Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Wordcraft: The end of NaNoWriMo and a new beginning

There, it’s over. NaNoWriMo, the National Novel Writing Month (of November) has ended, with a whole lot more words than when it began. The official goal for the month is 50,000 words per writer. Most of us don’t make that many. I signed off for the last time early yesterday afternoon, with a little more than 25,000 for the month. As a wiser writer at one of the group write-ins for my Dallas-Fort Worth region said, every word written is one more than you had before you started.

Despite the name, a holdover from the organization’s original starting point, NaNoWriMo is now worldwide, with participants on six continents.

My region’s 2,000 plus active participants churned out more than 33 million words during the month of November. Yes, that’s not a type. Yes, it really is millions of words. Our average word count in the Dallas-Fort Worth was about 16,000, so maybe I wasn’t doing too badly, although some of my writing buddies whizzed past that 50,000 mark like thermometers busting in a Texas heat wave.

Worldwide, NaNoWriMo participation may well total millions of writers and billions of words. Going through the alphabetical list of regions, I counted more than 100,000 writers before getting past the letter “C”. That’s a lot of people with a lot of things to say.

Still, despite the few famously traditionally-published novels that come out of NaNoWriMo, most of our annual harvests of words will never see print. So why bother to write?

Some NaNoWriMo participants, of course, actually are professional writers. They spend each November getting first drafts of their next bestseller down, to be revised during the following year. Others just can’t help ourselves. We’d be carrying our portable devices, even our pads of paper and pencils with us even if NaNoWriMo never existed. We’ll be furiously pursuing the stories in our heads, jotting impressions of our fellow commuters on the train, our work group, our jury panel until our fingers drop off. And some participants just want to see if they can string together a whole lot of words.

However, for those willing to keep pushing themselves past November, the NaNoWriMo organization offers much, much more help.

Starting in January, those who joined NaNoWriMo can make a new pledge: to revise those newly written first drafts. Periodically during the year, the organization offers online writing camps, tips on the craft of writing, and planning for the coming writing marathon. It’s also amassed blog after blog of reference material. You can even buy books on writing through NaNoWriMo. Sales of books and other merchandise help fund this nonprofit organization, including its Young Writers Program with free workbooks, curricula and classroom materials for teachers.


Until January, here are some more statistics for anybody who’s as hardcore on numbers as on words:

Germany as a geographic region took the prize for the highest average word count. Its writers averaged more than 26,000 words each for a total of more than 83 million words.

The literary genre that drew the most words from writers was fantasy, with approximately 800 million words worldwide, and an average of more than 20,000 words per writer working in this genre. The genres of erotic literature and religious/spiritual literature were both at the bottom of total word counts. Writers of erotica chugged out more than 26 million words worldwide. Writers of religious/spiritual literature produced more than 22 million total words. (Writers self-specified their genres.)


  1. Well done, Melissa. That's a whole heap of words. I don't know how you do it!

    1. Thanks, Deborah. And you're the amazing one, with your incredible story sales!