NaNoWriMo for Poets: A Chapbook Challenge

NaNoWriMo for Poets: A Chapbook Challenge

If you’re a poet with a creative rebellious spirit, NaNoWrimo for Poets: A Chapbook Challenge, may be just what you need this November!

What is NaNoWriMo?

National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) was established in 1999 and is the brain child of Chris Baty. It’s a challenge issued every November for authors to write 50,000 words of a novel and jump start their creative energies. The NaNo website states:

“NaNoWriMo has grown into a nonprofit that runs year-round programs across 646 regions around the world and in thousands of classrooms, and empowers nearly half a million people to access the power of creative writing.”

How can Poetry fit in to NaNoWriMo?

As someone that has participated in NaNoWriMo in the past, I kept asking myself this question. I love the energy behind NaNo, it galvanized my writing in a new way. I actually wrote and completed a novel one November many years ago. Ultimately, it wasn’t something I would go on to publish. I’m not writing traditional novels at this time, but I have been writing books. Verse after verse is finding its way onto the page for me and I’m writing poetry chapbooks and collections.

This led me to consider November and how I would like to work on my current collection in much the same way that I had with NaNo years before. So, I went where all writers go when they want to poll their community and make writing decisions: Twitter. It all started with this tweet:


The poets responded, so here we are. I wasn’t alone. It’s time to put something together for poets working on chapbooks.


Welcome to NaNoWriMo for Poets: The Chapbook Challenge

The Chapbook Challenge is a modified version of NaNoWriMo for poets. You might be saying: Hey wait a minute, don’t we have National Poetry Month and Poem A Day challenges every April? We definitely do! In fact, some of those poems from April might even serve as inspiration for your November chapbook.

What makes this challenge different is that it is focused on creating a chapbook manuscript. Poetry chapbooks are often poems collected to tell a story or share an overarching theme that stitches them together. If you’re unfamiliar with chapbooks, head on over to Moonchaps by Moonchild Magazine where you can take a look at some digital versions that are completely free to read.

We may be rebels (in the novel writing sense), but we’re going to start with some guidelines. The most important part of the Chapbook Challenge is that it inspires you and pushes your poetry forward. Get the lines, stanzas and ideas on the page– we can figure out what to ‘do’ with them later. If you’ve already got an idea for your chapbook, that’s great! If not, feel free to start brainstorming ideas prior to November. Sometimes there’s a lot of merit in letting a chapbook materialize in a more organic way. There are as many ways to write poetry books as there are poets.

So, take a deep breath, here we go.


The Chapbook Challenge Guidelines

  • Poems must be part of a chapbook or collection.
  • You can work on multiple chapbooks or collections.
  • If you have a manuscript you’ve already started, feel free to add to it in November.
  • Only poems written in November should count towards your goal.
  • The official goal is 30 poems, which equates to 1 a day. These can be written any way you wish. Just make sure they’re completed by 30 November!
  • The stretch goal is 50 poems or 50 pages– we’re testing this out to see how achievable it might be– go for it!

Important things to remember about your poetry and you

  • These are first drafts of poems. Revising & editing can come later, don’t let it hold up your progress!
  • Don’t worry about how you’ll put the chapbook together or ‘order’ your poems. Just write the poetry.
  • If you change your mind midstream and decide to write a different chapbook, that counts!
  • Poems can be any style or form, including prose poetry and haibuns. If you call it poetry, I do too!
  • These guidelines are just a guide. You can rebel and adapt as you need. As a good friend of mine often says: “I’m not the boss of you!”
  • Always make sure to care for yourself mentally, emotionally and physically. Self-care is important.


How to Participate in The Chapbook Challenge

We don’t have any fancy forums for this or places to set up profiles. This is a grassroots community of poet novelists (maybe that’s not a thing, maybe it is– you decide!) and we’re going rogue. Here are some things you can do to help this fledgling community on Twitter:

  • Write poems, lots and lots of poems!
  • Use the hashtag #ChapbookChallenge on Twitter for any related posts, so we can find each other.
  • Share excerpts, inspirational writing messages, photos of your giant cup of coffee/tea (aka Poetry Fuel) and interact with each other.
  • I’ll be posting photo prompts (optional for you to use) on my Twitter account @j_vandermolen
  • If you’re motivated and you want to head up the Chapbook Challenge on other social media channels, be my guest! The more Mooks, the merrier!


November is just around the corner and rest assured I will be right here, writing alongside you as we work our poetry magic. Here’s wishing you inspiration and much motivation as you embark on NaNoWriMo for Poets: The Chapbook Challenge!