#WritersLife, where I talk writing in real life.
I first heard about National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) in high school, but I didn't participate for the first time until November 2012. Since then, I've written every year.
Quick brief: NaNoWriMo is an online writing challenge that takes place in November. The goal is to write 50,000 words from Nov. 1st to Nov. 30th. There are loads of tips from authors and the NaNo team along the way, and the writer community is always there to help with ideas and plot points. Each city also has its own municipal liaison(s) who are like little fairy godparents who you should treat with love, respect, and to a lot of brownies.
NaNoWriMo is an invaluable tool for every writer because it forces you to sit down and finish that story that's been running around in your head for three years, or maybe you're more like me and you've got scraps of scenes here and there.
Either way, you need to organize those thoughts and write them into a story. This post lists my four reasons why I want you, as a writer of any type of writing be it novels, short stories, YA, fiction, poetry, screen, whatever, to consider participating in one of NaNoWriMo's events in 2016.
NaNoWriMo forces you to stick to a deadline
You know I like linking to others because everyone says things so much more eloquently than me, so check out Rae's post on deadlines and daily goals. Once you've done that, keep reading (or check out her other stuff, all of it's good).
Deadlines make writers realize that this thing running around in their heads is not only fun and entertaining, but deserves to have a home on paper. You may not be one for structure, and that's fine: Camp NaNoWriMo in April allows you to set up your own word count. You don't have to write 50K. You can shoot for 10,000, or go halfway to 25,000 words. It's all you.
Also, deadlines can help make you feel like you're that much closer to being a writer with an agent or editor breathing down their backs wondering when the next batch of pages is coming in. I mean, I've always dreamed of being the kind of writer who is late on deadlines just to stress out my editor, but I rarely miss my deadlines for NaNo and my beta readers.
*Please note: I will be querying shortly to literary agents. The above is a half-joke. Please don't mention it to editors when submitting my work to them. Thank you.
NaNoWriMo offers a community of writers
This is so important.
Writing is a solitary process. Most artistic forms are. So to have a community that can offer you help when you're stuck in a scene, or confused about a character's development, or absolutely hate your villain (in the bad way), can really help you push through to see this story to the end.
And the NaNo community is strong. I know people say there are bad seeds everywhere, and I've heard of some in the blogging community, but I've never seen them on NaNo. Everyone is so willing to help everyone with their stories. After all, it's why we're there: we want to write stories for others to read, so if we can help with yours, it's just one more to add to our TBR Goodreads shelf.
Writing is hard. Don't make it harder by being alone. I am an excellent writing cheerleader if you ever need one!
NaNoWriMo provides editing assistance
Oh, the dreaded editing and revision stage. At least for me it is.
The beautiful NaNo team doesn't forget about you once December 1st rolls around. Oh no, they organize the What Now? Months and post a whole new slew of tips about revision and ways to strengthen that glorious monster you just created.
Most of us can get the hang of the writing part. It's the revision part we need help with, especially when we're short on beta readers and critique partners, and NaNo ensures that whatever kind of story you've written, you have plenty of information on hand to know how bets to polish it. It's not just about writing the story in your head although that's perfectly fine if that's your main goal.
For those who want to try publishing their work, whether traditionally or self, revision is always a must and NaNo can help with that.
NaNo makes your novel feel like it matters
When you're writing the first draft, sometimes you slip into moments of, will anyone like this? Is it worth it? Will anybody ever even read it? What's the point?
In these moments, it's critical to know that yes, your novel matters. There is a story inside of you, and it's only inside of you. If you don't tell it, it will never be told. Even if you hoard it away and don't let anyone touch it, you still gave it life when you wrote it.
If you participate in NaNoWriMo, you will feel that need to write the story. Maybe you told your dad or your friend or co-worker and when they ask about it, you feel the need to write to let them know that you're still writing. Or someone on NaNo added you as a buddy and is motivating you by keeping tabs on your word count. Or maybe your story keeps invading your daily life and doesn't let you get anything else done.
Once you feel that your novel matters, you discover a love for it that nothing else can recreate, and the story gets that much stronger because of it.
So please consider NaNoWriMo this year. My friend joined in 2012 and wrote a collection of short stories. Another friend wrote one novel and started a second. You could write a screenplay or play. You can write a poem a day. You don't have to hit 50,000 words: you just have to hit the keyboard (but not too hard, those keys break really easily).