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National Novel Writing Month, or Nano as it is lovingly known among us writers, plays an important part in many writers’ lives. Each fall we gear up and get ready for the writing frenzy that starts November 1st when we have to produce at least 1667 words per day to reach that 50,000 word goal and become Nano winners. We at Critique-Circle have long admired this event and so we decided this year to become an official sponsor and in that way help in strengthening this important event even further. We also wanted to hear more about what drives the wonderful staff behind Nano and maybe get some tips on how to become a winner, so we called up Grant Faulkner, Executive Director at NanoWriMo and long-time Nano participant.
Grant, what would you say is the main purpose of Nano?
Grant: “There are a lot of main purposes! Fundamentally, though, NaNo exists to help people realize their creative dreams. Everyone has a story to tell, and everyone’s story matters, and we see evidence of that each year in NaNoWriMo. Last year, nearly five hundred thousand people participated. There are so many people who say they want to write a novel someday, and we help them write it today. NaNo helps people in a way that others don’t; we empower writers by helping them to set a goal and a deadline and meet their daily word-count targets within a supportive community. You don’t have to read how-to books about writing or study writing in a paid program; you just join us and learn by doing.
In fact, psychological studies show that it takes 30 days to create a new habit, so if you participate and create a writing habit, you’re more likely to keep on writing and make it a part of your life.
NaNo gives many people more than a finished novel, though—it gives them the transformative power of feeling themselves as creators. Many people take what they gain from Nano into other areas of life. We’ve heard of so many people who have accomplished other huge goals, such as going back to college to get a Phd, volunteering in their communities, or working with children. That is a wonderful thing because the world is a better place with creative people in it.”
Did you ever foresee the popularity that Nano has gained and do you think it has peaked?
“The founder of NaNo, Chris Baty, says he founded NaNoWriMo accidentally. He just wanted to write a novel. He didn’t truly intend to start a creative revolution, at least not at the beginning. So, no, I don’t think that he or anyone else ever thought that Nano would become so popular. It just goes to show that everyone is creative and has a story and that many people need a program like ours to help them. That’s why we continue to grow each year. We grow about 20% each year, so our growth is still strong. There is a long way to go before we peak, if a peak even exists.”
Can you name an established author that started out by participating?
“There are at least nine or ten best-selling novels that have come out of NaNo. Hugh Howey who wrote the best-selling science fiction series Wool is a Nano writer, and still does NaNo, every year. There is also Erin Morgenstern, who has told me she wouldn’t be an author if it wasn’t for NaNo, and she also still does it. Sara Gruen wrote Water for Elephants, and Marissa Mayer wrote The Lunar Chronicles. Many of NaNo’s published authors say that even after they start writing on the publisher’s schedule, they also use the NaNo schedule, that it helps them in their writing careers even when it’s not November.”
Do you know how many of those who try Nano do it again?
“A significant number. People like to be creative alongside other people and they find that in NaNo, so it’s not just about writing a novel that will someday be published, but being creative with others—reveling in the joyous mess of creation together, in effect.
Will we see any changes in Nano this year?
“We continue to grow all the time, and we keep making changes to support our writers. This year, for instance, we have come up with more motivational badges and ways to engage with others to help people keep going and reach their goals. Also, nearly 800 municipal liaisons all over the world will help writers by organizing write-ins. That’s in addition to the 650 libraries that host Come Write In events. We’re also sending out free classroom materials to over 2000 classrooms this year, which is 300 more than last year. We expect around 100.000 young people to participate in our Young Writers Program. Last year they were 89,500.”
How important is the Young Writers program to NanoWrimo?
“It’s huge! Consider this. When people my age were growing up, there was no such program, and most of us wouldn’t have dreamed of writing a novel. Now I talk to teens who may have completed 5 or 6 novels before graduating from high school! They are achieving huge goals that only adults used to reach before. If you form a writing habit when you’re young, you are more likely to keep it for the rest of your life, so we’re helping kids become life-long writers. The Young Writers Program is very important to us.”
Part II coming up soon :)