With the arrival of November, writers and wannabe authors everywhere are gearing up for the annual frenzy known as National Novel Writing Month, better known as NaNoWriMo. The event has become a tremendously popular phenomenon, but what does it mean for book publishers — and what should you be doing to prepare?
What is NaNoWriMo?
For nearly 20 years, established and aspiring writers have undertaken the NaNoWriMo challenge to finish a draft of a 50,000-word novel during a 30-day time span: the month of November. Although veteran participants often do a lot of their work prior to November, the collective inspiration and motivation gives them additional incentives to get the stories rattling around in their heads finally committed to paper.
Since 2006, volunteers have created a network of writing communities around the world that guide and motivate writers via forums and local gatherings. According to Grant Faulkner, Executive Director of NaNoWriMo, in 2017, NaNoWriMo drew nearly 400,000 participants on six continents, and more than 58,000 completed their writing goal. Event coordinators also provide support and reference materials for students and teachers who wish to participate through educational institutions, nurturing a new generation of passionate writers.
Despite the fact that the urge to “write like the wind” to get 50,000 words on paper each year can lead to a lot of 50,000-word trash bin occupants, many authors and first drafts do make their way to publishers’ desks.
Why publishers should take note
NaNoWriMo brings together and provides support for budding authors and encourages young writers, but they aren’t the only ones who benefit from this annual writing marathon. NaNoWriMo has encouraged many would-be authors to finish and submit their novels.
Did you know that Sara Gruen’s Water for Elephants or Julie Hammerle’s Artificial Sweethearts might be still sitting in their creators’ minds or computer files if not for the encouragement that this November event brings to reticent writers? In fact, hundreds of novels first drafted during NaNoWriMo have been traditionally published.
“It’s been wonderful for the publishing industry,” Laura Apperson, an editor at St. Martin’s Press, told Publishers Weekly. As of October 2017, three published St. Martin’s novels began as NaNoWriMo projects. “If you have a community, you’re a lot more motivated to write; you’re a lot more motivated to start shopping your book around,” Apperson said in the article, explaining how NaNoWriMo has influenced the industry.
NanoWriMo is much more than a motivating gimmick for aspiring writers. It is a movement that has created publishing networks in regions where writers have often lacked support. It has not only resulted in hundreds of traditionally published novels but also helped countless writers hone their craft through peer guidance and mentorship. The NaNoWriMo event has grown in popularity and number of participants every year since its inception and will likely continue to do so. Publishers need to be aware of this yearly ritual and how it benefits the industry through the number and quality of manuscripts that result. It is a great opportunity to discover new talent and cultivate mutually beneficial relationships with writers who otherwise might never have the confidence to submit their stories.
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