NaNoWriMo: Our Interview With Grant Faulkner

by Britt Gambino

Never heard of NaNoWriMo? Not sure what to make of the Viking Hat? Want to produce 50,000 words in 30 days? Then you should read on...

In celebration of the gloriousness that is National Novel Writing Month (aka, NaNoWriMo), we reached out to their Executive Director (and former Gotham student!) Grant Faulkner. Grant was kind enough to answer a few questions about what makes November one of the best months for writers everywhere.

1) For those who dont know, what is NaNoWriMo? Where are you based and when did the organization come into existence?
NaNoWriMo began in 1999, when Chris Baty accidently founded it. That first year, he managed to convince 20 of his friends in the Bay Area to write a 50,000-word novel in a month. Those 20 people have now grown into approximately 500,000, and we have 700 municipal liaisons organizing live writing events in 500 regions around the world.
The challenge is still the same--write 50,000 words in 30 days--but NaNoWriMo is much more than that. Its a festival of creativity, an invitation to dare to do what seems impossible, and a rollicking conversation about all aspects of writing. People so often say, I want to write a novel someday, but someday rarely happens. NaNoWriMo helps writers write their novels today. Its an unbeatable way to get the first draft of a book written.
Its all put on by a small cadre of superheroes in Berkeley, California
2) What do you guys do the rest of the year (outside of November)?
Its no easy feat to throw the biggest writing party in the world. We spend a great deal of the year working on planning a bigger, better NaNoWriMo, making improvements on the website, and developing engaging writing resources and activities.
And then also, we have other programs. We just started our I wrote a novel, now what? initiative, which helps people with the steps after a first draft, whether its revising, organizing a writers group, or publishing. And then theres our Young Writers Program, which provides approximately 2,000 classrooms with free writing resources and supports more than 80,000 creative writers online. We also hold Camp NaNoWriMo in April and July.
3) What is Camp NaNoWriMo?

Its a more casual version of NaNoWriMo for those who cant do NaNoWriMo in November. You can write in other forms, such as scripts and short stories, and you can set your own word count. We organize writing cabins where people can talk with their cabin mates every day. Approximately 45,000 writers participated this year.
4) Why 30 days? How did you guys come up with that?
The 30-day deadline helps you be less precious about every sentence, and forces you to make writing a priority in a way that you just often dont without the external structure that comes from things like taking a class.0,000 word
Without a goal and a deadline, creative projects tend to flounder. We say a deadline is a creative midwife for a novel. People tend to wait for that perfect, extended time to write in their lives, but its better to dive in and just start. You learn how to write a novel mainly by writing a novel. Even if you dont really know what youll be writing, it turns out that if you start writing and keep writing, the story tends to take care of itself. Youll find inspiration in the act of writing.
Often people say that they dont have time in their busy lives to write 5s in a month, but if you analyze how you spend your time, there are pockets of time in each day or activities you can easily cut out. Why spend the month of November with your favorite TV shows when you could write a novel? NaNoWriMo teaches writers something thats just as important as writing good dialogue: time management.
5) What about trying this in other formats? (Poem-a-day? Short story-a-day?)
You can do both of those in Camp NaNoWriMo!

6) What's the deal with the Viking hat logo?

The Viking helmet is key part of our logo--a coat of arms with the key elements of novel writing. One can interpret the Viking helmet in many ways, but I think it is generally about fighting through the personal demons that hold one back from diving into any grand and sometimes daunting creative project. It's a symbol that supports being brave enough to go on adventures of the imagination, to open oneself up to new realms, and to be able do battle if necessary to reach one's creative goals.