The first day of November is circled on my calendar in red ink every year, and it has nothing to do with the giant Halloween candy clearance sales. Not entirely, anyway. November 1 marks the beginning of National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo, a frenzied, caffeine-addled event with an insane goal – to write a fifty thousand word novel in only thirty days.
I first learned about the event in 2011 on October 30. I thought it over for all of about two seconds, and then I signed right up. Three years and three wins later, I recommend NaNoWriMo to all of my writer-type friends. There are so many reasons why.
This guest post is by Heather Debord. Heather is a writer and full-time keeper in Knoxville Zoo’s Department of Herpetology. She loves lizards, tortoises, and the Oxford comma. You can find her at www.becomingcliche.wordpress.com and on Twitter at @becomingcliche.
1. It’s all about you.
The official goal is fifty thousand words, sure, but the sky’s the limit. NaNo is an incredible opportunity to pursue some personal goals. My first year, I just wanted to hit that magic 50K. I squeaked over the finish line on the final day with thirty words to spare. The second year, my goals extended beyond the writing itself and included attending some local NaNo writing events to try to develop some real-life connections to other writers. My third year, I aimed big and challenged myself to double the goal. This year, I hope to actually type the elusive words The End, the one thing I have yet to do during NaNo.
2. The discipline.
The tight deadline is a writer’s best friend. We don’t cross that finish line or finish a novel by playing Candy Crush and searching out Grumpy Cat memes on the internet. I know. I’ve tried. To win at NaNo, writers’ gotta write. Spending a month hammering out 1,667 words per day, every single day, builds good habits that can carry over to the rest of the year. Time invested is never time wasted.
3. It's liberating.
Because NaNoWriMo is so time-limited, anything goes. It’s all too easy to grow roots in a genre. November is the perfect time to step out of our comfort zone write something just for the fun of it, without necessarily thinking of its future commercial success. Always wanted to try your hand at romance? Go for it! Space opera whispering in your ear? There’s no time like the present! And it’s only a month-long commitment. Many of us have spent considerably longer on projects that didn’t quite pan out.
4. The sense of community.
Writing is by its nature a solitary pursuit. I know I tend to live in my head a lot of the time. And many writers don’t have a lot of support in real life. Tell someone on the street that you��re a writer, and they’re likely to look at you as if you’d just revealed your secret ambition is to become a crime-fighting goldfish. NaNo is an oasis in that lonely desert. Imagine working toward a common goal with almost half a million of your closest pals. NaNo is a global event, as well, unfettered by such petty things as time zones. Your personal writing group might not be available for a panicked 2am plot-hole repair, but a visit to the NaNo forums or Twitter feed will likely hook you up with someone who can offer some suggestions, or at least a sympathetic ear.
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5. You have nothing to lose.
Besides sleep, I mean. What is the worst that could happen? At the end of the month, you have a whole new manuscript to show for your efforts, or at least fifty thousand words of it. And there is so much to be gained, so many possibilities. Two years ago, I ended the month with a partial manuscript and an idea I dearly loved. I spent another couple of months completing the novel, which more than doubled in length and in turn led to a sequel that poured out in twelve glorious days. A third novel in that same world is rattling around in my head as we speak, with a whisper of a fourth, and all because I took the plunge on November 1. What are you waiting for?
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Brian A. Klems is the online editor of Writer's Digest, the editor of this blog and the author of the popular gift book:
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