Can You Write a Book in 30 Days?– National Novel Writing Month 2013

Can you write a novel in 30 days?

Rome wasn’t built in a day, but could you be writing the first draft of the next Harry Potter by the end of this month?

That’s the hope for everyone participating in November’s National Novel Writing Month, known simply as NaNoWriMo to fans. Creative thinkers across the world come together and try to “win” by pounding out 50,000 words in 30 days.

It might sound impossible, but what started as an underground movement has evolved into a literary explosion with over 200,000 participants already signed up this year.

But why try to complete such a crazy task? And who came up with this anyway? Read more to learn about the heartbreak, history, and success stories of National Novel Writing Month.

NaNoWriMo Facts & History

nanowrimo2_large_verge_medium_portraitThis wordy holiday was founded back in 1999 when creator Chris Baty and 20 other writers in the San Francisco Bay area first undertook the challenge.

According to the website, “. . .  we wanted to write novels for the same dumb reasons twenty-somethings start bands. Because we wanted to make noise.”

By the next year, participation had exploded with 5,000 showing up. In 2002, it garnered media attention and refined its website adding forums, automatic word counters, and divided the group into regions with Municipal Liaisons to organize events for their area.

Today, you’ll find writers of all ages baring the NaNo logo on laptops and t-shirts and writing their hearts out to catch that novel! Some of their unique activities include challenges like word wars, where you try to write more than another writer in a designated amount of time.

Writers may also be asked to incorporate something into their writing at a moment’s notice. Don’t think it sounds that bad? You try writing a penguin into a heart-wrenching love scene.

The forums also provide all the help a crazed writer could ever want. This includes a “dead plot” area, where you can go pick up plots or characters other writers have discarded, and even people asking for research help about things like police procedure.

Over the years  this event has led to not just hundreds of tired but satisfied writers, but over 250 books published through traditional means. Some of the more notable examples include Sara Gruen’s Water for Elephants and Wool by Hugh Howey.

All in all, it’s got a pretty impressive stat sheet for a nonprofit started by a bunch of shiftless creatives. Let’s take a look, shall we?

NaNoWriMo Quick Facts:
  • Last year, 341,375 reached the 50,000 work mark.
  • coordinates for 586 regions on. six continents.
  • NaNoWriMo has been a 501(c)(3) nonprofit in 2006 operating under the name, “The Office of Letters and Light.”
  • Novels that have been published through NaNoWriMo include: Sara Gruen’s Water for Elephants, Erin Morgenstern’s The Night Circus, Hugh Howey’s Wool, Rainbow Rowell’s Fangirl, Jason Hough’s The Darwin Elevator, and Marissa Meyer’s Cinder.

Local Success Stories

The Love ThiefAs we said earlier, lots of people have found published success from this wordy month, and you don’t have to go to New York or L.A. to find them. Take it from Dixie Jarchow, a science teacher and this year’s “Municipal Liaison” for Outagamie, Calumet, and Winnebago County.

With a background in science, working in just about every field you can think of from geology to engineering to chemistry, writing was not Jarchow’s forte when she started over ten years ago.

“I had people kick me out of their writing groups because I was so bad,” she says. “It made me determined to get better and now I have a book coming out in December.”

In addition to continuing with various writing groups, Jarchow began taking the 50,000 word challenge. After a few years, she finally struck gold and wrote was she refers to as a “sweet romance novel” involving jewel thieves, a giant dog, and the most unlikely of relationships.

After November was over, she edited and pitched it at Oshkosh’s first Lakefly Literary Conference. Now, “The Love Thief” is slotted to come out in eBook format from Prism Book Group, with a possibility of a paper printing depending on its sales.

For Jarchow and many others, NaNoWriMo is a great way to push back that critical barrier that keeps them from writing.

“I think a lot of people want to write, they envision themselves as having a book in them, but they have that inner editor,” Jarchow says. “They write three sentences, and then they’ve got to go over them and go over them, and they never get past that.”

Though she’s delighted to have been published (and is currently working on promoting another novel), she says the community NaNoWriMo creates is the best thing about it.

“It’s a real community of who just want to write,” she says. “Will they ever get published? Maybe, maybe not. Probably mostly not, but who cares. We’re all out there digging.”

For all those out there digging this month, good luck. And drink lots of coffee. You’re going to need it.

Interested in doing NaNoWriMo this year?  Go to the Oshkosh Public Library from 6:30-9pm tonight to participate in a write-in or try to catch Saturday’s word fest at the Appleton Public Library from 2-5pm. For more dates at times, sign up at

You can also go directly to the NaNoWriMo Fox Cities Thread for more dates, times and info.

Are You Writer Enough?

Will you be joining in on the writing this year? What tricks do you use to hit that magic 50,00 word mark? Leave a comment below!


  1. I found your site because of your “bubbler” article, but this one caught my attention, too, because I participated in NaNo this year for the first time. I already hit the 50,000 word mark two weeks ago, and it’s been an awesome challenge that I’m sure to do again.
    My biggest tip for hitting 50,000 starts at the ideas. If you don’t have enough going on in your story, you’re not going to get very many words into it, but if you plan out your subplots and have plenty of steps leading to the resolution, you’ll likely have more to work with so you don’t have to struggle with meeting the word-count challenge. I know a lot of people go into it without any idea what their story will be like, but that’s no way to write a novel. Plan ahead and be conscious of the time you have available. If you don’t have a lot of free time, then don’t worry about going back and rewriting things before you’ve finished the story.

Make a Comment! (We know you want to)