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NaNoWriMo is coming!

October 25, 2010 |  5:38 pm

Nanowrimo_2010 Exactly one week from today, more than 175,000 intrepid writers will plunge into the month-long scramble to compose a complete novel, known as NaNoWriMo.

The goal: a completed novel of at least 50,000 words before midnight November 30.

To reach that word count, a writer must produce an average of 1,667 words each day of the month -- including Thanksgiving. And the day after.

The sacrificies: clean laundry, decaf, sleep, swept floors and all the other domestic and social responsibilities that writers and aspiring writers set aside in order to reach the finish line.

In 1999, 21 people gave it a try -- six completed novel-length manuscripts. The idea, which was launched by founder Chris Baty and his friends, quickly caught on. Last year, there were 167,150 participants; 32,178 "won."

The key to the awkwardly named NaNoWriMo is community. Writers use the website as a home base, taking encouragement, asking questions about software or random details ("Could an angry bear outrun a golf cart?"), sharing frustrations and, of course, tracking word counts. In hundreds of cities, NaNoWriMo participants will meet up in groups to drink beer, or coffee, or to just be in one place together while working at separate laptops.

Los Angeles has close to 4,000 participants already signed up; a local NaNoWriMo kick-off is scheduled for the afternoon of Oct. 30 at the Cat & Fiddle.

Some of those people are likely to be return customers. In 2009, Baty estimated that more than 60% of the participants had tried NaNoWriMo before. "I think they come back for the community, but also because it's just really nice to have one month out of the year of creative 'me time,'" he told Writers Digest. "Making big, messy art is a fun, reviving experience, and once you've done it once, you tend to want to do it every year."

To those about to write: we salute you.

-- Carolyn Kellogg

Image credit: NaNoWriMo

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