National Novel Writing Month is an organization aimed at encouraging creatives to write a 50,000 word novel in 30 days during the month of November. In doing so, it’s become an entire online community of its own. Participants utilize the nickname, and hashtag, NaNoWriMo, as well as other hashtags that have become popular, such as Preptober to indicate the work that participants often do to prepare in October. They also use CampWriMo which is when participants attempt to write their novels in August. (NaNoWriMo.org)
Anyone interested in writing, or a member of the writing community, is able to participate. Participants on Twitter are more likely to be on the younger side. There is also a Young Writers Program administered by the National Novel Writing Month Non-Profit Organization, so for the purposes of my participation in and study of this community, I considered people younger than 18 as separate participants in their own community.
I’m not sure there is one specific profession more prevalent than others, except for maybe those who are professional writers. Overall though, I think most participants are more likely to be in an arts or education related field over other professions. In 2018, there were 295,396 participants and 35,410 winners. (Wikiwrimo) A winner is anyone who self-identifies as having hit the goal of 50,000 or more words written in thirty days.
The overall purpose of this online group is to offer up a space where participants can find community, resources, and encouragement. The overarching goal of NaNoWriMo is to write a 50,000 word novel in thirty days, however each participant can set their own goal as well as plan the steps they’ll take to achieve those goals. “These kinds of sites, in which individuals attempt to meet their own personal goals in the virtual company of others, span the boundary between purely individualistic action and social collaboration. The Internet makes it easy to track milestones, compare one’s progress to others, and post encouragements.” (Burke, p 1)
One pattern I observed from this particular networked community is the desire to want to connect with others for support.
Most posts in and from this networked community are related to encouragement. Either seeking it or offering it to fellow participants. Participants often post their word counts or detail obstacles they are facing. They may include quotes from what they’ve written or ask for advice. “For goal-setting sites centered around creative content, such as book- or songwriting, members may list biographical information and creative influences on their profiles, allowing them to find others with similar tastes or who live nearby.” (Burke, p 2)
My first tweet of participation into this community received 2 retweets, 4 likes, and 2 comments and was seen 339 times. I don’t have many followers outside of classmates and this was a brand new account for me. It garnered me some new followers as well. I mainly attempted to reach the intended audience of my networked community by using appropriate hashtags. I intended to use #NaNoWriMo, but prior to sending the tweet I looked around a bit on Twitter and noted that current participants were also using #NaNoWriMo2020. So I added that one as well. In addition I used #preptober because I know that hashtag is timely, as October is the month that NaNoWriMo participants begin prepping for writing their novel beginning November 1. I also chose to use a question, not a statement, hoping it would invite more of a response. I asked who else was a first time participant and if anyone else wanted to find a “writing buddy.”
I learned that participants share their NaNoWriMo profile links on Twitter and invite others to “friend” them on the NaNo website. Which inspired me to finally create my own profile on that website and I gained three buddies on that site from responding to the tweets of others as well as sharing the link to my NaNo profile.
For my second tweet, I received one like, no comments or retweets, and the tweet was seen 92 times. With my previous tweet, I engaged with other people in the community separate from my tweet prior to sending it out. I think doing that may have helped my first tweet get more attention than my second tweet. I used relevant hashtags in my second tweet but I also added a gif. I tried specifically to reach out to community members who “pants” their novel’s plot. That is, write the novel without first plotting it all out. I made this choice to try and engage with others who take that approach to their writing.
For my third tweet I incorporated some more personal information. I chose to share an image from my bullet journal. I thought that using a bullet journal hashtag in addition to the NaNoWriMo hashtag might pull in some additional engagement. I’ve seen bullet journal groups entirely devoted to NaNo on Facebook so there is some overlap in the two communities. I also shared about my mom sending me some stickers for inspiration.
The tweet saw 393 impressions and 19 total engagements, as well as 2 retweets and 1 like. Someone commented on it and she and I had a conversation and each followed the other.
Everyone I encountered was incredibly kind and supportive. My experience definitely supports the information I shared earlier in this article. What I learned most from engaging with the community is that if I were to continue engaging in a sustained, and consistent, way that I would continue to increase engagement. I found it interesting that the more personal information I shared, the more engagement I received. More people saw the personal picture of my bullet journal than saw the gif I used to try to punch up my second tweet.
As Writing Spaces points out, “Another easy way to gain a larger readership is to tweet, often. When others see you have good comments and posts, they’ll want to follow you. Balanced with this, you should also have a profile that reflects your posting and your identity as ‘the writer’ of the tweets.”
Statistics indicate that support and encouragement not only presents itself within the posts shared in the NaNoWriMo networked online community, but well beyond. “Members of the group feel a collective identity, which may manifest itself in group-specific jargon and generalized reciprocity. For example, the “wrimos” of NaNoWriMo swap and edit each other’s novels after November, and have donated more than $600,000 toward programs for young writers and public library improvement.” (Burke, p 2)
Twitter users frequently use hashtags as a form of metadata. Across the platform hashtags are used in tweets and as search terms to find relevant tweets, information, and users across Twitter. And it’s these connections, and networks, that offer participants ways to reach loftier goals and wider opportunities. “Bolstered by technology, self-published writers, novice or seasoned, are carrying on a tradition of DIY self-expression outside of traditional publishing that has also given rise to blogs, fan fiction, and earlier, zines. This movement dovetails with libraries’ embrace of participatory maker culture: In addition to being readers, young library patrons are makers, writers, and doers, flocking to events like National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) hosted by libraries.” (Pilkington)
Twitter, as a platform, is host to untold numbers of people who work in the literary field, including other writers, agents, editors, and publishers. As such, it has become an important platform in the publishing industry and, as an extension, to writers. “Given the relationship social media enables between publishing companies and their readers there is the opportunity to spread word of mouth (WOM) and identify key individuals who might help promote a title online. By letting interested readers feel engaged and involved with the publishing process of a title, they are more likely to spread their excitement to other users.” (Criswell, p 352)
It is easy to see why the platform is so important to the NaNoWriMo community and how this realization may shape some of the conversations that take place there. For those participants who view writing as their career, or potential career, the NaNoWriMo conversations they initiate themselves and/or contribute to are likely viewed as an extension of the marketing they do as part of their work.
The benefit of participating specifically with the NaNoWriMo community is that it is well established, having started back in 1999. Relevant statistics “have shown that social media is most effective as a marketing platform when there is already an established community” for participants to tap into. (Criswell, p 376)
Tapping into this networked community on Twitter offered me the opportunity to learn more about how writers, and others in the publishing industry, utilize the platform for marketing purposes. It allows anyone to engage with potential fans and/or consumers. Overall though, I found the NaNoWriMo community to be vibrant, active, and supportive. It affords an online space for newcomers and seasoned veterans alike to find encouragement as well as connections. Which often feels less like a marketing opportunity and more like a place for writers to find a home.
“About NaNoWriMo.” NaNoWriMo, nanowrimo.org/about-nano.
“NaNoWriMo Statistics.” Wikiwrimo, www.wikiwrimo.org/wiki/NaNoWriMo_statistics.
Burke, Moira, and Burr Settles. “Plugged in to the Community.” Proceedings of the 5th International Conference on Communities and Technologies – C&T ’11, 2011, doi:10.1145/2103354.2103356.
QueenOfTheSupermarket. “Who Else Is a First Time #NaNoWriMo Participant This Year?” Twitter, Twitter, 12 Oct. 2020, twitter.com/AisleNumberTwo/status/1315757098802851846.
QueenOfTheSupermarket. “Going into #nanowrimo2020 Pretty Much Pantsing the Whole Thing.” Twitter, Twitter, 19 Oct. 2020, twitter.com/AisleNumberTwo/status/1318217443454689280.
QueenOfTheSupermarket. “Anyone Else Use Their #Bujo to Help Prep for #nanowrimo2020?” Twitter, Twitter, 26 Oct. 2020, twitter.com/AisleNumberTwo/status/1320739121741107208.
Writing Spaces. 15 May 2011, writingspaces.org/wwsg/twitter-only-gives.
Pilkington, Mercy. “Fringe factor: small presses and self-publishing are turning the industry on its head.” School Library Journal, vol. 61, no. 2, Feb. 2015, p. 18+. Gale Academic OneFile, https://link.gale.com/apps/doc/A399886795/AONE?u=s8405248&sid=AONE&xid=edede170. Accessed 8 Nov.
2020.Criswell, J., Canty, N. Deconstructing Social Media: An Analysis of Twitter and Facebook Use in the Publishing Industry. Pub Res Q 30, 352–376 (2014). https://doi-org.ezproxy.proxy.library.oregonstate.edu/10.1007/s12109-014-9376-1