornado is approaching, do you waste time pondering what rules may govern its mighty winds?”

But Baty eventually conceded to creating rules, as he realized that they were necessary to keep participants on task enough complete a novel in a month:

“From my years of work as an editor, I knew that having a set of unbendable rules and a merciless deadline was absolutely essential in giving writers the mental focus and shared sense of toil necessary to tackle daunting projects.

So Year Two was when most of NaNoWriMo’s regulations were born.”

Public accessibility and structure was what NaNoWriMo needed, and this reflected in the contest’s third year of running. In Year Three, over 5,000 people joined in the writing race.

Since then, the event has skyrocketed to create the worldwide phenomena it is today.

For more on NaNoWriMo’s history, check out the NaNoWriMo yearly timeline.

Want to join the writing race? Sign up for NaNoWriMo today!

For more information on NaNoWriMo, check out the website’s FAQ page here.

Not sure how to start your novel? Check out Boho Berry’s prep guide for her NaNoWriMo novel below:

Are you participating in NaNoWriMo?

Comment below with what you’re working on this month!