November Word Wars: NaNoWriMo and PiBoIdMo

By Jen Malone

nov_1November is upon us: jumping in leaf piles, watching football, inhaling turkey, and trying to ignore all those “XX Shopping Days Until Christmas” commercials. But if you’re a writer, your November might look more like: writing sprints, word counts, writing sprints, coffee, and… writing sprints. That’s because November is National Novel Writing Month, better know as NaNoWriMo, AND Picture Book Idea Month (PiBoIdMo) and it’s not too late for you to join up!

NaNoWriMo_iconNaNoWriMo started in 1999 with 21 participants in San Francisco. Last year 341,375 people took to their notebooks and computer screens. The goal of NaNo is to write 50,000 words in a one-month period. Many people aspire to write a novel, but most have a hard time getting started, overwhelmed at the time and effort they think it will take. What NaNo aims to show would-be writers is that, if you can write an average of 1,667 words each day (which takes the average writer one hour), you’ll write an entire novel (particularly if you write children’s fiction) by the end of just one month. It likely won’t be a perfect draft (in fact, standard advice generally consists of “just push through, fix everything in revisions”), but it will be a book-length draft. And you don’t have to go it alone. The NaNo team is there to hold your hand with literary “technicians” populating forums and offering tips and strategies. You can connect with friends by searching their NaNo username, or in person at regional write-ups, and if you need a NaNoWriMo hoodie to snuggle into, they have that too. The excitement is contagious and just might propel you to the finish line. To sign up at any point during the month, visit the official site here.

piboidmo2013If you prefer your manuscripts on the shorter side, Picture Book Idea Month might be for you. PiBoIdMo is the brainchild of picture book author Tara Lazar, began in 2009, and expects close to 1,000 registrants this year. The concept here is just that: concepts. Your challenge is to come up with one picture book idea for each day of the month.  You don’t have to write the stories, just conceive of them. Along the way, daily posts by picture book authors, illustrators, agents, and editors will inspire you and there are PRIZES for writers who register and complete the challenge (on the honor system). Registration is open now through the first week of November. You can follow up with Julie Hedlund‘s 12 x 12 challenge to write 12 picture book manuscripts in 12 months, starting in January.

So, instead of holing up with all that Halloween candy your kids collected last night, consider hiding away with your laptop instead. Wishing everyone a happy and productive November!

Are you participating in NaNoWriMo or PiBoIdMo this year? Have you done one of these challenges before? Do you have tips for other writers? Are you hosting a write-in during November? Share your experiences in the comments section.


  1. I somehow didn’t discover either of these two challenges until just recently….too late to get my leg in the door, although it’s given me quite a few ideas on how to push myself more! Thanks for posting…you’ve gained a new follower! Stop by my blog anytime….I love visitors! 🙂


  2. I am participating in PiBoIdMo for the first time this year. Off to a great start! Might be just what I need to gain some momentum!

    Michele Katz/Creations By Mit


  3. I’m doing both as well. I did PiBoIdMo last year and ended up writing a book from one of the ideas. I am still working on a second.
    This is the first year for NaNo – but I am on track and enjoying it.


  4. Hey, Jen. It’s enlightening to see the numbers you included. Cool. I did NaNoWriMo a couple of years ago and got a bit of a head start by taking a plot writing workshop immediately before, where I learned a planning method I hadn’t used before. By Nov. 1 I had the plot outlined on a set of index cards and was ready to go. I got about 45,000 words down, but life intervened with the schedule. I easily passed the 50,000 word mark soon after the end of November and went on to finish the draft. There’s nothing like a deadline to inspire plowing forth. You did not mention whether you are doing either this year.


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