I participated in my first National Novel Writing Month event in 2008. I had never written a novel before and had no idea what I was getting myself into, but I'd always loved a challenge. Up until then, I'd only ever written short stories, and any previous novel attempts had stopped at the very pathetic amount of about 5,000 words. I think mostly it was naivety that made me do it. I had no idea what it took to write 50,000 words, let alone 50,000 words in a single month. My ignorance was indeed bliss, and I signed up for that challenge and I wrote those 50,000 words and I kept writing until I finished the book.
I'll always be thankful to NaNoWriMo for one very big reason: it taught me that anyone really can write a book. No anointment required.
It's been 8 years since I could first call myself a novelist, and I've come a long way since then. I've finished two more books and am working on the next. I got an agent with one of those books. And this year, I signed my first book contract. (Yes--my debut novel started as a NaNo project!)
One might say I no longer need the challenge of National Novel Writing Month.
And one might be right.
But that hasn't stopped me from signing up for my 8th time.
A WRIMO FOR LIFE
It never fails--every year, when the temperature starts to drop, my subconscious knows that NaNoWriMo is right around the corner. I start setting my affairs in order for the month that I will be more or less dead to everyone who isn't doing word sprints with me.
It's not as easy as it once was to commit to NaNoWriMo, now that my schedule is not my own. I did have to skip 2014 because I was in the middle of edits on Perfectly Undone for my agent, and seeing everyone else letting loose with their novels while I sat woefully on the sidelines just about killed me. It convinced me that as much as it was in my power, I wouldn't skip it again.
My passion for NaNoWriMo may seem a little disproportionate for an online challenge where you win basically nothing for hitting your goal (except, of course, 50,000 words on your work-in-progress and some nice writerly coupons), but here are just a few reasons why I'm a committed Wrimo...
I cannot stress this aspect enough. People who have never participated in NaNoWriMo think that the challenge is about hitting a certain word count. It's not.
What NaNoWriMo is really about is the energy of hundreds of thousands of people all over the world chasing the same goal together. The NaNo forums are abuzz with excitement and caffeine 24/7. And I can't tell you how many times I've chatted with other Wrimos well past midnight, cheering each other on to hit our word count goal for the day. I've even met some of my best friends at Write-In events.
There's simply no way to describe the electricity you feel of being so deeply tapped into the writing community. You have to experience it for yourself.
2. SERIOUS PROGRESS.
While community is the best part of NaNo, those high word counts are still priceless. It never ceases to amaze me when I look at my stats and see numbers like 15,467, or 25,008, or 42,124. In a matter of weeks! I know I'm capable of producing these kinds of word counts any other month of the year, but without the energy of NaNo, it's much harder for me. I love stepping back at the end of the month and realizing that I have an almost complete draft. It may need a lot of work, but I know so much more about my characters and my story once I've completed the challenge that all the future revising is worth it.
Whether you hit 50,000 words or 10,000 words, the motivation produced by NaNoWriMo will have you impressing even yourself. You'll accomplish writing feats you never thought possible.
3. TOTAL STORY IMMERSION.
Now that I have two kids in school, articles to write, workshops to plan, and deadlines to hit, it has never been harder to tap into my story. I get a solid 1-2 hours of writing in every weekday, but as soon as I close my computer, my mind is back on my to-do list and I'm off racing to the next thing. Yes, the book gets written, but I don't as often get to experience that thrill of the days when I would be unable to fall asleep because my characters had something to say, or I'd wake up with a plot issue resolved and I'd jump out of bed to write it down. My mind is simply spread too thin. During November, though, I set aside as many of my other responsibilities as possible (unfortunately, the kids still have to eat), and I eat, sleep, and breathe my characters.
That kind of connection to story is what we writers live for. But how often do you feel that immersed on a day to day basis?
4. THE HIGH OF CHASING (AND HITTING) A SEEMINGLY IMPOSSIBLE GOAL.
Sitting down on November 1st and staring a 50,000 word goal in the face feels impossible. No matter how many times I do it, it overwhelms me every year. It's like running a marathon--who actually does crazy things like that? Well, we do. Just writing a book is a crazy, impossible thing and yet, we do it over and over again. Because there's nothing quite like the high of an amazing writing day, and NaNoWriMo is a month full of days like that. Crossing the finish line, tired and delirious with effort, is a feeling like no other. Because you know you did something most people aren't brave enough to even attempt.
And celebrating with your NaNo community afterward makes the win that much sweeter.
Are you participating in National Novel Writing Month this year? If you're a seasoned Wrimo, what are your favorite aspects of participating?
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Jamie Raintree is an author and a writing business teacher. She is also a mother of two girls, a wife, a businesswoman, a nature-lover, and a wannabe yogi. Her debut novel, PERFECTLY UNDONE, will be released on October 3, 2017 by Graydon House. Subscribe to her newsletter for more writing tips, workshops, and book news. To find out more, visit her website.