Say it real quick and it's a fun nonsense word, but break it down and it's short for National Novel Writing Month. Though now, in its tenth year, it's an international event, so it really should be InNoWriMo. Though it's not nearly as fun to say.
So what the heck is it? It's an opportunity for all those folks who've ever said, "I've always wanted to write a novel" to actually get off their patooties and DO it already by setting a one-month goal of 50,000 words. You pledge solidarity with thousands of other writers all over the world and say, "Yes! I will sit my butt down and write at least 1,667 words every single day in November!" (Yes, I know there's some contradiction there between getting off one's behind then sitting it down again to write. Work with me, alright?) Then you sign up at nanowrimo.org, join a home region so you can contribute to your area's word count, and start writing. After you've procrastinated a little bit by setting up your profile and checking out the forums, that is. I'm such a sucker for forums. Then you can grab a fun little widget like the one on the right that will broadcast to the entire world just how well you're doing on your novel.
I had about 30,000 words when I first read about NaNoWriMo. How I've been a writer this long and never heard of this phenomenon, I don't know. But I read about it on someone's blog on November 1 and thought, "Now that is a cool idea! And if I did that, I'd have my novel nearly done!" And it dawned on me that this would be a great accountability took to keep me from becoming completely depressed over how far behind I was on my writing. And let me tell you, counting words is SO MUCH LESS STRESSFUL than counting scenes. I'm so glad I found this out now and not at the end of the book when I was comatose from panic.
So today marked the end of the first week of this year's NaNoWriMo, but if you want to jump in I don't think anyone would mind. If nothing else, keep it in mind for next year and start working on your outline now. Heck, if you spent eleven months on your snowflake, you'd have the Next Great American (or wherever you are) Novel all ready to go by next November!
And to those who are participating this year, I'm alisonstrobel over at nanowrimo.org--make me a writing buddy if you want. Good luck on your novels!