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NaNoWriMo: Five reasons why you should participate

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(Read caption) F. Scott Fitzgerald labored over it for more than a month, but "The Great Gatsby" is about the length of the typical NaNoWriMo novel.

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Nov. 1 marks the start of National Novel Writing Month (better known as NaNoWriMo). During the month of November, thousands of writers will work toward the goal of completing a 50,000-word novel. The ideal participant has been described by NaNoWriMo organizers as anyone "who has thought fleetingly about writing a novel but has been scared away by the time and effort involved."

The idea is that the short deadline actually makes the task more manageable. The "kamikaze approach" is supposed to force participants to "lower ... expectations, take risks, and write on the fly."

NaNoWriMo was launched in 1999 by founder Chris Baty and his friends. That year, 21 people gave it a try and six completed novel-length manuscripts. Last year, however, 167,150 writers participated worldwide, with 32,178 achieving their goal.

It sounds insane? Of course! But here are five reasons why you should consider participating:

1. If you think about the goal as 1,667 words a day, it doesn't seem quite as daunting. And 50,000 words is more or less a perfect length for a short novel: longer than a novella (defined as 40,000 words or under) but long enough to more or less measure up to "The Great Gatsby" (about 197 pages).

2. Officially participating in NaNoWriMo means that you will be working as part of a global community. More than 175,000 writers across the planet are expected to participate this year, all linked together by the NaNoWriMo website. In some cities, NaNoWriMo participants will even meet up in groups.

3. There is a huge celebration planned at the end.

4. It must be fun or people wouldn't keep doing this. Last year NaNoWriMo organizers estimated that more than 60 percent of the writers registered were repeat participants. "Making big, messy art is a fun, reviving experience, and once you've done it once, you tend to want to do it every year," Baty told Writer's Digest.

5. We all have a novel hiding in us somewhere. Will there ever be a better time to set yours free?

To officially participate, you need to register with NaNoWriMo. Their software will track your progress.

Marjorie Kehe is the Monitor's book editor.

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