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Want to Write a Nonfiction Book In 30 Days? Join the NaNoWriMo Rebels


Every year around this time, my Twitter feed starts blowing up with talk of National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo, as it’s called by insiders). The idea is to write a 50,000 word novel during the month of November.

An exercise in speed and endurance, it’s an opportunity to hammer out a first draft. There are tools to track your wordcount, a community to keep you motivated and on-track, and cool little perks for participating and reaching goals.

It always sounds fun and challenging, and every year I think, why am I not doing this?

The easy answer is that I’m not a novelist—or fiction writer at all.

But I recently discovered a NaNoWriMo rebel contingent full of writers writing whatever they want, including memoirs, nonfiction, graphic novels, and short stories.

“Hell yes,” I thought (and probably said out loud), “I’ve found my people.”

Writing Nonfiction for NaNoWriMo

I have several ideas for books rolling around my mind—all of them nonfiction. I love a good fiction book, getting swept up in a plot and all, but the truth is, 90 percent of what I read is nonfiction.

I love to nerd out on a good grammar book (I highly recommend New Yorker copyeditor Mary Norris’ Between You & Me: Confessions of a Comma Queen), a self-empowerment book (I’m currently devouring Jen Sincero’s You Are a Badass: How to Stop Doubting Your Greatness and Start Living an Awesome Life), or a book about creating eyeball-grabbing content (Everybody Writes by Ann Handley is on the top of my to-read pile).

So, given my love of nonfiction, I’m embracing my inner NaNoWriMo rebel in November and writing a nonfiction ebook—a guide to help coworking space operators get press for their space.

Wait, How Many Words Do I Have to Write?

NaNoWriMo is a huge undertaking. To hit the 50,000 word mark—about the length of The Great Gatsby—means writing roughly 1,600 words a day, every day of the month.

As you can imagine, lots of people fall off the wagon along the way, but the NaNoWriMo community offers ways to set your own goals, and it gives you lots of virtual high-fives, badges, and props along the way.

I’m pretty sure my ebook won’t be anywhere near 50,000 words—maybe half of that, in fact. So I have a backup book to start if I finish way ahead of time. That also gives me a little breathing room if unexpected freelance writing assignments come in that month.

I guess I’m even rebelling against the NaNoWriMo rebels, but I think they’ll be cool with that. The idea is to get words on the page and make a book (or at least the first draft of it) happen.

If you want to join the NaNoWriMo rebels (or the rule-abiding NaNoWriMo-ers, for that matter), you TOTALLY should! I think it’s going to be fun and motivating in all the right ways. Sign up at nanowrimo.org, fill out your profile, and get your typing fingers ready.

I’ll keep you posted on my progress and will probably be tweeting about my experiences if you want to follow along.

Are you participating in NaNoWriMo this year? Have you participated in the past? I’d love to hear your experience (and any helpful tips from the trenches you might have). Leave a comment below or ping me on Facebook or Twitter.

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