“Ask an Editor” is a forum wherein SCBWI members submit questions that are answered as part of our quarterly Kite Tales blog.
Hi Christine—This time of year it seems so many writers are participating in NaNoWriMo. What exactly is that and is it worthwhile for kid’s book writers? I’m writing a middle-grade novel.—Jo, Encino
Hello Jo—“NaNoWriMo” means National Novel Writing Month which happens in November. People from around the world get together and commit to writing 50,000 words in 30 days—that’s 1,667 words per day! NaNo has been around since 1999, started by writer Chris Baty in the San Francisco Bay Area. It’s grown into a huge nonprofit organization that “provides tools, structure, community, and encouragement to help people find their voices, achieve their goals, and build new worlds—on and off the page.” And it’s free!
CAN KID’S BOOK WRITERS JOIN IN?
Absolutely! NaNo is inclusive. Children’s book writers are included and even though the NaNo name includes the word “novel,” there are plenty of nonfiction writers participating as well. I’ve done NaNo twice and have enjoyed the camaraderie. I met up with others for weekly “write-ins” where we gathered at a local café and wrote for a set amount of time, then had a break to chat. I wouldn’t have accomplished 100,000+ words without the NaNo pep talks and nudging from the writing buddies.
Being a middle-grade writer may be the BEST kind of writer to be for this event because a 50,000-word book can work as MG but is too short to be a YA or adult book (though adult nonfiction has varying word counts). The goal is to write; any event that gets people to do that gets a big gold star in my book. Even if you are working on a YA and end up with 50,000 words, that’s 50,000 more than you had on October 31st!
If you decide to do it, writing without editing helps keep the speed and word count up. Use place markers. For example, if you’re hanging up on a scene, summarize it and type ADD MORE HERE. If your book needs research (maybe it’s historical fiction), don’t stop now. Rather, type RESEARCH and keep writing. After NaNo is over, you’ll have plenty of time to fill in the blanks as you revise.
NaNo, however, may not be a good fit for writers whose audience is age 0-8 (board book, picture book, early reader, chapter book) or for writers of graphic novels because word count for those categories is quite low.
NaNoWriMo is a huge, well-organized group that offers support for writers beyond November. Visit https://nanowrimo.org/ where “Every story matters.” If you create an account (even if you aren’t going to write in November) you’ll find a wealth of information under “Writers Resources.” Chris Baty’s reference books include No Plot? No Problem! A Low-Stress, High-Velocity Guide to Writing a Novel in 30 Days and workbook, Ready, Set, Novel! Plan and Plot Your Upcoming Masterpiece.
Whether you’re seeking community or need motivational deadlines, give NaNo a try. It’s a fun way to get more words on the page. And it doesn’t end in November. Camp NaNoWriMo in April and July allow you to set your month-long word-count goal. They also have a program for young writers under age 18.
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