For many this means that they can finally bust out those hot Christmas tracks they’ve been waiting all year to unleash. For others, such as myself, it means the end of another round of National Novel Writing Month or NaNoWriMo.
For those of you who don’t know, NaNoWriMo takes place from November 1st to November 30th wherein it asks participants to write out 50,000 words in one month (the equivalent of 1,667 words a day). I managed to accomplish this the first year I participated back in 2016 and I remember feeling so invigorated by the experience that I promised myself that no matter what was happening in my life, I would try in some form to do this every year. Well, since then I have managed to do just that.
I’m going to be honest, I didn’t hit the 50,000 mark the last two years, meaning the only time I have “won” NaNoWriMo was that first magical year. I’m okay with that and more importantly it hasn’t stopped me from continuing to participate each year. The reason for this is is simple, I believe the point of NaNoWriMo is not hitting that magical 50,000 word count. No, I believe it is meant to be that spark of motivation that you might just need to finish your WIP or even start your WIP.
It is a dedicated time that you can track yourself, with the help of others, free of charge and I think every writer should do it; even if you know you won’t make that word count. To better explain these other benefits, here are just a few reasons why I continue to participate every year and don’t plan on stopping any time soon.
Try Out That Weird Idea
This is probably one of the best times that you can test the waters of that one random idea you had on that one day while taking a lukewarm shower. You remember the one. You wrote it down on the first available blank page in your notebook and then promptly realized that it probably wasn’t worth the time to flesh it out. Well November’s NaNoWriMo is an entire month dedicated to ideas just like that.
I remember my first year I had been struggling with my WIP and needed a break. In my heaps of files of ideas, I a full notebook worth of notes on a single idea, but not one typed page to show for it. It was an idea that my best friend and I had devised and tried to flesh out together and since the primary rules of NaNoWriMo require a newly started book, I decided to give it a shot.
I wasn’t disappointed in that decision nor have I ever regretted it. Not only did I get to craft this story that had been floating in my head for months, but it got me out of my slump for my other WIP. Not all drafts written for NaNoWriMo have to be gold and most of them aren’t, but they can be useful in their own way. I was able to return to my WIP having cleared out the cobwebs with a fresh story. I still have that sloppy draft from 2016 saved on a laptop in my apartment. I don’t know if I will ever get back to it and clean it up, but I am grateful that I took that month out of my life to create it.
Rededicate Yourself to Discipline
Shockingly last year when NaNoWriMo was gearing up I found myself in the same predicament as I had the previous year, but instead of starting an entire new book I decided that I would break a little rule and push through my current WIP. In doing this I also made a promise that if I did manage to hit the 50,000 word count I wouldn’t take advantage of the perks offered since I hadn’t really done what the contest states.
Despite this not being what the creators of NaNoWriMo set out to do, I found this path to be the most effective use of the contest. To make yourself sit down, take accountability, and dedicate a set amount of time to write each day either on a new or current WIP. Discipline is key and yet we as writers still find ways to make this an almost impossible trait to achieve. It’s nice to know that for at least one month out of the year I can say that I did have discipline.
But there is no real benefit unless it sticks with you, well in my experience it has. I may not be as disciplined the other eleven months of the year, but I can’t deny that there has been an inherent change in the way I approach my writing and how I give it priority in my life now. I do attribute this to the three years I have participated in NaNoWriMo.
This is probably the most overlooked benefit that comes from participating in NaNoWriMo, but it is one that I relish every year. I get to get excited about my writing all over again. This is not to say that I am not excited about the words and stories I craft the rest of the year. What I am saying is that sometimes we need that recharge, that refresh. We need that glowing moment that helps us remember our love for the story we are writing.
I’m not saying that all writers need this, but for those that do I highly encourage you to sign up for NaNoWriMo as a way to get it. Writing has you go through a myriad of emotions, some are your own, most are those of your characters. I find for me the start of that wheel of emotions begins with excitement. Excitement for the world you’ve created and the characters that live there. Excitement for finishing a page, a chapter, the entire book. It all begins with excitement and that is why I feel it needs to be refreshed, so why not refresh it on a yearly basis by simply participating in NaNoWriMo? I mean, there’s no good reason not to.
As for me, I did participate this year and while I didn’t reach the coveted 50,000 word count, I did manage to put a fairly big dent in my editing. While I didn’t complete my WIP I am proud of what I did accomplish and it is thanks in part to my participation in NaNoWriMo. This is why I participated this year and why I will continue to participate in each and every year that they continue to hold it.
It is a goddamn golden hammer in a writer’s toolbox and my advice, is to use it as often as you can.
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