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How to Organize a NaNoWriMo Write-In

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Maybe you're a first-time municipal liaison, or maybe you just want to be a bigger part of NaNoWriMo in your area. As About.com readers attest, with a little advance planning, it's easy to create a fun and productive NaNoWrimo event. People are eager to get on board where NaNoWriMo is concerned.

1. Find a Location.

© 2008 Ginny Wiehardt, licensed to About.com, Inc.
Most NaNoWriMo Write-ins take place in coffee shops or cafes, but choosing the right spot still takes some work. "Finding a place is the hardest part," says Erin, a long-time NYC ML. "NaNoWriMo has become so popular in Manhattan that it's challenging to find a place to accommodate so many writers." Fortunately she found the Tea Spot in the West Village, which had a huge basement space going virtually unused on Monday nights. Erin made sure the event benefitted the Tea Spot by encouraging wrimos to buy at least one thing. So the Tea Spot's quietest night became one of its busiest, and the wrimos had a place to congregate. The baristas even let them keep writing after closing, while they cleaned up the ground floor space.

2. Talk to the Manager or Owner.

Even if your group won't be as large as Erin's, it's a good idea to clear it with with the owner or manager first. You want to maintain a good relationship with him or her, so you'll be welcome all month long -- as well as the following year. Also, if you host in the same place and same time every week, people are more likely to show up consistently. Coordinate with the venue to schedule your event. Chances are, some of their slow times, like Monday evening or Sunday afternoon, will also be good for most wrimos.

3. Get the Word Out.

Once you've decided on a time and place, head over to the NaNo site to post your event, if you haven't been brainstorming in the forum already. If you're the ML for your region, a calendar is a good idea. Otherwise, write your ML and see about getting the event added. Then show up early, put out a sign, and start writing.

4. Provide Some Structure . . .

Most NaNoWriMo write-ins feature word sprints, but Mary, the ML for Central Iowa, goes a step further. She bought a stack of index cards, numbered them from 400-1500, making several of each number, and brought them to their write-ins. "Each novelist will draw a card from the deck. That is the number of words they are challenged to write in the next thirty minutes. On a portable white board, I track who pulled what number. At the end of thirty minutes we capture how many words each person wrote and then the number is totaled and announced to the group."

5. . . . Or Not.

NaNoWriMo write-ins don't have to involve a lot of advance work, and you don't have to be an ML to start one. A reader, Laura, wrote: "Montreal has a weekly meet-up, but it’s not a write-in. So I decided to organize one of my own with a wrimo I knew from creative writing classes at university. We went to a café and started off chatting about various difficulties we'd been having. After an hour or so, two people with laptops showed up and asked 'Are you the NaNoWriMo peeps?' We said yes, and they set up shop at our table as well. More chatting, a bit of writing, and a lot of help with the stuff I was having trouble with. I decided to write by hand, to break out of the rut, and ended up with about 1,333 words at the end. Totally worth it!"

6. Be Creative.

© 2008 Deanna Roy
NaNoWriMo is all about testing and overcoming limits, so feel free to be creative with events, too. Deanna Roy, a writer and photographer in Austin, Texas, hosts an outdoor write-in every year and photographs the event. The About.com guide to contemporary literature organized a group of friends who were scattered around the country virtually, using Google docs. If you look around your community, you'll find plenty of places that will work: all-night steak restaurants, libraries (most have rooms you can reserve), church rec rooms, and arts centers are a few possibilities. The most important thing, of course, is to honor the spirit of NaNoWriMo by having as much fun as possible.
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