Tomorrow marks the close of the 2017 National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), and its participants’ pledge to write 50,000 words in 20 days. “Winners” (those who met or exceeded that goals) have already started to be recognized on the NaNoWriMo website. If you’re one of those ambitious few (statistically speaking), congratulations; that’s impressive! Many writers enter. Much fewer cross the finish line. But everyone who participates is a winner in our book, because NaNoWriMo is a stepping stone toward establishing a writing habit. As they say, a writer writes. And in order to crank out 50,000 words in 30 days, you must force yourself to write every day.
That being said, 50,000 is no reason to stop writing. Books are rarely as short as 50,000 words, so crossing the finish line for NaNoWriMo is not the final step. The final step is completing a manuscript and then revising it, editing it, proofreading it, and then publishing it. One doesn’t publish 50,000 words. One publishes a book.
In order for NaNoWriMo to accept your word count you need to cut and paste your manuscript into their word-count validator. Sounds easy enough, but it’s surprising so many writers are so willing to give their hard work to an organization without a second thought. Many writers exhibit hesitancy about sharing their work with publishers and that’s even AFTER a contract has been signed expressly protecting them and their copyrights. No such agreement exists on the National Novel Writing website.
It’s clear that this issue has come up from time to time because on their forums, they provide a link to another website that “scrambles” your manuscript for the specific purpose of only providing your word count to NaNoWriMo, rather than a book that makes any sense. But to do that, aren’t you submitting your manuscript to the 3rd party (who may hold even less legitimacy than NaNoWriMo)?
You’ll be happy to know that US Copyright protects you in these instances, as long as you can establish the date your manuscript was completed. Send it in its entirety to a friend via email, and keep the send-receipt. Or use the “poor man’s copyright” and mail a hardcopy to yourself through the mail, and then keep the postmarked package unopened. These are quick, easy, inexpensive measures you can take IF you are worried about NaNoWriMo or the 3rd party scrambler taking liberties with your work. Or, you can rely upon the reputation of the NaNoWriMo organization and rest assured they have better things to do.
For those of you who cross the 50,000 word finish line tomorrow at midnight… kudos!