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National Novel Writing Month is significant for many newer fiction writers, who are naturally a source for questions—and we need more questions!

"Is NaNoWriMo a growth opportunity for Writers.SE?" (from 9 September 2011) provides some good suggestions, but with November less than a month away there is not much time to prepare and promote the site.

One thing that might be useful (which I think has been mentioned elsewhere) would be to provide a separate chat room for NaNoWriMo (or perhaps novel writing generally). Unfortunately, I think Stack Exchange requires a minimum of 20 reputation (the sum across the network of SE sites) to post to a chat room, so unless that restriction can be avoided somehow the chatroom would be limited to those with some previous SE participation. (This seems less welcoming than ideal, but a chatroom loaded with spam would be even less desirable.)

Anyway, are there any special plans to exploit this opportunity?

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    People with under 20 rep can be explicitly added to the access list for a chat room by room owners. They'd still need to make themselves known somehow (they can't comment because commenting requires 50 rep), but once we know who they are we can add them. (That's for a value of "we" that includes several active community members; this doesn't need to be mod-only.) – Monica Cellio Oct 1 '14 at 21:03
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    @MonicaCellio Perhaps new users could make themselves known by posting an "answer" to a specially set up a featured Meta question (e.g., "New users who want to chat about NaNoWriMo, post an answer here!")? – Paul A. Clayton Oct 2 '14 at 3:29
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    We've had NaNo chat in the main chat for the past two years, and I plan on exploiting this resource again this year. I don't think we need a separate room for it. We could change the tag line if you think it would help attract people. – Kit Z. Fox Oct 3 '14 at 12:31
  • @KitFox Did the automated posts and non-NaNoWriMo posts seem to push questions off the page too quickly or be excessively distracting? (Exposing newcomers to the automated posts (and the Tuesday writing exercise) might not be entirely negative, but with the seemingly low attention that chat gets having a message pushed off the default page faster would seem to be a distinct disadvantage. Since I rarely use chat I am not in a good position to evaluate such factors. A lack of activity/responsiveness discourages my involvement.) – Paul A. Clayton Oct 3 '14 at 12:45
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Good question!

One thing we could do is to try to anticipate some NaNo questions -- not by making things up just for the sake of asking, but by thinking about our own writing problems (past or present) that would be NaNo-relevant, and asking them now. When people participating in NaNo find our site in a month (I hope they find our site!) and start searching it, let's have some excellent content already waiting for them.

What do people think about having a topic challenge each week in October (and maybe November too), where the topic is somehow relevant to NaNo? (Think about what they would be searching for.) We could announce a "winner" each week (highest-voted open question?), just for bragging rights, if that would motivate folks. We'd need to collect topic suggestions, pretty quickly.

Edit: call for topics.

  • I like the idea of a topic challenge. How would this work? Where would we announce it? – Neil Fein Oct 5 '14 at 3:09
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    @NeilFein we had a short-lived run of topic challenges a couple years ago, where the topic of the week was announced on meta and people were encouraged to post on that particular topic (or maybe it was a tag). On some sites I've seen this be tracked with a community-wiki answer where people link all the questions that were asked as part of that challenge. That's running the challenge; the other part is collecting suggestions for topics, which could just be a single meta post (one answer per suggestion, choose topics each week by votes). – Monica Cellio Oct 5 '14 at 3:14
  • I think that the NaNoWriMo forums provide sufficient answers to those that have NaNo related questions. The strength of Writers.SE should be, in my opinion, knowledge beyond that event. So we should not answer questions that have been answered in the NaNo forums, but questions that those have that don't want to stop writing when NaNoWriMo is over. So, since NaNoWriMo is a fiction writing contest, we need more members, questions and answers that deal with fiction writing. Writers.SE has a large amount of technical writing questions that we need to balance, if we want to attract fiction writers. – user5645 Oct 8 '14 at 12:15
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If we want to attract new members, we need to be visible outside of SE. NaNoWriMo is making money with their own products, so I doubt they would be interested in providing Writers.SE a promintent place on their website for free, but their forums have a section on Helpful Resources & Sites, and maybe someone could post a link to Writers.SE sometime in November, once the NaNo site reaches its yearly peak of traffic.

Also, if we really want to invest the time, we could be active in the forums and, whenever someone asks a question that has been answered here, we could link to that specific answer. Of course this needs to be done with discretion and by someone who is active in the forums beyond spamming it with links.

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I guess this is as good a place as any to point this out: There's an extended trial of Scrivener available, meant just for NaNoWriMo. Anyone who hasn't tried this yet, here's a great chance to test-drive Scrivener for longer than the normal demo period.

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It has been said in the comments and I think it bears repeating in an answer that NaNo has its own set of forums and Q/A. There is a lot of internal support for NaNoWriters on their site. I don't think Writers can compete in that area, but I do think NaNo is a good event to leverage for increasing our traffic.

What Writers.SE can offer is a place to chat, and we might consider supporting something like Come Write In events, similar to the way a local library works. If we advertise this across the SE community via community ads or other means, we can pull traffic from other sites and potentially increase the size or at least visibility of our community.

In the past two years, our Writers chat group (Tuesday afternoons Eastern time-ish) has had participants in NaNo that have used the Writers chat room to meet, discuss our challenges, offer support, and do writing sprints. We did some small grassroots efforts to bring in users from other SE sites that seemed like they would be most relevant. These were: Sci Fi & Fantasy, Role-Playing Games, Arqade, Game Development, and English Language and Usage. We were successful at recruiting a handful of interested users from other sites, some of whom stuck around after NaNo.

I think we should do it again this year, and try to expand our reach to cover more SE sites. We are more experienced this year than ever before, and I am more confident than I have ever been that we can create a helpful workspace for NaNoWriters. I think we should focus on SE users because we have lots of room to grow, and SE users will already be familiar with the site/chat mechanics.

As for topic challenges, remember that you are thinking of squeezing some more words out of NaNoWriters, who are training to ignore their inner critic and just write. I'm not sure these two things will go together. On the other hand, I think we have a good body of knowledge about how to prepare for NaNo and how to write a draft of a novel in a month. Are questions like that, which are really pretty specific to NaNo due to the artificial time constraint, general enough to be on-topic? If so, I can probably brainstorm at least a few of my basic NaNo prep/pep talk points into actually questions and answers.

  • I suspect that reasonably broad NaNoWriMo-oriented questions would still have a large enough potential audience not to be considered "too localized". It might be possible for some NaNoWriMo-oriented questions to be made more broadly applicable by modest tweaking. While the focus on writing a draft reduces the ordinary ability to work on editing and other useful side tasks when one is stuck, there is presumably some overlap with using specific goals to enforce a writing discipline. – Paul A. Clayton Oct 8 '14 at 21:35
  • @Paul I'm thinking that NaNoWriters will want to spend their words toward their quota and not toward asking questions on a website (in November, anyway). – Kit Z. Fox Oct 9 '14 at 17:42
  • I was thinking mainly of their reading already posted content and in that light what might be useful to them (particularly if it is useful to others). – Paul A. Clayton Oct 9 '14 at 17:54

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