Beginning in 1999 with 21 participants it's grown over the years to 256,618 participants and 36,843 winners in 2011.
Okay, so you still haven't got a clue what it is.
NANO is starting to write a novel on Nov. 1 and writing 50,000 words by Nov. 30. That's a lot of words. 1,667 words per day. If you've never tried to do that... Believe me that's a lotta word.
Last year I was an even newer author than I am now. I hadn't published anything, was still on the first draft of Healing Love and found out about NANO three weeks before and I was gone for the next week. I really hadn't a clue about planning out a novel so you could write over 1500 words a day and have it make sense.
Lord's Love was my NANO novel last November. I learned a lot. Keep a list of characters and their characteristics. I figured this out about ten days into the month. Jot down (in my case this means type on the "index cards" in my writing program) the Major Events which end up as chapters in the book. Whatever details you can think of need to be recorded so you DON'T FORGET them. Again, I learned this the hard way. I won't bore you with any other things I learned.
Such a nice web badge isn't it? That's what you get from the organization. Hey, they operate on a shoe-string budget so it's fine. Createspace gave each winner 5 free print books which was appreciated. Several other companies offer prizes too. In all it doesn't had up to $100 but that's not the purpose of NANO.
50,000 words of a novel written in one month. That's the goal.
This year I'm going to attempt a Steampunk genre novel. If you've read any Jules Verne you'll have an idea of what Steampunk is. It's an alternate timeline in which the internal combustion engineer doesn't work and steam (hence the name) and clockwork machines are the order of the day.
We'll see how this year's NANO goes. 1,667 words a day... That's the goal.