"National Novel Writing Month is a personal challenge. It’s terrifying and difficult. And in my experience, very rarely is it as exhilarating as other people say. It means sacrificing sleep and sometimes personal relationships (which do recover!), and it’s definitely a battle—not to give up when you don’t meet a word count goal, to push through inevitable bouts of writer’s block, to make those necessary sacrifices. To reach 50,000 words.
... [But] NaNoWriMo 2012 started me on the path to becoming what I am today: a published author. Most importantly, it proved that this crazy, unthinkable, incredibly intimidating thing—writing 50,000 words but also writing a novel—was something I could do.
Now when I hesitate, when I struggle, when I feel stuck and hopeless in the middle of a draft, I get to look back and rely on the fact that it’s something I’ve already done."
Trying to write 50,000 words in 30 days is a little crazy, and it's more than a little intimidating. And yet all over the world, on November 1st, people will start doing just that. What about you? Are you considering trying this challenge for the first or tenth (or whichever) time?
If you're not sure, here are three questions you may be asking—and better yet, answers to all three!
- Should I participate in NaNoWriMo?
- Yes. Pretty much, if you're asking yourself if you should try this, the answer is yes. Regardless of if you write 2,000 words total or reach 50,000 in the first two weeks, NaNoWriMo is transformative, whether you treat it as a personal challenge or your goal is to become an author.
This is the marathon of writing—some do it to prove they can, and some do it because writing is their passion, but whatever your reason, the experience (even if you don't "win") will impact your life, in a great way.
- No! Unlike running a marathon, you don't have to prepare and train for NaNoWriMo. Some people do, spending the first ten months of each year planning their stories, but many people—including me!—just start typing and see where it takes them.
If you give yourself the freedom to write, even with no idea of where you want the story to go, you might just discover an incredible world and wonderful characters who've been waiting for you to create them. If you decide to participate at the last minute with no idea where you're going, you're not alone. Join the many pantsers who write just that way, and see what you can create!
- Finishing NaNoWriMo brings with it a sense of accomplishment, absolutely, and looking back at the sometimes grueling month with 50,000 brand new words is incredibly exhilarating. But at its core, NaNoWriMo is more about making the time and commitment to write than it is about your word count. Is it less of an accomplishment to run a 10K than a full marathon? I suppose if you're an Olympic runner, the answer might be yes, but for us mere mortals—definitely not. So does it not count if you write 20,000 or even 10,000 words in November rather than reaching 50,000? Absolutely not! And really, for many of those hesitant to try, the question isn't 20,000 or 50,000. It's 20,000 or none. And 20,000 is infinitely more than none.
So while life absolutely gets in the way, and only you can decide if attempting NaNoWriMo will make you committed to your writing or so stressed jumping off a bridge sounds like a good idea*, don't let the fear of not "winning" prevent you from participating.
Whether you write 10,000 words or 150,000 (yep, a NaNo writer in my region bangs out about that much each November, making the rest of us feel woefully inadequate), the reminder to prioritize your writing, to give yourself permission to carve out time for it amid all those other responsibilities, will still be worth it.
- *If attempting to squeeze NaNoWriMo into your life will make you so stressed that you'd rather jump off a bridge or something similar, please take November to carve out some time to relax and do something to restore your sanity instead. Read a book, go have drinks with some friends, go for a hike, get a massage—make time for you!