This is a long yet informative guide to using the NaNoWriMo community. Though much of this is common sense, even experienced and returning users may find things of use in here.
READING THE FORUMS
The forums, also known as message boards, are one of the highlights of the NaNoWriMo experience, allowing you to connect with other novelists just like yourself from all over the world. Though they may look daunting at first, learning to use them is actually a snap.
The best way to think of the forums is as a large house party. Thousands of different people are hanging out in various parts of the house, engaged in conversations about everything from their favorite books to what they had for breakfast that morning. As with most parties, you’ll have to do a little searching before you find a conversation you’re interested in joining.
Unlike chat rooms, where the back-and-forth happens in a matter of seconds, conversations in the forums unfold at a much more leisurely pace. A conversation between several people (also called a “topic” or “thread”) might take a day or more to fill up with messages and replies (both are known as “posts”). Also, unlike real parties, where you might feel uncomfortable butting into strangers’ conversations, the discussions in the forums are fundamentally open to anyone who might want to contribute. Private conversations happen off-line or via NaNoMail (more on NaNoMail later), so don’t be afraid to add your comments to a discussion.
The NaNoWriMo forums are divided into subject areas such as Tips & Strategies, Life During NaNo, Mechanics, Logistics, and Other Technical Stuff, etc. Each of these areas contains several lounges or forums where the conversations actually take place. By dividing them up, you’re able to browse topics in just the areas you’re looking for. A Genre Forum will likely contain conversations about writing in that particular genre, such as Fantasy. The Reference Desk forum (the most active on the site) is the place to go if you’re looking for help in researching something for your novel or if you want to volunteer your expertise by answering someone else’s question.
Click on any forum title and you’ll be taken to that forum. Inside the forum, you’ll find pages and pages of topics. Each topic represents an ongoing, threaded conversation; they’re listed in chronological order, with the topics which have received the most recent replies at the top.
Clicking on the subject line of a topic will take you into that topic. At this point, you’ll see the topic’s most recent posts at the top of your screen, with the earlier posts in reverse chronological order below it. This means you may have to scroll a lot, or click through to several pages of posts, to see the message that began the topic. (You have the power to change the setting if you like, so the oldest, rather than the youngest, post shows up at the top of the topic). See “Setting your Preferences” below.
If you’ve never posted in a forum before, read around a bit before posting. A good place for a first post is the Newbies forum where you can introduce yourself or ask for help in finding your way around. When you’re ready to post, you have two options. You can start your own subject or you can respond to an existing topic.
RESPONDING TO AN EXISTING TOPIC
When you read a post, you are able to respond to either the original poster by hitting the “Reply” button at the bottom of the initial post or any subsequent post. You can also add a general reply by hitting the “reply” button at the top of the topic on the left.
The reply feature will bring up a screen where you’ll have a space to enter your reply (similar to email). You can change the subject line at the top if you wish, or just leave it as the reply default.
Your text will be formatted simply as it appears (Using the WYSIWYG editor) within the input window. Most people use the default normal text as it’s easy to read and of course quicker to type. You can also click on the <> Source button to have greater control over the HTML you’re using (and include things like images.) Please do not include any images in the forum over 500 pixels wide by 300 pixels high. If you want to share larger images, link them instead! The moderators may remove any large images.
You can preview your message to check for spelling errors or typos as well as check how it will appear to other users.
STARTING YOUR OWN TOPIC
To post, simply find the appropriate forum and click the “New Topic” button on the upper right of the forum.
One of the most important parts is the Subject Line. A vague or commonly used subject line frustrates readers, and makes it less likely that you’ll get replies to the post. If you’re asking a question, give your readers a clue as to what you’re asking about. There will be hundreds of posts surrounding yours, so try to make yours stand out.
Less effective subject line: Help! Quick Question
More effective subject line: How Many Teeth Does a Domesticated Cat Have?
Less effective: OMIGOD!!!1!
More effective: I’m ahead on my word goal!
Once you’ve filled in your text you can preview in order to proofread it. When satisfied, hit submit and your message will appear in the forums. Now all you have to do is wait for the replies to roll in for the conversational ball to start rolling.
HOW TO EDIT YOUR POST
Always preview and proofread. But, you know how it goes, the moment your post goes up on the forums, you notice a typo. If you have created the initial post in a thread, you may be out of luck.
But if you are replying to an existing thread, simply click the edit button at the bottom of your post and make the changes and submit it again. You can edit your post until it gets a response. If you need to make any corrections or clarifications after that, you’ll have to post a response with that information.
CONTENT OF YOUR POSTS
You can discuss anything you wish, we only ask that you post in the appropriate forum. Posts that are off-topic for the forum may be moved by moderators to a more appropriate area.
There are two different kinds of forums on the site. Some are noted as All Ages, so content there should be on topic and not contain any strong language or sexual themes. All other forums not marked as all ages have fewer restrictions: though you may use strong language we do not allow material that is abusive, pornographic, graphically violent, hateful, or threatening.
Some forums have a notice that shows as the first post (sticky) – inside there you may find helpful info that will explains the rules of that forum a bit more or contain a guide to how to navigate what may be a very large and active forum. Please make a note of them, they’re there to help you.
If you have questions about what may or may not be appropriate, just ask one of your helpful moderators. The moderator of a forum is listed on the main forum page or at the top of the page of that forum list. Just click on their name and send them a private message via NaNoMail. This is a free, miniature email system NaNoWriMo participants can use to communicate with one another. More on NaNoMail below.
The forums are viewable by anyone, whether they are logged in or not, so please do not post any personal information you would not want viewable by anyone who takes the time to browse the boards. The forums are also indexed by most of the search engines, so using real names on the site may make this information freely available to anyone who has internet access. Please think carefully before posting personal details in your posts. The NaNoMail system is much more suitable for exchanging information for personal meet ups.
Should you encounter another user or post that you think violates these rules or the spirit of NaNoWriMo, please report the post to the moderators by either using the “flag as offensive” system or by sending a Private Message to the moderator of that forum detailing the post and the user.
We have a messaging system for your use within the site. This will allow you to send notes to other Wrimos without needing an email address (some people prefer not to share their email address on such a large public site and you are free to keep yours private as well). To send a message to any user, you can either click on their profile and the NaNoMail button to send it to them or go to your NaNoMail from the My NaNoWriMo section (your profile).
Your NaNoMailbox has an Inbox and Sent Messages list (use the drop down menu at the top).
Clicking on the subject line for the message will allow you to read it.
Once you’ve read the message you can reply to it by hitting the reply button at the bottom of the message. You can also delete it at the bottom of the message after you’ve replied. All messages are saved by default.
Messages will automatically sort with the most recent one at the top. You can also sort them by who sent them and read or unread notes.
SETTING YOUR PREFERENCES IN YOUR PROFILE
Every user on the forums has a Profile Page. Here you can show as much or as little about yourself and your novel as you want. To see your profile as others see it, visit My NaNoWriMo from the gray navigation bar near the top. There are links on the left that will allow you to edit your preferences (settings) and the information that appears on the different tabs about you and your novel.
This is the most basic module that you may remember when you signed up on the site. You can change your email address, password and basic functions of how you interact with the site like your email settings, user picture, and your time zone. Here is where you can also delete your own account if you no longer want it (but you do, don’t you?)
There is a universal email opt out, which will reset all email notifications to “no” with one click. Great if you’re going on vacation and don’t want too many emails while you’re gone.
From there you can select how and when you get emails. Once you’ve set those, you can further select threads in the forums to watch with the red text tabs above (Pages and Forums & Stories).
Fill in some things about yourself. You’re under no obligation to share any or all of the fields, but a little something is nice.
If you’ve participated in the past we have a Years Done NaNoWriMo and Years Won NaNoWriMo selection module that will display on your profile page.
This section of your profile is new every year, because we write a new novel each year. This is where you’ll come to validate your novel between November 25th & November 30th to claim your winner status. Before then you can share your title, select a genre, add a synopsis or a little about your novel here. You can add an excerpt here, but please don’t write your novel on our website! We don’t store a copy, and can’t be responsible for lost manuscripts. Write your novel on your own computer, and share a small excerpt if you like.
There’s also a spot to add an image that represents your novel, maybe some cover art or just an image that inspires you. Please make sure that you have the rights to use the image. Check the forums for more help on how to do that.
When you meet folks on the site, you might want to bookmark them so you can check up on their progress throughout November. You can add them to your buddy list via their profile page. To manage the list you can visit the Writing Buddies module.
We have local groups all over the world with fabulous volunteers that organize real world parties and writing sessions. Visit the Local Events section to find the group nearest you. You’re free to join as many regions as you want, but you can only claim one as your “home” region which means that your word count tally will count towards the group’s aggregate.
This quick list lets you be selective about which forums you’ll see on our main page. You can just show the ones you’re most interested in to make the page load faster. You can always reset this or visit any forum.
Here you can also set your forums signature (which is appended to every post), display and comment settings.
THE FORUM BREAKDOWN
NaNo Tips and Strategies – offers help with the nitty-gritty bits of your novel, with folks chiming in with ideas, research, tips, strategies and otherwise helpful things.
Life During NaNo – forums to help you make the most of your time in front of the keyboard. Or make the least of it. Your choice. You can whine here, complain, groan, celebrate, cheer and generally share with other participants about the nuts and bolts of the task at hand.
Mechanics, Logistics, and Other Technical Stuff – Our three-stop shop for help on the forums, website and the nitty-gritty about the rules and regs and other help with tech elements of accomplishing your novel-in-a-month goal.
Genre Lounges – If you’re looking for companionship with other writers working in your style, this is the place.
NaNo Groups – if you’re belong to a class or another group that’s descending on NaNoWriMo en masse, this is the place to find a topic where you can all hook up.
Resources & Writing Support – everything from software advice, music playlists and whatever else is on your mind.
Outside The Box – anything else that doesn’t fit in the other forums regarding your NaNoWriMo experience.
Regional Forums – The beauty of NaNoWriMo is that the forums allow you to connect with people all over the world who are taking on the challenge of writing a novel in a month. But you’ll also find that there are people right in your area writing too and your Municipal Liaison (ML) is hard at work setting up parties, writing sessions and helping the locals find their way through the month. Sign up for your regional forum(s) and that will be the only one you see on your forum page and you’ll even get Private Messages from your Municipal Liaison about get-togethers in your area occurring throughout the month.
As described above, NaNoWriMo has Regional Forums, which are hosted by Municipal Liaisons, endlessly enthusiastic volunteers that host the local forum and organize get-togethers in your area. You can subscribe by selecting the “Local Events” option from the main menu
Search for your region (state or province is a great place to narrow the search) by clicking on Find a Region in the Local Events menu. We will provide you with suggestions based on your IP address, but if you’ve already subscribed, it will say “Sorry, we couldn’t find any regions close to you.
Click the name of the region to visit or click the blue “join this region” link on the right. You may join more than one region so that it will show up on your forum page automatically every time you log in. You are free to join as many regions as you want (some people engage in challenges between cities or keep an eye on their hometown or perhaps want to overlap in adjoining areas).
We offer an option call “home region” as well, where your word tally counts towards the community. You can select one of your regions as your home.
Once you’ve signed up for your Regional Forum, if it has a Municipal Liaison, you will probably get several emails or NaNoMail messages throughout the season. Most cities have a Kick-Off party in late October or early November and a TGIO Party in early December. You are under no obligation to sign up for a Regional Forum but many wrimos have found that meeting people in their own area, even if it’s only on the forums is a great help. Feel free to share information on the Regional Forum about places to gather publicly such as libraries, coffee houses that don’t mind laptoppers, bookstores that can accommodate writers and other tips and tricks specific to your area.
Many wrimos have formed lasting real-world friendships with people they met on the internet. Really, we’re nice people.
This primer is by no means complete, but you might want to refer to it if words get bandied about within the posts. Of course, you should never be shy about just asking within a topic what something means.
Admin or Administrator – someone who works on the website.
AFAIK – short for As Far As I Know sometimes AFAICR – As Far As I Can Recall
B0rk or B0rked – broken or not working properly. Sometimes this happens to the NaNoWriMo site.
Bump – when a person adds a reply merely to get it to go back to the top of the forum listing. This is strongly discouraged on our website.
Chat – the use of a program for real-time exchange of text conversations. There are quite a few chats that go on during the NaNoWriMo period through several different programs. Some users post their chat usernames in their Signature Line
Chat Speak – a form of abbreviated communication where letters are substituted for words such as U for you and R for are. This developed as a shorthand for communicating quickly in chat programs (IM or Instant Message) or using text messaging on phones. Sometimes it creeps into forum postings and can make it difficult to understand (alphabet soup). Sometimes sounding it out or reading it aloud can help, kind of like deciphering vanity license plates.
Dare – a challenge posed by another participant (usually in the Reaching 50k forum) that you may choose to include in your novel to boost word count. Can range from the serious plot unstickers to the wild and crazy plot ninjas.
Emoticon – a smiley icon, or any icon that conveys emotion. These are generally used to help people understand the tone of a post. You may notice that they show up as little graphics sometimes and other times people will use the type character versions, such as :) or ;). There are dozens of versions. Here’s a good place to find out what they all mean.
Fanfiction – a story written about an existing world, usually written by someone else other than the original creator.
FAQ – Frequently Asked Questions – usually a place on every website contains a page that strives to answer the most common questions and concerns. Ours is here.
Flame – when a poster takes another to task on a subject, chews them out, generally abuses them. A flame can be a personal attack, but often is a well-reasoned analysis but employs heightened rhetoric. Flamers often take great joy in getting responses from people with their posts, so responding to a flame is not usually advisable. If you believe that someone is posting abusively, please report their post(s) to the moderator.
Flamebait – a post that is designed to generate a flame. This is a special kind of trolling (for more on trolls, see below) where a user is not only trying to get a rise out of people, but is also trying to enlist others in their battles. Emotions run high, rhetoric and hyperbole abound. Posting in such a topic is not something to be taken lightly. Tread carefully.
Flamewar – when there is equal give and take on both sides or multiple people join in.
Forum – a forum is an area on the site where the threads are divided into areas of interest. In general the site is divided into different forums to help you find the conversations you’re looking for. See also: thread.
Godwin’s Law – “As an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches 1″ – this has grown to include that when a discussion grows more contentious, the invocation of Nazis comes that much faster. Some declare that any given topic is over when Hitler is invoked, however the awareness of the law itself can often muddy this.
IIRC – short for If I Recall Correctly
IMHO – short for In My Humble Opinion, also IMO – In My Opinion.
Leetspeak (also 1337) – short for Elite Speak – an odd way of expressing in English using alternate characters or character strings as a substitution for the accepted ones. In some senses it’s a cipher, sometimes used to hide keywords from filters. See: Wikipedia – Leetspeak
LOL – short for Laugh Out Loud, see also the more hilarious ROFL
Lurker – someone who reads but doesn’t post.
Moderator or Mod – a host for a forum, they are there to help as well as broker any disputes. On the NaNoWriMo forums you’ll see their name in red at the top of the forum and on the forum list next to the title of the forum lounge. The lead forums moderator is Heather Dudley.
NaNovel – a novel created during National Novel Writing Month.
NaNovelist – someone who writes a novel during National Novel Writing Month, see also Wrimo.
Newbie – someone new, also called a n00b.
NSFW – Not Safe For Work – a caution many people will put on links to text or images if they are something you might not want to be caught viewing or might prefer not to view if you’re sensitive to such content.
OMG – short for Oh My God, sometimes expressed as OMIGOD.
Post – a post is any single item placed in the forums by a person. A post can be one that initiates a topic or in response to someone else’s post (a reply). Posts are initiated by going to the forum where the topic belongs and clicking on “New Topic” or responding to someone else’s by hitting “Reply.”
Rebel – Someone who is choosing to do NaNoWriMo by their own rules, rather than the established rules of the event. Not a cheater, they simply choose to do the self-challenge by their own rules.
ROFL – abbreviation for Rolling on the Floor Laughing
Sig or Sig Line – short for Signature Line. The site allows all posters to have a signature automatically added to all their posts. Many users choose to show information about their novel, links to their personal websites and sometimes a little graphic of the novel project. You can add your sig in your profile page. You can change your sig at any time and it will automatically update all of your posts on the site.
Smiley – see emoticon above.
Spoiler Alert – a caution someone will put on a post, most often dealing with the content of a book, TV show or movie. A spoiler alert is often followed by a large amount of blank space so that a person who does not want the work spoiled for them can click away safely.
Tag – a game played in a topic on the forums. The first post will usually outline the rules, whether it’s a word-association game or connecting movie titles.
TGIO – Thank God It’s Over or Thank Goodness It’s Over, the title of the official parties that break out all over the planet in early December to celebrate the end of National Novel Writing Month. All participants whether they reach 50,000 words or not are invited to get together and raise a toast to the Muse.
Thread – a conversation on the forums is called a thread or topic. It’s started by one person’s post and others respond to either the first person’s post or to subsequent posts. A thread should stay on the original poster’s topic, though they don’t always. If there’s an interesting conversation within a thread that develops, often someone will break out that topic to its own post and thread so as not to distract from the original poster’s thoughts. The abbreviation OP is used to refer to the “original poster” or the person who started the topic.
Topic – any threaded conversation on the forums started by a post – see above.
Troll – a troll is a person whose sole goal on a forum is to get a rise out of others. Most of the time it’s harmless fun and obvious when someone posts that kittens are evil or coffee isn’t the perfect beverage. If a post annoys you immediately and you feel the need to post right that moment, walk away. If it’s important enough to demand a reply, it’ll be there tomorrow and cooler heads will prevail. Some people enjoy engaging trolls, but the general consensus is that it’s a bad idea to feed them.
W00T – sometimes written as w00t!, it’s just an expression of exuberance. Seen often in the forums when wordcounts are high and goals are reached.
WiFi – wireless internet access, found at many coffee houses, libraries, bookstores and other public places.
Wrimo – a writer who participates in National Novel Writing Month.
WYSIWYG – short for What You See Is What You Get, often refers to word processors and their interfaces showing you what your page will look like printed.
XD – another emoticon though it’s not always obvious at first glance. It represents an open mouth, squinted-eye laugh. Equated with LOL (laugh out loud).