Thursday, September 3, 2009

Spotlight on

Learn the best ways to get connected, hone your skills and build your career on the Web in this expanded Q&A with the founder of

Year founded: 1999
Member stats: 2008: 119,301participants and 21,683 winners. 2009 (projected): 140,000 participants and 25,000 winners.
Mission: To help people bash out a 50,000-word novel in November. And have a great time doing it.
How to sign up: Just head to and click the "sign up now" box. You can sign up anytime for the November event. We don't charge an entry fee, but we're a nonprofit, and do ask that ably-financed participants donate something to help cover costs. If you are 17-and-under, we encourage you to take part in NaNoWriMo through our awesome Young Writers Program, located at
About the founder: Chris Baty (who fielded these questions) is the founder of NaNoWriMo and the author of No Plot? No Problem!

Describe the writer who can most benefit from involvement in NaNoWriMo.

I think there are two types of people who will benefit most from taking part in NaNoWriMo:
1) The first-time novelist.
2) The more experienced writer who can't find time to write.
For first-time novelists, it's easy to get discouraged by novel writing. A lot of that frustration comes from the fact that we've read so many great novels by the time we try to write one of our own. So our expectations tend to be very, very high. When our first drafts fall short of those aspirations, we assume something is wrong with our story (wrong idea, wrong main character, wrong point-of-view, etc.) or something is wrong with us (no-talent, tin ear for dialogue, horrible breath, bad dancer, etc.) It's demoralizing, and makes novel-writing such a slog that people abandon their books after a couple chapters.

The tragedy, of course, is that the books that made us want to write in the first place likely started out as dreadful first drafts. Most novels are born as ugly, confused creatures, and they only become the surefooted masterworks we love through a series of revisions and helpful interventions from friends, agents and editors.

With this in mind, first-time novelists should really be shooting for completion rather than perfection. They need to put aside all those dreams of elegant prose and snappy dialogue and just focus on getting an entire first draft down on paper. Then they can see where the juicy, beating heart of their story lies, and start building their second draft around that heart.

This is where huge community of writers can work wonders. There's so much camaraderie and encouragement on the NaNoWriMo site, and 99 percent of is focused on simply keeping writers moving forward. At any hour of the day in November, you can come to the site and find tips for writer's block, get recipes for mojo-boosting snacks, join an online word sprint, or find out where local Wrimos are meeting to write that week. Cumulatively, it creates a wave of can-do energy that helps keep novice writers committed to their books from start to finish.

The other group of authors who benefit most from NaNoWriMo are experienced writers who have been struggling to make time to write. NaNoWriMo is a little like a thirty-day writing retreat, but one that's plunked down in the middle of your everyday life. To make it work, you have to cut out a lot of procrastinatory pursuits, get creative about chore swapping and childcare duties, and adjust sleep schedules. But once you do, it's amazing how much you can get done in a month. Through that process, you realize that writing can happen even in the midst of a hectic schedule. And once you get into the rhythm of bagging those 1,667 words each day, it's easier to maintain a consistent writing schedule for the rest of the year.