Most of you probably already know that November is Nanowrimo aka National Writing Month, when people all over the world set themselves a target of 50,000 words (1667 per day for 30 days) from 1st November to 11.59pm on 30th November. I’m not taking part this year because I just met a deadline – yay! – but now I wish I’d re-arranged my schedule because having a support group and target can be inspiring as well as fun.

For anyone who doesn’t know, Nanowrimo started in 1999, basically as a motivational tool, and has since become a non-profit organisation and huge annual event. In the first year there were 20 something participants. Now there are over 400,000. It’s harder to find statistics on how many people ‘win’ (ie. reach their word target), but a lot of people swear by it, even if they don’t go on to publish. 

Participants say that it’s a great way to motivate yourself and your writing friends, to set yourself an attainable goal with a deadline and finish a first draft whilst cheering each other on. The website provides online forums, advice, attainment badges and a shop. There’s even, if you happen to live in the San Francisco Bay area, a Night of Writing Dangerously, a 7 hour dinner and writing event set in a ballroom. The whole thing demonstrates just how friendly and supportive writing communities can be.

Obviously there are detractors. Some people say it promotes quantity over quality and that publishers live in fear of the kind of under-edited manuscripts they receive in December, but there are success stories too, such as Sara Gruen’s Water for Elephants and Erin Morgenstern’s The Night Circus.

What Nanowrimo also demonstrates is that establishing a consistent writing routine really helps get words onto paper. We all know that sitting down to our keyboards and notepads can be an effort so setting yourself a clear deadline and target, whether you join in online or not, helps to establish a routine that works for you, whether that’s at 4am in the morning or after tea in the evening.

Having a routine also proves to yourself that you can ‘show up’ as Roseanne Bane puts it in her brilliant Around the Writer’s Block: Using Brain Science to Solve Writer’s Resistance, which in turn builds stronger neural pathways and hopefully makes the whole process of writing easier. FYI, if Nanowrimo isn’t for you or you think it’s too late to join in, Bane suggests setting a non-intimidating 15 minute target of writing per day as a starting point.

So this month’s hint/tip is to find a routine that works for you and get cracking. Next year, I hope to join in with Nanowrimo, but right now there are only 19 days left in November and no way am I catching up with 2633 words every twenty-four hours. So no offence to my writing friends – I wish you all luck, but this month I’m reading.

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Jenni Fletcher writes Historical Romance for Mills & Boon and her sixth book is out in January. In her spare time, she likes to turn off all her electronic devices and go mountain biking.

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