NaNoWriMo interview

With Sarah Mackey

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What is NaNoWriMo? NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel Writing Month. The very first NaNoWriMo took place in July, 1999, in the San Francisco Bay Area. That first year there were 21 novelists that participated. NaNoWriMo has grown exponentially over the years and in 2010 had 200,500 participants.

I'm excited to introduce you to Sarah Mackey today who will share with us more about NaNoWriMo.

1. Hello, Sarah, thank you so much for agreeing to interview with us today. I'm not sure if our readers know much about NaNoWriMo, I know there is a full explanation on your website, but would you mind sharing a brief summary about it here?

National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo, is the answer to "One day, I'm going to write a novel." You say that, and we say, "Great! How's November 1st? Because that's when you're going to start." It's giving you the friendly kick in the behind you need to just sit down and write the thing. No excuses, no delays - just the motivation to finally do it. We define a novel, for the purposes of the event, as 50,000 words, and in order to be a NaNoWrimo winner, you have to write those 50,000 words in the 30 days of November.

2. What advice would you give to first time NaNo authors? First of all, your novel is going to suck. Often. But in among the sucking are these flashes of brilliance that make you feel like an absolute genius. That feeling is worth all the agony that goes along with the sucking.

Second of all, get involved in the community. That's what makes NaNoWriMo so successful, I think - it takes what's usually a solitary endeavour and turns it into a literary block party. Post in the forums, join in the @NaNoWordSprints on Twitter, or go out to a write-in in your community. The moral support and friendly peer pressure is incredibly effective, and it's almost always incredibly productive.

3. You were a NaNo participant for several years, can you tell us about one of the novels you worked on during that time?

I've been participating in NaNoWriMo since 2002, and I've won every year. Probably my easiest novel to write (and, not surprisingly, the only one that has a real ending!) was my 2005 novel. I'd just gotten married, so I figured I'd write about a wedding. The novel took place over the 24 hours of the wedding day, each chapter was an hour of the day, and it alternated perspectives between the bride, the groom, the best man, and the maid of honour. I really liked being able to switch characters when I was a little stuck, and the really firm structure made it very easy to pace the story. Pacing is not my strong suit!

4. Last year there were over 30,000 NaNo authors that completed writing 50k words of a novel during the month of November, do you have any clue how many of those authors went on to do something with their novels?

I don't know about last year's winners specifically - I suspect a lot of those winners are still in the revising process! But we do have a nearly-complete list of all the traditionally published NaNoWriMo participants here:, and that's only a small snapshot of what folks have done with their novels. It doesn't include the self-published books, the ebooks, or even the short stories that folks ended up carving out of their novels. But we definitely hear from a lot of participants and winners who are in the process of working on the edits to previous years' novels.

5. Besides the insane amount of novel writing going on each November, you have several other programs for writers throughout the year. Can you tell our readers a little bit about those?

National Novel Writing Month is our largest event, but we actually run three programs: NaNoWriMo, the Young Writers Program, and Script Frenzy. Script Frenzy runs in April each year, and the challenge there is to write a 100 page script in 30 days. Participants write stage plays, screenplays, television show scripts, even graphic novels - there's a huge variety in Script Frenzy that's really fascinating to watch.

The Young Writers Program takes our two writing programs and adapts and tailors them to young writers. We've got resources for teachers, including full workbooks based on the Language Arts Curriculum, customized for different grade levels. Writers set their own word count goals in the YWP, and they work towards their personal goals while getting the chance to interact with other writers their age all over the world. We offer everything from virtual classrooms to stickers and pencils for participating students, and it's absolutely inspiring to see them really engage with creative writing.

6. If you had to give one reason why writers should participate in NaNoWriMo, what would it be?

NaNoWriMo isn't just about writing a novel in a month, it's about giving yourself permission to make your creative self a priority. It's a lesson that can broaden your horizons so much, and really have a profound impact on your life, not just in November. It's about changing your default answer to "Sure, I'll try it!" from "No, I don't think I can." Think of how learning that lesson could change your life.

7. Thank you again, Sarah, for agreeing to interview with us. In closing, can you tell our readers where they can learn more about NaNoWriMo online, and possibly sign up?

You can find us at, where there's more information than you can shake a stick at! You can also follow us on Twitter at or like us on Facebook at Thanks so much!

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