November is almost upon us, and a lot of you novelists know what that means. And believe it or not, so do a lot of nonfiction writers. Today, we sat down over a cup of coffee and the internet with Nina Amir, the Inspiration to Creation Coach and the founder of NaNonFiWriMo.

What is NaNonFiWriMo?

NaNonFiWriMo is National Nonfiction Writing Month, also known the Write Nonfiction in November (WNFIN) Challenge. It’s a personal challenge, not a contest, to start and complete a work of nonfiction in 30 days. This can be an article, an essay, a book, a white paper, or a manifesto. If you meet your goal, you get the personal satisfaction of knowing you did so—and a manuscript, or maybe several manuscripts, with which to pursue publication.

What made you start the Write Nonfiction in November Challenge?

In October 2007, a year after I participated in National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), I asked myself, “What’s a nonfiction writer supposed to do during November?” Searching around in the NaNoWriMo forums, I discovered NaNoRebels. Participating as a rebel might be fine for some nonfiction writers, but it wasn’t for me. Although I have a rebellious nature, I wanted to participate in a legitimate manner. So, I gave birth to the Write Nonfiction in November Challenge. I later added on the NaNonFiWriMo title so people would associate it with the NaNoWriMo event.

I feel strongly about educating writers so they can succeed. Therefore, NaNonFiWriMo offers its participants a way to learn about writing, publishing and promoting nonfiction as they complete the 30-day challenge. Until 2013, this was provided via a dedicated blog called Write Nonfiction in NOVEMBER!, which featured 30 days of expert guest posts during November.

The first year, I produced a huge brain dump of everything I knew on these topics, which resulted in 27 days of blog posts. When November rolled around the next year, I enlisted help—27 expert guest bloggers. I wrote the three remaining posts and an introduction to each post. The blog sat dormant the rest of the year, although it continued to get a fair amount of traffic. I offered a month of expert guest posts on nonfiction writing, publishing and promotion during the challenge every year since.

Have you ever published a NaNonFiWriMo project? 

Yes. I published one of my short books, The Priestess Practice, during November one year. (It is available on my website just as a PDF download at the moment.) Most years, my November project IS NaNonFiWriMo, to be honest. (It takes a lot of time and effort.) I have to pick another month to write a book, although this year I’ll be producing the manuscript for my next e-book.

Is this only for nonfiction authors, or do you recommend that novelists also try writing nonfiction?

This challenge is meant for producing nonfiction works. However, that doesn’t mean a novelist can’t participate and write nonfiction. And yes…I do, indeed, recommend that novelists cross over into nonfiction. When they do so, they allow themselves to become experts on a topic—hopefully a topic related to their novel or novels. This will help them sell more books. It also will help them get more speaking gigs, and they can definitely sell both types of books at the back of the room.

What are some of the benefits?

First, a deadline. Faced with a challenge and given a deadline, most of us are more likely to do what we say we want to do and set out to do. This becomes even truer when we have others participating with us.

Second, group energy. While thousands of people participate in NaNoWriMo each year, even smaller events like NaNonFiWriMo offer group energy. It has a forum and Facebook group where participants can gather and support each other. Knowing others are “in it” with you helps you move forward so you have a higher likelihood of completing your project.

Third, accountability. A month-long writing event makes you feel accountable—as if you must finish, and accountability is one of the best ways to encourage achievement of any type of goal. Because you’ve told others you are participating, such as friends and family or even the people in the forum or Facebook group, you develop a stronger sense of failure if you don’t cross the finish line. You want to avoid that feeling, so you push yourself to complete your project. Then, like everyone else (or the majority of the participants), you can say you achieved your goal.

Fourth, short time frame. The fact that you have just four weeks to finish provides you with the sense that you can do it. You aren’t signing up for a year of writing. You are only sacrificing time and putting in effort for 30 days. So you are more likely to do so. You give things up and put time and energy into getting the book, article or essay written. It may just be a first draft, but that’s more than you had before. And that feels great!

Fifth, sense of accomplishment. We all need that to help us to continue writing all year long. Or it might be the impetus a writer needs to take a November project all the way—to an agent, a publisher or the editor of a publication.

How is this challenge different from NaNoWriMo (and not just that it’s nonfiction)?

It’s not a contest. There is no word count or word counting, by which I mean you don’t have to produce 50,000 words to “win.” It’s ONLY nonfiction. And some people don’t write books.

What is your single biggest tip for NaNonFiWriMo?

Plan ahead. If you want to write a book in a month, you need to start out with a really good sense of what you will write, including a structure or table of contents. You should have your research completed, and have done your initial market and competitive analysis. This way you can just dig in and start writing with confidence. No staring at a blank screen or wondering if you are working on a good idea.

Why would you recommend writing a book in a month?

Because the challenge of doing so pushes you to get it done. Most aspiring authors just aspire. They don’t become authors. Plus, once you’ve done it, you realize you can do it again!

Tell us a bit about Write Nonfiction NOW! and the new series of guides.

I created Write Nonfiction NOW! In 2009 as the “sister blog” to Write Nonfiction in NOVEMBER! It took over the other 11 months of the year—since that blog really only had a life for one month of the year—challenging nonfiction writers to continue writing nonfiction all year long. During the challenge itself, Write Nonfiction NOW! ran a snippet of each post and linked readers to Write Nonfiction in NOVEMBER! to read the rest, since that was where challenge participants had “signed in.”

In 2012-13, instead of remaining dormant, the Write Nonfiction in NOVEMBER! blog “stayed alive” during the majority of the year with links to Write nonfiction NOW! posts and with a “training program” of writing prompts to help writers prepare for the November writing marathon.

In October 2013, I merged the two blogs, Write Nonfiction NOW! and Write Nonfiction in November! All the great content from both—including the 30 days of WNFIN/NaNonFiWriMo posts dating back to 2007—now reside on Write Nonfiction NOW! Additionally, a forum has been put into place (only active October-December), making it much easier to “register,” report on progress, ask questions, and converse with other participants on topics raised by guest bloggers or by participants. This is the WNFIN Challenge community. However, there is also a WNFIN Facebook page that exists all year long.

As for The Write Nonfiction NOW! Guides…this series is a compilation of the best posts from WNFIN, along with some new material and an occasional post from Write Nonfiction NOW! Each guide will be based on a particular topic covered during WNFIN, such as craft, creativity, publishing, book promotion, platform building, and building a business around a book. I’m really excited to feature all my superb expert guest bloggers and their fabulous content in this way.

Nina Amir, the bestselling author of How to Blog a Book and The Author Training Manual, is a speaker, a blogger, and an author, book, and blog-to-book coach. Known as the Inspiration to Creation Coach, she helps creative people combine their passion and purpose so they move from idea to inspired action and positively and meaningfully impact the world as writers, bloggers, authorpreneurs, and blogpreneurs. Some of Nina’s clients have sold 300,000+ copies of their books, landed deals with major publishing houses and created thriving businesses around their books. She is the founder of National Nonfiction Writing Month, aka the Write Nonfiction in November Challenge, and the Nonfiction Writers’ University.

If you’re participating in NaNonFiWriMo, Nina’s latest, The Write Nonfiction NOW! Guide to Writing a Book in 30 Days, is out today!

And if you’ll be taking part in NaNoWriMo, today also marks the release of The Short Fuse Guide to Plotting Your Novel by our own Connor Goldsmith. Get it FREE here for any e-reader (or buy it from Amazon for 99 cents).