November is National Novel Writing Month, affectionately known as NaNoWriMo. This annual event is “a fun, seat-of-your-pants approach to novel writing.” Started in 1999 by Chris Baty, the goal of NaNoWriMo is to write 50,000 words, the equivalent of the average-sized novel, in 30 days. Sounds crazy? Baty acknowledges this in the first line of his book No Plot? No problem! A Low-Stress, High-Velocity Guide to Writing a Novel in 30 Days: “The era, in retrospect, was very kind to dumb ideas.”
Success has been more than just kindness, though, as this dumb idea clearly resonated with a lot of people. NaNoWriMo participation has grown from the original 21 participants in the San Francisco area to over 200,000 worldwide in 2010. In 2006, Baty founded the nonprofit Office of Letters and Light to run NaNoWriMo, sister event Script Frenzy in April, and the NaNoWriMo Young Writer Programs, which “provides kids and teens with a month-long creative experience that improves self-esteem, teaches perseverance, and radically alters their relationships with writing and literature.” Now in its 13th year, NaNoWriMo is a global, multi-channel, social event that has grown as much because of its passionate community as the organizers’ hard work and dedication.
Participation in NaNoWriMo, like most online social communities, is free. All you have to do is sign up on the NaNoWriMo website where you can connect with fellow writers, track your progress, and get pep talks from organizers and famous authors, among other amusements. Unlike most social communities, however, this event has been refining this experience since before the words “social networking” buzzed into our social consciousness.
The history of NaNoWriMo provides an interesting perspective on how the online user experience of NaNoWriMo evolved in conjunction with and sometimes anticipated the emerging technologies. Read the rest of this post »