National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo for short, is an annual event that has inspired authors from all over the world to write a novel over the course of November. That's at least 50,000 words in 30 days, or 1,667 words per day.
Sounds nearly impossible to some of you, doesn't it?
My argument is that if you are a writer who does not think they can complete such a task, then NaNoWriMo is not only possible...it is perfect for you. It will inspire you, improve your storytelling skills, and introduce you to other like-minded authors, amongst many other benefits. On top of that, it's free. The only cost is your time. If you are a serious author who has yet to write their first novel, then I would go so far as to say that it is essential that you participate in this year's NaNoWriMo, and here are five reasons why:
1) It will teach you how to make time for writing instead of simply finding time.
You must make at least 1,667 words happen per day, somehow. When is it going to happen? Do you sacrifice sleep? Perhaps you can cut down on your Netflix time. Maybe you write a couple hundred words here and there throughout the day until you meet your goal. If you're serious about your writing, then NaNoWriMo will teach you how to make time for it.
2) It will force you to turn off that crazy little internal editor.
If you have to meet a word count goal, then you will soon realize that phrasing everything exactly how you want it to sound or making sure that each character has its own specific voice is not as important as advancing your story. NaNoWriMo is for writing and storytelling; you can edit and fix everything in the months afterward.
3) It will force you to push through writer's block.
Every author gets stuck from time to time, and writing a complete novel in such a short time will certainly force the moment to happen at least once during your journey. This is how you find out what you're made of. You have a goal to meet, and the only way to reach it is to write. Perhaps you skip ahead and start writing the end of the story. Perhaps you just push through and write some fairly lame scene that will definitely not make the final draft. No matter what you do, you will learn from it and use what you've learned during the next inevitable case of writer's block.
4) It will, strangely enough, force you to stop obsessing about your story.
This is counterintuitive, as you will no doubt be obsessing about writing your book a bit in order to finish it in such a short amount of time. However, I'm talking about those of you who write a single chapter, then reread it, then rewrite it, then replay the book based upon your changes, then reverse the cycle, then repeat, and so on. Every author wants to believe that their story will change lives and be an amazing bestseller, and there are many of you who believe spending as long as possible on your story will guarantee such success. The reality is that, no matter how enormous of a story you have in your brain, it needs to be finished in order to be enjoyed. Plan away, by all means, but just know that once you finally get to writing that scene you've been dwelling over for the last two years, it's going to be different than you originally pictured. Blueprints are nice, but they're just paper until construction begins.
5) It will force you to finish your ideas so you can move on to the next.
If you take writing seriously, then you must finish what you've started. I've spoken with several people who started NaNoWriMo and then gave up because they didn't like their idea after they started. I realize that can feel like a bummer, but not liking your idea is simply a form of writer's block. You've set clay on your potter's wheel and perhaps it's looking like garbage. Well, the clay hasn't gone anywhere...reform it! Just keep spinning that wheel and getting your hands dirty until you cross the finish line with a complete story. You will thank yourself for it, believe me. And if you want to know why it's important to start what you've finished, then click here because I wrote an article on that, too.
Writing a novel is quite a long and challenging task, but it should be enjoyable. I spent last NaNoWriMo getting up at 5am and making sure I wrote as much as I could before my toddler and pregnant wife were awake. Sometimes they'd wake up earlier than others, and I'd have to adjust. We even suffered a major family tragedy near the end of November. Somehow, I still got through and finished my story, ending at 66,000 words. Did I write the greatest story on the planet? Not at all. But it is an enjoyable little book, and I'm proud of it. I'm even trying to crowd fund its production. Did my story change the world? No way, and I'm still not finished editing it.
Did writing that story change how I write and how I see myself as a writer? Absolutely.
The founders of the event also added Camp NaNoWriMo, a free-for-all event in July during which you are "bunked" with nine other authors and you can set your own word count goal for July's 31 days. Some campers set a goal of 3,000 words in a month and never started. Others set a goal of 100,000 words and crushed it. I was working on the manuscript for my novel that will be published next year, and I set a goal of 70,000 words. I just barely made it, but I did it.
By setting a goal and forcing myself to be focused, not only have I improved my writing, I have also learned a lot about who I am as a writer. Perhaps you will, too.
Join me for this year's NaNoWriMo in November, won't you? We can all become better writers together, and a world with better storytellers is a better world all around.
The NaNoWriMo Programs are all conducted by the Office of Letters and Light, and they are doing serious work for worldwide literacy and writing programs. Here's a little video to get you excited about participating: