Halloween is upon us! While I will be nibbling on plenty of candy and spending the evening trick or treating with my little siblings, another holiday is occupying my brain space: It’s the eve of NaNoWriMo!
National Novel Writing Month, usually shortened to NaNoWriMo, is a month-long writing marathon that commences on November 1st. It celebrates putting the pen to the paper or the fingers to the keyboard and pushes you to write and write and write with the goal of hitting 50,000 words by November 30th. It encourages living in the moment of the first draft and halting your inner editor and critic for thirty days.
The first NaNoWrimo took place among a small group of writers in the San Francisco Bay area in 1999. It is now enjoyed internationally by young, amateur, and professional writers, and hundreds of novels have been published by participants. Funds raised during NaNoWriMo are used to bring their Young Writers Program to K-12 schools around the world and provide classrooms with free writing tools and resources.
I’ve been taking part in NaNoWriMo since 2007. I have vivid memories of feverishly writing into the night during the November of my freshman year of high school after stumbling on the website the summer before. That month, study hall was spent typing away in the computer lab. I’d even try to handwrite portions when I had down time at after-school play rehearsals. Writing so quickly was exhausting and thrilling all at once.
In hindsight, the novelization of James Lapine and Stephen Sondheim’s Into the Woods probably wouldn’t have gone far due to legal issues, but fourteen year-old me had the time of my life writing it. That first manuscript hit 50,000 words on November 30th and I felt like a rockstar. I proved to myself that I could dedicate hours of my time to a new craft. I had reached a new level of focus and self-discipline. Best of all, the experience made me genuinely happy during an otherwise difficult time of my life. It showed me how much joy I could find in writing, and discovering a new passion is a true act of self-love.
Doing NaNoWriMo has become an annual tradition. I try to at least attempt the challenge because of how much it gave me as a struggling teenager. I’ve crossed the 50,000 word finish line about half of the times I’ve tried, with life events interfering with the years I didn’t succeed. None of the novels I’ve written (or started) during NaNoWriMo have seen the light of day (yet), but that doesn’t really matter to me. I’ve simply enjoyed growing from the yearly experience.
I’m sure some of you reading this think that I’m a bit odd for dedicating so much time and effort to this event over the years. Why should I put myself through this when I could be having a social life, watching Netflix, or doing something a bit more relaxing? It is extra work, after-all. Why not write at a more leisurely pace?
There are several reasons why I am doing NaNoWrimo this year. Maybe one of these can be your reason if you decide to hop on the writing bandwagon this November:
- Structure. NaNoWriMo forces me to organize my time in a way that can accomodate my word count goals. It causes me to be more productive in the mornings, to wake up by typing my novel instead of scrolling through my feed. A little added structure helps me feel good. This is especially true because of my recent move. I haven’t quite gotten a rhythm in my new home. I’m hoping NaNoWriMo can help establish one.
- You have a story. I’m not ready to publicly share the details of my novel, but I feel really good about the concept in general, better than I’ve felt about other stories in past years. Feeling like you have a good idea is reason alone to do NaNoWriMo. Don’t let that story die with you. That story you feel a connection with deserves to be written. Give it a chance this month.
- Processing and preserving memories. While NaNoWriMo is typically used for creative fiction works, there are plenty of people who use the month to craft memoirs or non-fiction manuscripts. Write about your childhood, your first love, or other memories that are on your mind. Writing them out can be a healthy way to reflect.
- You like a challenge. There are parts of NaNoWriMo that are fun, but it’s also tough. It’s battling writers block and making another pot of coffee to get through that pesky chapter that isn’t flowing out of you. It’s a creative marathon. If you like to challenge yourself and push your own limits in new ways, NaNoWriMo is the perfect opportunity.
- Community. One of my favorite parts of NaNoWriMo are the social aspects of it. The website has awesome forums and the event has a presence on most social media platforms (just use #NaNoWriMo.) There are even regional chapters that hold in-person events. Connect with other writers who you can complain and celebrate with all month long. You might even make a new friend!
- Deadlines are motivating. I thrive with a deadline. For me, open-ended assignments are harder to get done. NaNoWriMo’s timeline can be challenging, but having any sort of established timeline is helpful and makes me work harder and faster.
- You want to shush your inner-critic. Of course not every idea you have is a good one, but sometimes we criticize our ideas so often that we don’t allow the okay ones to blossom and grow. NaNoWriMo encourages writers to simply do their thing and worry about editing later. Take this opportunity to tune out your inner-critic for thirty days. You may think your manuscript is a jumbled mess when you revisit it after November, but hey, at least you wrote something instead of letting another idea bite the dust.
I’ll be sure to revisit these reasons on those frustrating nights of writing. NaNoWriMo starts in just a matter of hours and I couldn’t be more pumped!
If you’re interested in trying NaNoWriMo this November, be sure to check out the website, register ASAP, and explore the resources they provide to get you started. If you’re participating, feel free to add me as a writing buddy.
Have you done NaNoWriMo before? Tell me about your experiences in the comments.