"No Plot? No Problem!"

Participatory project created by Oakland, California, writer Chris Baty. Participants in NaNoWriMo begin writing November 1. Their goal is to write a 175 page (50,000 word) novel by midnight, November 30. Why would anyone try to write a novel in 30 days? As Mr. Baty says:

The reasons are endless! To actively participate in one of our era's most enchanting art forms! To write without having to obsess over quality. To be able to make obscure references to passages from your novel at parties. To be able to mock real novelists who dawdle on and on, taking far longer than 30 days to produce their work.

There are no judges. There is no mechanism for publication. There is no critical feedback in a supportive environment. There is only the drive to write a novel.

Of course, this is going to put a serious dent in my noding for the month of November.

More info: http://www.nanowrimo.com/

Nanowrimo 1999 had 21 participants, of whom 6 completed novels. Nanowrimo 2000 had 140 participants and 21 finishers. Nanowrimo 2001 was announced on MetaFilter, and from the Blog community the meme spread to the Los Angles Times, the Washington Post, and NPR's All Things Considered. Over 5000 people signed up, which was at first exciting, then painful (Baty hand-codes the Web site that lists participants), then very expensive (as Baty's web host informed him he was exceeding his allocated bandwidth by a factor of five). 2001 would see the NaNoWriMo site hacked, pirate t-shirts, grant rejections, a proliferation of online support groups, spin-off copycat contests, Baty's credit cards maxed out, and ultimately, 700 finishers (on the honor system-- Baty had to back out of his pledge to do word counts himself).


In 2002, Baty found help. Developer Dan Sanderson managed to code automated sign up systems, word counters, and winner announcements, customized forums, allowing 14,000 participants to join in the challenge. Rather than relying on PayPal to raise voluntary contributions (which had raised pitiful amounts in 2001), t-shirt sales were plentiful enough to cover expenses for 2002.

For 2003, Baty encouraged more fans to become Municipal Liaisons, to lead the novel writing encouragement needed on a wider regional basis. 25,000 people were involved in the fifth annual challenge. Baty investigated starting a non-profit organization, but found the requirements burdensome. Instead, he decided to continue, on a for-profit basis, but donate profits to charity.


The sixth NaNoWriMo, in 2004, had 42,000 participants. Through a combination of t-shirt sales and donations, Baty aimed to cover the $46,000 in expenses it takes to run the project. 50% of the profits were donated to Room to Read, a charity that used the funds ($7000) to build libraries in Cambodia. The rest of the profits were used to pay staff.

Over 59,000 participants signed up in 2005, and Baty was able to create a nonprofit 501c3 organization to support the contest, which meant that donations to the project could be tax deductible. In 2006, over 79,000 would be novelists signed up, and 2007 saw 101,510 participants attempted to write a novel in just one month.

Chris Baty. "A History of NaNoWriMo." National Novel Writing Month Web site. 2004. <http://www.nanowrimo.org/modules/cjaycontent/index.php?id=4> (3 February 2005)

--. "Media Kit." National Novel Writing Month Web site. 2008. <http://www.nanowrimo.org/eng/mediakit> (16 September 2008)

Kara Platoni, "It Was a Dark and Stormy Month...," East Bay Express, 19 December 2001, <http://www.eastbayexpress.com/issues/2001-12-19/feature.html/1/index.html> (3 February 2005)