Using IRC & Joining NaNoWriMo Regional Chats — A Step-By-Step Guide

A young blonde woman sitting in front of her laptop on a bed.

Have you seen people on Twitter, Facebook, or even the NaNo forums talking about IRC, Chatnano and word wars and wondered exactly what on Earth they were on about? If you wanted to join in but weren’t so sure how to go about it, never fear: there’s a variety of options depending on what suits you best.

IRC stands for Internet Relay Chat and is a form of chat room that’s been around since 1988, although its peak popularity was in the 1990s and early 2000s and usage has now begun tailing off. Users connect to specific servers and, from there, to chat rooms. In Chatnano’s case this is a small, private server set up and run by NaNoWriMo users karalianne and Utoxin, and kindly shared with the rest of us. While modern-day chat clients such as Discord are useful tools to keep in contact with like-minded people, even now IRC still has tools and functionality that is harder to achieve elsewhere, such as the ability to run word wars and timers which are achieved through the chatbot Timmy on IRC.

Although it’s been around a long time, it can still seem daunting to take part in… but why should you miss out on meeting other writers, both local and around the world?

This relatively basic user guide contains:

If you want to make any of the pictures larger, just click on them.


Online Chat Client

The Chatnano owners have a web-based chat client available for wrimos who can’t or don’t want to install software on their computers. This is the most straightforward way for new IRC users to connect.

New users

If you’ve never before used Chatnano, your first stop is the sign-up page: It’s recommended that even if you prefer to use a dedicated IRC program you sign up this way, so your account will be automatically associated with your regional chatroom.

There are several boxes to fill out, which we’ll go through in order:

IRC Nick: As you can see from the red asterisk, this is a required field because this is the name you will go by in the chatroom. Pick something non-offensive that you like, because you can’t change it later.

Region: This tells the server which part of the world you’re from and, therefore, which chatroom to link you to. For our purposes this is Europe :: England :: Nottingham, but if you’ve found this guide from elsewhere then pick whichever region is closest to you.

Email: Another required field: if you forget your password, this is the address help will be sent to.

Password: Another required field, pick something you’ll remember.

Confirm password: Re-type your chosen password.

With those done, hit Register and you’ll be signed up.

Once you’ve done that, you can log in at

Logging in

IRC Nick: Enter the nickname you chose in the previous screen (or when you previously signed up).

Password: Enter your password.

(If you lose your password, you can hit “Reset Password” on the left-hand side of the screen, which will take you to a page where you can enter the email address associated with the account and receive a reset message.)



Beneath these boxes you have three further options:

KiwiIRC: The most fully-featured online chat client, with sounds, emojis, and the ability to change the colour of your text.



Mibbit: An older chat client without sound. It will ask you to re-enter your username and password when you log in.




Region update tool: If you’ve moved region, use this option to change the chatroom you’re automatically signed into.



Dedicated Chat Clients

If you prefer to not use the Chatnano website through a browser every time you want to sign in, you can download a variety of free or paid IRC clients. These all have different pros and cons and it may take you a while to find one that you prefer, but luckily the setup and login process is much the same for all of them.

I personally use IceChat, which is one of the most straightforward free IRC clients. The process for setting up the server and logging in can be seen below.

How to set up IceChat

Open your newly installed program and click “Add” in the bottom left hand corner of the client. Set your Server to and ensure your Port is 6667. You can change the Display Name to something that will help you remember it, such as Chatnano or NaNoWriMo. Nick is the nickname you signed up to Chatnano with (or a nickname you would prefer to use if you haven’t already signed up). Once you’ve filled out these boxes, you can click ‘Save’ to remember these details.

Once you’ve saved them, you can click “Connect” and, as the second image shows, you’ll be taken to the main chatnano server.  Don’t be daunted by the lines of code.  If you already have a nickname set up, then enter /msg nickserv identify password, where password is the password you signed up to Chatnano with and, if you signed up on the Chatnano registration screen then successfully identifying yourself to the nickname server will automatically log you into your regional chat.

If you haven’t already signed up to Chatnano, then you can type /join #nottsnano to join the chatroom.


Other Clients

IceChat isn’t the only client available, although it may take a while for you to settle on one you prefer.  Here is a non-exhaustive list of various free standalone clients:

There are also Chrome IRC extensions:



Common IRC Commands

Although there are many methods of joining IRC, all the important commands are the same across every platform and you don’t need to know many to use IRC effectively.

/nick nickname
This command will change your username to anything you wish, just change the word nickname, i.e. /nick Anika or /nick Pax.

/msg nickserv identify password
If you have registered your nickname, then entering this and changing password to your chosen password will identify you as the owner of that nickname.

/msg nickserv register password email
If you didn’t sign up using the Chatnano page, then you can register your nickname directly with Nickserv, changing password to the password of your choice and adding your email address so you can recover your account if you forget your password.

Nickserv is, quite literally, the nickname server, so if you want to look further into what it can do you can type /msg nickserv help for a list of commands.

This single-word command will open up a list of all the channels on the IRC server, along with a number beside each one representing how many people are in the channel. There are channels for all kinds of things, from regions to general chat to dedicated word wars. You can also join rooms from this list by double-clicking their names.

/join #channel
You can be in more than one chatroom at once! If you want to drop in on anyone else, then this command will let you join in another room. Rooms are prefaced by a hashtag in the list command and in your list of channels, but this isn’t a fixed requirement so if you wanted to join in the general chat you can type both /join #nanowrimo and /join nanowrimo. Other popular rooms during November are #NaNoWordSprints and #wordwar.

If you want to leave a channel, typing /part will let you do exactly that.

If you want to finish your chat session entirely, then this will log you out of all rooms and the server. If you want to return, you’ll need to log in again.



Have we forgotten something?

Is there anything we’ve missed or something you’d like help with? Just let us know in the comments below, and we look forward to seeing you in the chatroom!

Pass it on:

7 responses to “Using IRC & Joining NaNoWriMo Regional Chats — A Step-By-Step Guide”

  1. Valentina says:

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