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Word Count Validator

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The Word Count Validator is the tool used to confirm that your NaNoWriMo novel has 50,000 words or more. For Camp NaNoWriMo, the validator verifies that you have passed your goal for the event.

History of Validation

In the first years of NaNoWriMo, Chris Baty validated winners manually; however, this proved to be impossible by 2001, when almost 5,000 people signed up. When official validation was cancelled that year, participants verified each others' novels.

In subsequent years, an automated validator was built into the site. The validator was not activated until November 25th and would remain open until 11:59:59 PM Local Time on November 30th. This often created problems with users attempting to validate and finding their novels were under count; to make matters worse, the validator did not produce a count in the early years, leaving users to guess how far they were under. As the site became more robust, the validator was integrated into the site so that it was available throughout the entire month, producing a wordcount number so that users would have an idea of any discrepancies in their wordcount before the final hours. Although the validator is available through the month, official validation with the availability of winner's goodies does not become enabled until November 25. The validator's count is the only way to automatically gain access to the winner's page; however, the staff often assist those who could not validate before November 30 due to technical or accessibility issues and can enable the winner's page manually.

In 2019, the newly designed NaNoWriMo website did not include the word count validator. The validator was originally not included in the 2019 website redesign due to mixed feedback on the experience. However, with the new site's relaunch and resulting rockiness in September, the NaNoWriMo staff decided to try and bring back a familiar feature but was unable to roll out something they were confident in on time [1]. As a result, updating your word count to a word count above 50,000 automatically resulted in a win and gave out the year's winner goodies.

The Validator

This section discusses the validator up to 2018. It will be updated with 2020 information when available.

The validator was available under My NaNoWriMo - Edit Novel Info. during all of November, under My NaNoWriMo - Word Count Validator from November 25-30 (new feature in NaNo 2012), and also under the Blue Tent of Whoa during the last few days of camp sessions. Whereas previously the file had to be uploaded as a .txt file (which often caused issues with users who did not save in this format and were not aware of how to convert it), the current validator allows a simple copy and paste into a text box. The entire process is done by computers, so the words are never seen by human eyes and are deleted off the site once counted. However, some users are suspicious and believe that it is probable for the validator to fail to delete a novel at times (even after determining its word count), therefore allowing the staff to enter the validator's database and read everything a participant submitted to the validator. While there are no documented occurrences of such an event, there is always a minority who either believe such an occurrence has already happened or that it will happen in the near future. To avoid a decrease in win rates due to such suspicions, OLL Staff allow participants to scramble their novels (save a new copy of the novel, and then change every letter and number in the new copy to 'a') before submission if they so desire.

The validator cannot handle exceptionally large volumes of text and tends to time out around 120,000 words; those with word counts above that mark must submit only a portion and then correct their wordcount manually. Users are encouraged to check the validator regularly to avoid surprises as some programs (such as a known glitch in Open Office involving smart (curly) quotes) produce higher wordcounts than the validator due to bugs or different algorithms. On the other hand, the Validator can also show higher word counts than some programs, such as Microsoft Word, due to bugs or different algorithms. Whether the Validator adds, subtracts, or maintains the word count of one's word processor is decided instantly at the beginning of the month when the user opens their program of choice for the month for the first time of the month.

Although it is unknown exactly what algorithm the validator uses, it is believed to function by counting the number of blank areas between words or other non-space characters, similar to the 'wordcount' (wc) function of Unix. Because the validator is completely iliterate, it cannot recognize anything but spaces, so the phrase "Well...no" will be counted as one word, whereas "Well - no" will be three. It also does not distinguish characters used to place a break between scenes - the characters "***" will be read as one word, whereas "* * * * * * * *" will be read as eight. Some Wrimos use this as a form of padding.

Each blank area, whether it consists of 1 press of the space key, or more than that, is counted as one word. One final word is added to the total after the final non-space character in the document. If a user indents the first line of his or her novel, one word is added to the total before counting of any further blank spaces begins.