I remember the day I found out about NaNoWriMo. I was in my first year of college, working for IOWA Public Radio and manning the third shift by myself. During those nights - there was A LOT of time to do "me" things. Research, read, do homework, etc. It comes as no surprise that even then, I wanted to be a writer. So when I stumbled upon this magical thing called National Novel Writing Month - I was interested. The more I read about it - the more intrigued I became. Write an entire novel in 30 days? 50,000 words? That's crazy! There's no way... I thought. But I couldn't stop reading the forums and people who had done it and by the end of the night, I was convinced I was going to do it.
And I did - and never looked back.
I had documented it all on a blog that is now defunct and long-gone. How I wish I'd kept it (or at least kept the posts) so I could look back. But *spoiler alert* I did not win the first two years I did NaNo. I failed miserably. But at least I tried. It wasn't until 2009 (when miraculously, my book blog was started and I have Facebook posts to honor the memory) that I put my foot to the ground and said - I'm going to do this thing, no matter what it takes. This was when I moved to a new city - started a new University, a new job and a full schedule. And you know what?
I rocked the shit out of NaNo. Here's a little glimpse into that crazy month of NaNo in 2009:
And here's an excerpt from my blog from that same day:
I DID IT! I fucking did it. How in the hell did I do it is what I want to know. I can't believe I'm sitting here and I actually did it. I'm freaking out here... and its like 2 in the morning so I can't exactly scream or jump around because everyone's sleeping. I'd have a celebratory drink except I cant find my parents liquor closet. Plus...again its 2 am..probably not the best idea.
LOL - so you get it, right? Why discovering NaNo was such an amazing thing for me? In the years following, there were many celebratory status updates and posts like this, but the first time is always the best.
Now, you might think that everyone would be on board with this awesome thing, right? But that's not the case. There are a lot of people who vehemently detest NaNoWriMo for various reasons. Even my mentor doesn't love it. But I'm a huge supporter of NaNo, obviously. And I decided to break down my reasons.
1. Camaraderie - there is nothing quite like a group of people gathering around a topic/theme they are super passionate about. There's just this... vibe that surrounds the month. There's a sense of "belonging" that many writers often don't feel. The first year I did it - I found out that people gathered at the local library to write. It was a sense of community I hadn't found elsewhere.
2. Developing habits - Due to the nature of the time constraints and word count - it FORCES you to write consistently. While I don't always prescribe to the thought that you should write every single day, I do think there's validity to the theory. But more than anything, I truly believe that habit begets momentum and momentum begets progress and progress = a finished novel. When you set a goal and work toward that goal every day, you begin developing habits and soon it becomes a part of your everyday routine. And I can't think of a better habit to pick up than carving out time to write everyday. Sometimes people just need a little nudge, or accountability and I think in a way NaNo does just that for writers.
3. A sense of accomplishment - not everyone wants to be a writer who gets a book deal and becomes famous. Sometimes, someone just has a dream of writing a book, plain and simple (I know, it's hard to imagine for those of who do write TO be read). And even if a writer DOES write to be read - there's something to be said for wanting that, dreaming that and haven't yet been able to accomplish it. But with NaNo - even when you don't "win" - there IS a sense of accomplishment. Of finishing. Of seeing 50,000 words you wrote on the page. They don't have to be great (and most likely they won't be) but when you hit that 50,000 mark and it's the end of November - I'm telling you - nothing feels as great as looking at what you created and saying, "I did it!" I'm a fan of ANYTHING that puts you in motion toward your dreams/goals.
4. Helps to silence the inner critic - When I'm NOT in NaNo mode - I tend to let my inner critic take root and my progress becomes stalled and sometimes even stops. But because of forward motion of NaNo, it kind of forces you to silence that inner critic and just keep going. Because you know what? You may have 50,000 words of crap, but that's what revisions, rewrites and additional drafts are for. You can't edit a blank page (said by so many people, I don't even know who to attribute it to). I know SO many writers who want to have a clean, near perfect draft... but I don't think that's reality. And it's definitely NOT my reality. No matter how fast/slow I go with my writing - I always have additional revisions/drafts I need to complete. So for me, NaNo is a way to get the story on the page faster and focus on revisions afterward.
5. You have a book you want to write - and there's no better time to start than with NaNoWriMo. Whether your a plotter, panster, first time writer or seasoned pro - there's no discrimination when it comes to NaNo. There's no age limit. NOW is the perfect time to bust out your idea or your dream to write a book and just start. You may surprise yourself with what you're able to accomplish.
So I hope if you were on the fence about NaNoWriMo - you read this post and find yourself excited to try something new. And if you're a veteran writer and haven't done it - why not try it, too?
Me? I'll be attached to the keyboard this month, pumping out the first draft to my next novel. See ya on the flip side ;)