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Op-Ed: NaNoWriMo Works for Me

NANOWRIMO (National Novel Writing Month) begins November 1, 2016. Image:

NANOWRIMO (National Novel Writing Month) begins November 1, 2016.

I’ve been a participant in National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) for years. This is my eighth year, I believe. Last year, I couldn’t participate and neither could I in 2009 for various reasons, so those eight years are not consecutive. I don’t participate in the community functions, but I support them wholeheartedly and suggest them to most people I meet who say they want to be writers.

For me, the best part of NaNoWriMo is the accountability. For one month, I focus on one project instead of bouncing between four of them. For thirty days, I meet and, more often, exceed a minimum word count when I’m horrible at keeping track of word counts during the rest of the year. I love watching that little graph when you put your word count in for the day. I try to best my time to completion every year but I’ll probably never beat the year I did it in twelve days. Twelve very long days where I’m fairly certain I forgot to feed myself and definitely didn’t do any laundry.

The one downside I’ve found to NaNoWriMo has nothing to do with the premise but certain writers who believe that their first drafts are actually final drafts. I’ve met a lot of writers, but I have never met a writer who didn’t need an editor. No matter how great you think your words are, there is always room for improvement. I imagine a great many agents and publishers groan at their slush files in December when those writers submit rough, unready work. As a writer, I totally get it. If I’d known about NaNoWriMo in 2000, I probably would have been one of those overly excited writers.

I do think NaNoWriMo can be incredibly useful. It is an excellent way of building up the habit of writing every day, forcing a participant to make finding the time to write a priority. It makes writing that first draft seem absolutely doable and for some, perception is everything. Sixteen hundred words a day isn’t so much, doesn’t feel as daunting as maybe it should. Especially when you write four paragraphs and already have about four hundred of those words. It is a great place to begin for those people who’ve always said they want to write a book. Some people discover very quickly that it isn’t really for them but others find that it is.

NaNoWriMo isn’t for everyone. It works for me because of my process. I don’t do a lot of prep work when I’m writing and I do my research on the fly, as things come up. I must be doing something right though as all of the novels I’ve had published to date started their life as NaNoWriMo projects, and I’ve got four more either in submission or rewrites or edits. My goals have changed since I first started NaNoWriMo though. Initially, it was just to see if I could do it. Now, it’s more about being able to crank out that zero draft and not fall behind on other commitments (like laundry).

If you’re on the edge, try it. The worst that can happen is that you discover that pace is not for you or that writing is not for you. I don’t spend time on the boards, but if you want to follow me or friend me, I’m Shade53 on the site. My book, Guardian of the Gods started as a NaNo novel is 2007. Eldercynne Rising began as Solstice House in 2010. Hunter’s Crossing kept its title from 2011.

Editor’s note: Also of interest – Why I will NOT be doing NaNoWriMo


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