NaNoWriMo: The Rules


There seems to be some confusion about the rules of NaNoWriMo. The rules state that you have 30 days to write 50,000 words. You have to start a new project, from scratch, on November first. To be an official participant, you cannot work on a project you have already started. All you are allowed to do beforehand is a plot outline and character building. Here are the rest of the rules copied from the NaNoWriMo website, I hope they help:


Rules and Regulations

Can I share writing duties with a partner?

No. But we would like to take this opportunity to plug our Script Frenzy event. Script Frenzy participants write a 100-page stage play or screenplay in April, and for Script Frenzy you are welcome to work with a partner.

What genres are okay? Can I write fanfiction? How about a memoir?

Any genre of novel is okay for NaNoWriMo. Yes, really, any genre. Fan fiction is okay. Steamy adult content is okay (as long as you are careful about where you post it!). Memoir is a sticky one; as long as it is fictionalized, it is okay, too. We just want you to be excited about writing. If what you’re writing doesn’t qualify as a lengthy work of fiction, we’ve set up a group for NaNo Rebels in the forums.

Can I write one word 50,000 times?

No. Well… No.

Do I have to start my novel from scratch on November 1st? Can I use an outline?


This sounds like a dumb, arbitrary rule, we know. But bringing a half-finished manuscript into NaNoWriMo all but guarantees a miserable month. You’ll care about the characters and story too much to write with the gleeful, anything-goes approach that makes NaNoWriMo such a creative rush. Give yourself the gift of a clean slate, and you’ll tap into realms of imagination and intuition that are out-of-reach when working on pre-existing manuscripts.

Outlines and plot notes are very much encouraged, and can be started months ahead of the actual novel-writing adventure. Previously written prose, though, is punishable by death.

What if I don’t finish? Or hit 50,000 words but I’m only halfway through my novel?

Nothing ventured, nothing gained, right?

And the 50,000-word goal is a threshold, not necessarily a stopping place. Reaching 50k and realizing you still have a lot of wrapping up to do is a good thing—it gives you something to come back and work on later. You will still win if you reach 50k but have not yet completed your novel.

Can I keep writing and adding to my word count even after I’ve had the novel validated and collected my winner goodies?

Absolutely. Validation simply confirms that you have crossed the 50,000-word mark. You can continue to add to your word count in the usual fashion until 11:59:59 PM, local time, on November 30th.

How do you win NaNoWriMo and what are the prizes?

The way to win NaNoWriMo is by writing 50,000 words by midnight on November 30. Every year, there are many, many winners. There are no “Best Novel” or “Quickest-Written Novel” awards given out. All winners will get an official “Winner” web badge and a PDF Winner’s Certificate.

The real prize in NaNoWriMo is the manuscript itself, and the exhilarating feeling of setting an ambitious creative goal and nailing it. And the $1,000,000.

Just kidding about the $1,000,000!

The actual winning process works like this: From 12:00:01 AM, local time, November 25 until 11:59:59 PM, local time, on November 30, all participants who have written more than 50,000 words can have their winning word counts verified by our site. Uploading your novel to the Word Count Validator makes your NaNoWriMo victory official, gets you listed on our Winners Page, and routes you to the secret spot where you can collect this year’s winner’s certificate. It will also turn your word count bar purple.

To become a winner, first make sure that you have written a manuscript that is 50,000 words or longer. Then sign in to the site, click on Edit Profile, then scroll down to the area labeled Word Count Validator. Copy and paste your entire novel into this box. Then hit the “Submit” button, and prepare for your accolades.

We understand that you may be reluctant to upload your novel to a random website, even to one as winsome as ours. If you are using Microsoft Word it is very easy to completely scramble your novel before uploading it in a way that will not affect its word count.

1. Open the file and make a new copy of your novel using ‘Save As…’
2. Open the Find and Replace dialog box (Edit -> Replace) or (Edit -> Find -> Advanced Find and Replace in Word 2007).
3. Click the “More” button to expand the box.
4. Check the “Use Wildcards” checkbox.
5. In the “Find What” field, put this: [a-zA-Z0-9] (include the square brackets, no spaces before or after)
6. In the “Replace With” field, put this: a
7. Click “Replace All”
8. Select All (Ctrl+A) and Copy & Paste into the validator!

The procedure for Open Office is essentially the same, except that Open Office refers to ‘Regular Expressions’ instead of ‘Wildcards’. (Thanks to Peter Dudley for this advice!)

You can get the same effect in a more cumbersome way by just doing a find-and-replace on every letter in the alphabet, one letter at a time. Open the find-and-replace interface on your word processing program and tell it to replace every “b” in your story with an “a,” and every “c” with an “a,” then every “d” with an “a.” And so on.

We realize that people can cheat and upload something that’s not a novel and still “win.” But since the only real prize of NaNoWriMo is the self-satisfaction that comes with pulling off such a great, creative feat, we don’t really worry too much about people cheating. Those who upload 50,000 words they copied from just to see their name on the Winner’s page are pitiful indeed, and likely need more help than a downloadable winner’s certificate can provide them.

When and how do I start writing?

You begin writing at 12:00:01 AM local time on November 1. You write your novel off-line, on whatever word processor you like. If you write 50,000 words or more, you upload the manuscript to our site between November 25 and November 30 at 11:59:59 for word-count verification to win.

Where do I write? Do I have to write my novel on your site?

You write on your own computer. Or by hand. Or on a typewriter. Or on your iPhone or iPad. Basically, you write with your own materials, on your own materials. You don’t write on our website! There is a place that lets you upload an excerpt of your novel to share with your writing buddies, but don’t use that as your writing space! Every year, a few Wrimos get confused and start writing there, only to accidentally delete what they’ve written later. That makes us very sad and leads to chocolate binge-eating here in the office. Don’t make us over-eat. Write on your own computer.

Also, be sure to frequently save and back up your work. Once every three or four days, at least, is a good routine. E-mail yourself a current copy of the novel, or save it to a CD or DVD, or transfer it to another computer.



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