It’s that time of year again when the National Novel Writing Month folks have finished their works of literary greatness and eagerly begin seeking an audience for their masterpieces. I’ve been NaNoing myself for ten years now, and I love it. I’ve heard all of the reasons why many consider it a waste of time. I’ve listened to authors, some quite famous, proclaim that no one can write anything worthwhile in thirty days, that they’d rather write quality over quantity, that artificial deadlines encourage bad writing habits. My least favorite NaNo comment came from a favorite science fiction author who said that no one should be encouraged to write a novel. If they’re going to be writers, they need to learn to write without encouragement. I’ve been told that NaNoWriMo is a waste of time.
I’ve also been told that kombucha tastes ‘heavenly.’ It tastes, frankly, like bile. Bile is not heavenly. A chilled Domaine Huet Vouvray is heavenly. And here’s what’s heavenly about NaNoWriMo.
Number 1: It helps budding artists create art. Every year, a new author signs up and every year a new author writes a story. Maybe they finish it, maybe they don’t. Maybe they write something they stick in a drawer and never look at again, or maybe they publish the next “Water for Elephants” and become bestsellers. What they do after NaNo doesn’t matter. It’s what they did during it that matters. They created. And I think anything that encourages creation and fresh thought is to be lauded.
Number 2: It helps experienced artists learn that they can do things they never thought possible. I had a half-dozen half-finished projects before I began attempting NaNo. I failed three years in a row, and then realized that the only reason I had failed was that I’d told myself it was impossible to write 50,000 words in thirty days. Once I realized that if I added up all of my other projects, I was writing well over 2,000 words a day, I knew I could do 1600 words in a day. And I did. And I’ve done it every year since, plus a couple of Script Frenzy (I do miss Script Frenzy) and CampNaNoWriMo wins. Hitting a deadline, working quickly under pressure, and discovering that when you let go of the writing inhibitions and the inner editor, some of your best work comes to the fore is an incredibly empowering discovery, even for those who have been writing for years.
Number 3: It builds a community of writers, publishers, editors, agents, book lovers, and story tellers that transcends any individual novel. Need answers on something related to publishing? Someone in the community will have the experience and know-how and will be willing to connect. When you build NaNoWriMo connections, you’re building a supportive network that can give your writing efforts a boost, whether you’re looking at making words your career, or you’re just looking to have some fun.
Number 4: It teaches you never to give up. This year, like many artsy-froo-froo sorts, I was hit hard by the election. I found myself in a funk and I struggled to pull myself together. When Week 3 rolled around, I only had 15,000 words on the page. I should quit, I thought. This was a stupid story idea, and I’m way behind, and I just want a nap. I logged onto the forums and saw that I wasn’t the only one struggling. I wasn’t the only one way behind. I made some coffee, sat down, and got to work. Before the end it took a 10,000 word day and a couple of 8,000 word days, (7967 words on the 30th before midnight!) but I made my word-count, all 50,000. The story isn’t quite finished, but I’m really proud of what I wrote, and I will finish it, edit it, and toss it to my agent. The NaNoWriMo unofficial motto of “Don’t quit!” applies to everything in creative life. Don’t quit. Don’t give up. Push yourself to your limits and see what you can do.
NaNoWriMo is a gift. Chris Baty didn’t know what he was starting, I think, when he started the first official National Novel Writing Month challenge. Could he have known that eventually it would become a non-profit with over 400,000 participants worldwide, hundreds of novels traditionally published, and hundreds more in self-publishing? He gave budding authors everywhere the biggest gift that one could hope for: a community. So, here’s my gift to help give back to the NaNoWriMo community!
If you wrote a NaNo novel this year or last year, and would like one of my comprehensive beta-reads, normally $50.00, I’ll do it for just $10.00. My comprehensive beta-reads cover:
- Plot holes
- Character inconsistencies
- Plot inconsistencies
- Reader impact
- Language use
Message me with NaNoBetaRead in the subject!