Writers, on your mark. Get set. Go!

Novella November, a whirlwind month full of typing. Each Thanksgiving season, individuals worldwide are invited to participate in National Novel Writing Month, a friendly competition and inspirational movement. This contest is a race against time and yourself! In order to participate in National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), all you have to do is create an easy to set-up and completely free account on the official NaNoWriMo website.

The end goal is to reach 50,000 words by midnight, at the conclusion of this month. 30 days, and 50,000 words later, you’ll be all that much closer towards a publishable product. Everyone participating in this group is different, and they all have have differing writing aspirations.

Whether you simply write as a hobby or you want to have it become a profession (like myself), this competition is here to help you move forward and grow as an experienced writer. The tools provided on this site are unbelievable. Some of the writing templates and tips that they provide have enabled me to get a jump start on my own personal 50,000-word manuscript this month.

This competition is basically a battle against yourself, and the clock. Race against time this November and see what this worldwide movement is all about.

Creating an account is completely free and only takes a couple of minutes. Once you sign up you will have endless, and extremely helpful access, to hundreds of forums, helpful tips, and even writing templates to help get you started. Writing a novel never seemed so easy!

This program is a great way for like-minded individuals to come together and grow as aspiring writers. Novelists and writers galore, contrary to the introvert hermit image I feel many associate us with,  also need a supportive and stimulating community in which they can connect, learn, and grow.

Nearly half a million people sign up each year, and this program is inclusive of all ages, as they even have a NaNo Young Writers Program.

Now that I’ve gotten you all excited (it’s okay no need to lie) you’re probably wondering how exactly NaNoWriMo works. So let’s go over the breakdown. After creating an account, and gaining access to tons of different sites, it’s time for you to actually title your novel.

No need to fret however, because if you’re anything like me, who believes the title to be of utmost importance to the embodiment of the book, after you initially announce the title, it can always be changed and edited. The site just makes you do it so that you can update your word count in that specific novel each day.

Once you announce your masterpiece, you have the option of uploading a cover and filling out a brief synopsis over your story’s plotline. However, you do not, I repeat, do not actually write your novel on the NaNoWriMo website. This site is just a way for you to keep track of yourself and for others to encourage you and keep tabs on your progress as well. Each day, it is suggested that you update your word count to the current amount.

In order to stay on track with the 50,000 word goal, it is estimated that you need to write 1,667 words a day. However, this competition is completely on your time, and you can structure your writing amounts differently than this proposed suggestion. The cool thing about writing is that you are your own boss, so plan your writing schedule around all your other responsibilities! Personally, I have found that it’s really helpful for busier people to break writing into smaller chunks. The website has a word sprint tool, which helps you to set a timer and write uninterrupted for a certain amount before it goes off. No editing or changing, just constant typing or scrawling on paper. I have found this tool helpful, as it makes my daily word goals seem less unreachable.

However, (helpful tip time) I also have also learned a nifty trick for keeping track of my somewhat random and fleeting ideas. Instead of letting that split second brilliant idea pass me by, I have just started typing some ideas into my phones notes app, when I don’t have anything else to record on. I record everything, even just a few sentences of dialogue between my characters or a descriptive scene, and then I just email it to myself. That way I don’t loose any ideas, I can access them all the next time I am on my laptop and actually prepared to write, and I find it easier to reach my word count each day because I’m constantly doing it as I go along with my other daily business.

As well as being able to connect with writers from around the world, there is also a tab on the website  labeled regions, where you can find a NaNoWriMo group that meets up near your town! There are a total of 651 of these Municipal Liasons around the world that get together to help spread the writing fever. And if you’re somewhat of a homebody like myself, these communities also participate in live organized virtual write-ins, where you can get connected from the comfort of your own home. This sort of collaboration helps to get your creative flow moving and helps to keep you accountable and on track.

Since I am personally participating in this competition, I located the BCS regions page and was instantly directed to their personal regional lounge. I was able to see each member t near me, and it was really inspiring to see how many motivated writers there were in my area. I noticed that they were even throwing a celebratory kick-off party on Halloween night that would go until midnight, the start of NaNoWriMo. After reading the encouraging comments on the page, and also just out of sheer curiosity, I decided to RSVP to the event, and see where it took me.

On All Hallows Eve, at around 10 p.m., I donned my Daphne costume (shoutout to all you Scooby Doo fans in the house) and went to the Ihop on Highway 6, not really sure what to expect. The night was rainy and cold, however, once I stepped into the sectioned off party room in the restaurant, the warming atmosphere changed to about 20 smiling individuals. They immediately complimented my costume and welcomed both myself and the rest of my Scooby Gang. The ambiance and atmosphere in that brightly decorated room was very supportive and encouraging. Everyone who was gathered around the long connected tables was extremely friendly and chatty. At first I had been nervous that I might not fit in, or that it would be a tight-knit group. However, everyone intermingled with one another, switching from seat to seat as goody bags were passed out to each member.

These bags played along with the theme of this year’s NaNoWriMo. Every year, the competition has a different theme, which are not required to be part of your manuscript, but can be helpful suggestions for any artists struggling for ideas or topics. This year’s theme is Superheros, which I found kind of intriguing, since there are so many modern day adaptations of comic classics.

The superhero treat bags had a lot of themed goodies inside, some candy, a superhero pencil with a cute cape eraser and a printed out handbook, that gave many helpful tips and was small enough to be brought around everywhere!

Ted Boone, one of the three volunteer municipal liaisons for the region of Bryan-College Station, was sitting across from me. Liaisons coordinate events and write-ins, organize the regions site page and serve as knowledgeable mentors and leaders for rookies like myself. As a Mays Business Professor, Boone is also the primary on campus coordinator, hosting weekly meet-ups in the Evans Annex to write, eat yummy treats and share ideas.

“You have to learn to turn off your inner editor and just write, even if you think it’s garbage,” Boone, who has completed 13 NaNoWriMos, explained when asked about helpful tips to success. “You can’t fix something that doesn’t exist.”

On November 30, at the end of the month, you are supposed to copy and paste your novel into the NaNoWriMo word processor, where your writing is checked to see if it is over the 50,000-word minimum. After your piece is checked, you join the circle of winners!

“It seems overwhelming at first because of the big numbers, but, if you just dedicate less than a couple hours a day, you’ll have a full manuscript by the end of the month,” Boone said. “It’s all about teaching yourself to get the words out.”

Winners gain special privileges and access to discounted writing websites, applications, and downloads. This is basically like Mary Poppins’ endless goody bag for Writers. They have everything. Many of the sponsors of this movement offer their services, products, and subscriptions at extremely lowered rates. Some applications even come free after you win.

“In the end, this is all about what you personally want to get out of it,” Boone said. “But this is as fun for you as it is for us.”

This simple challenge could lead to a lifetime of writing. Do it for yourself, and see where the pages will lead you. Your novel could just change the world.