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The Nanowrimo, the Unexpected Prize

Updated on January 22, 2022
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Vanessa has earned a Master of Arts Degree in Creative Writing from SNHU. She entered the NanoWrimo every year since 2003. She won 3 times.

What is NaNoWriMo?

If You Enter the Nanowrimo, What Can You Win?

That time of year comes around quickly. November. The month of madness. The month of glory. The month that thousands of literary geeks all around the world hail as the most exciting month of the year. It is the NaNoWriMo, or National Novel Writing Month. It is the month that the NaNoWriMo Organization sponsors the National Novel Writing contest.

What exactly is the NaNoWriMo Contest, and what do you win if you enter?

The NaNoWriMo is a novelist's contest open to anyone interested in joining. The goal of the contest is to write a novel of at least 50,000 words in the space of 30 days. You can log in at 12:01 Am on November 1, and write off and on between then and 11:59 on November 30. If you meet the 50,000 word requirement by their word counter, you win. Anyone and everyone can win as long as they make the word count.

Prior to entering the NaNoWriMo, you can create your characters, make an outline, imagine some of the scenes in your mind. The only thing that you cannot do is write any part of the novel itself. You must wait for the start of the contest for that.

The novel does not have to be perfect or even good. To win, you just have to meet the required word count.

What do you win? You have the first draft of a completed novel. And Oh, yeah, you get a very artistically created certificate for your wall. There is no monetary prize, no exaltation, you will probably not be in the news.

But, it is worth it!

I joined the NaNoWriMo contest for the last several years, but I only won the 2007 contest. That year was the end of one of the worst periods of my life. My character and my finances had both been assaulted, and my self-esteem was at an all-time low. In 2007, I bought the kit to help me get organized and motivated to win, and I did. The prize I got was greater than any other prize I have ever won before or since. And that prize came in many forms.

I learned that I really can make a goal and stick to it. The entire NaNoWriMo Contest is created around the art of goal setting. You have a very specific goal, i.e. 50,000 written words, with a very specific timeline of thirty days. If you want to win, it helps to develop a plan that includes smaller goals and small rewards for meeting them. But the really big boost is when you get to the end and find that you succeeded. After that, there are no more excuses. The prize is that you know from then on that you are an accomplished person. You win bragging rights. You know that you can do what you set out to do. You are capable of being a winner.

I learned that there really are people who are willing to offer their support. In the midst of my writing journey, I reached out to a lot of people that I knew. I wanted a way to motivate myself to succeed, so I let them know what I was doing and that I needed help. Before that, I was feeling very alone. By the time i was done, I made many new friends, both among the wrimos and in my own circle of life.

I also feel that it is a wonderful prize to make friends that share my interests. Many creative people suffer from occasional feelings of isolation from not having someone to talk to about their passions. Everyone wants to share their lives with someone.

The members of the NaNoWriMo sponsor get togethers during the contest where they can share their characters, their stories and their writing experiences. There are emails and message boards as well, and sometimes lasting friendships are born.

I hang my NaNo certificate on my wall with pride, but the best prize I got that year was the prize of finding myself and my friends.

I highly recommend it to everyone.

By mpclemens from Pleasant Hill, United States (NaNoWriMo: the home front) [CC-BY-2.0 ( or CC-BY-3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons
By mpclemens from Pleasant Hill, United States (NaNoWriMo: the home front) [CC-BY-2.0 ( or CC-BY-3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

No Plot No Problem

Ready, Set, Novel!: A Workbook
Ready, Set, Novel!: A Workbook
This is the book that started it all. The founder of the NanoWrimo wrote this to help guide Nano participants over the finish line. I highly recommend all serious wrimo novelists get and read this before November gets here.

Nano 2014

November is coming!

It has been 7 years since I won the Nano. November is approaching, and I am looking forward to participating yet again.

This year should be special. My writing has slacked off quite a bit lately, mostly because I went back to college. I wanted to hone my craft by going to creative writing school, but between school and my full-time "real" job, I haven't felt like devoting much time to writing outside of class. My goal for this Nano is to prove to myself that I really can squeeze in one more thing.

This year, I plan to write an anthology of short stories, which I can later turn into web pages. It's not exactly a novel, but it should be OK. My goal is just to get back into the swing of things. We'll see how it goes.

Parody] Good Ol' NaNoWriMo

Ways to Make the Writing Go Faster

It might seem like cheating, but go for it!

There are lots of ways that you can increase your word count. Here are a few suggestions:

  • Do not ever use contractions.
  • Give your characters very long names, and then use them occasionally.
  • Use long and complex descriptions. Remember, your goal is the word count. You can edit your novel later.
  • I believe there is a forum on this topic on the Nanowrimo website. You should read it. Also, it helps to talk to other wrimos. They are usually more than willing to share.

Another suggestion that I have is to get Dragon or another narration program so you can write while you hands are doing something else. I have it. I bought it to help with my school work last year after I had surgery on my hand, and I have been using it ever since. If you want to take this a step further, you can get a digital recorder and record your novel while you are walking around. Then, if the sound quality of your recorder is good enough, you can play it to the dragon program so it can write it down. If that doesn't work, you can always get a trusted friend to catch up your typing for you.

NaNo tips

how many years have you done Nanowrimo?

See results

Top 10 Ways to Increase Your NaNoWriMo Word Count

Beyond the Pandemic

The last two years were difficult for everyone. With the pandemic in full swing, we couldn't enjoy the camaraderie of the write-ins, yet that was also a blessing. We had to stay inside. What better circumstance can there be for a fast paced novel writing session?

The NanoWrimo organization rose to the occasion. Instead of shutting down, they replaced the write-ins with virtual group sessions and message boards. They were there for us all the way. Now they are working to keep an active novel writing community open throughout the year. It's a great place for a writer to be.

Nanowrimo Song

The Nanowrimo Song
The Nanowrimo Song
Here's a quick ditty to help keep you motivated.

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