November is NaNoWriMo, or National Novel Writing Month. Launched in 1999, the event has had more than 250,000 participants. The official website describes it best:
Valuing enthusiasm and perseverance over painstaking craft, NaNoWriMo is a novel-writing program for everyone who has thought fleetingly about writing a novel but has been scared away by the time and effort involved. Because of the limited writing window, the ONLY thing that matters in NaNoWriMo is output. It’s all about quantity, not quality. This approach forces you to lower your expectations, take risks, and write on the fly.
Make no mistake: You will be writing a lot of crap. And that’s a good thing. By forcing yourself to write so intensely, you are giving yourself permission to make mistakes. To forgo the endless tweaking and editing and just create. To build without tearing down.
As you spend November writing, you can draw comfort from the fact that, all around the world, other National Novel Writing Month participants are going through the same joys and sorrows of producing the Great Frantic Novel. Wrimos meet throughout the month to offer encouragement, commiseration, and—when the thing is done—the kind of raucous celebrations that tend to frighten animals and small children.
A number of popular novels have come out of NaNoWriMo, including (according to the New York Public Library): Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen (2006), BreakupBabe by Rebecca Agiewich (2006), Self Storage by Gayle Brandeis (2007), Take the Reins by Jessica Burkhart (2009), and The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern (2011)
The NaNoWriMo website includes a wealth of resources for libraries, including a Library Outreach Guide. Libraries can sign up to participate and receive Come Write In kits with promotional materials. In addition, your area may have a Municipal Liaison, a volunteer dedicated to organizing events in your area and monitoring your regional forum, available. Partnering with a liaison can help you coordinate events, share write-in space, and/or have your events listed on your region’s official calendar.
School librarians should check out the Young Writers Program and sign up to receive information on ordering a free classroom kit with a progress chart, stickers, and buttons.
In addition to hosting a Write-In site and offering a closing celebration, last year the King County (Wash.) Library System held a program on editing your work presented by author Robet Dugoni. It taught participants how to review the common mistakes novelists make, and how to fix them before submitting to an agent or editor.
The Princeton (N.J.) Public Library will be offering Camp NaNoWriMo in June. Participants write in fifteen-minute, timed writings each Saturday morning from 9 a.m.–1 p.m. Breaks are held for five minutes between each session to give writers a chance to meet and cheer one another on. The writer with the highest word count at each meeting will win a free drink at a coffee shop.
The Hamilton-Wenham Public Library in South Hamilton, Massachusetts, hosted NaNoWriMo writers and provided additional support with help from the reference desk. Staff were able to answer such burning questions as “Can a nine-year-old fit down a badger hole?” and more.