To Nano, or Not to Nano

It’s that time of year again, when all my writer friends are having crazy fun getting started with NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month). I always feel a pull to join them, and this year is no different. It’s also the same in that I’m in the middle of a big piece that I really need to finish.

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At this stage of hat, I must not start new hat.

Early in my training for building a writing career, I wrote a rough draft in a month, inspired in part by NaNoWriMo. The draft was 75k words…that I ended up completely rewriting (that was the first version of Pack, by the way). I have a tendency to go overboard when I give myself aggressive deadlines…

Two months is a much more humane timeline for me to create a full rough draft, especially if I want to do an editing pass or two before I put it on the shelf to cure in my subconscious. So, I won’t be doing the official NaNoWriMo, but I will be writing along with all my writer friends, sort of running parallel along their paths, and offering what encouragement and support I can.

NaNoWriMo can give any writer a boost, even if they’re not participating in the traditional sense. The joy of starting something new, or recommitting to something in progress can be an amazing boost of creative energy.

Here are my top ten favorite things about NaNoWriMo:

  1. It fosters an even greater sense of camaraderie among the writing community.
  2. It teaches writers about setting goals and what it takes to reach them.
  3. It creates habit-energy for writing every day.
  4. It helps you learn to roll with the days that don’t quite go the way you want.
  5. It shows you that it really is possible to write rough drafts that quickly.
  6. It’s a crucible, forcing you to learn tricks and techniques to get your word count where you need it to be (like how to push aside self-doubt).
  7. It reminds you that first drafts will not be—and don’t need to be—perfect.
  8. It gives you an opportunity to learn from other writer’s successes and challenges.
  9. It can help you learn your limits, and even better—what you’re capable of (my personal record is 25k words written in a week, but at the end of it, I could barely lift my right arm for days).
  10. It teaches you to finish your projects!

I can’t emphasize the importance of that last one enough. When I became serious about building a writing career, I would wander from project to project, never finishing anything. The good thing about that is, I have a ton of story ideas that I’ll be developing eventually. The bad thing was that I didn’t have anything I could share with readers.

When I finally sat myself down and said, “You can’t write anything else until you finish this project,” my writing finally really kicked into gear. I finished seven rough drafts over a handful of years, learning to write faster and tighter along the way. And then I made myself polish the works, sold them to a traditional publisher, and began the journey of learning the ins and outs of getting books in readers’ hands.

Seeing those finished, polished works on my “for sale” shelf was one of the most encouraging things that had ever happened for me as a writer. I had done it once, twice, a half-dozen, a dozen times—and learned how to go Indie along the way. I knew I could do it again.

NaNoWriMo can be the first step on the path toward building a body of work or a huge boost for a writer who’s farther along the path. But most of all, it can be a whole heck of a lot of fun.

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Wishing you excellent word counts, wonderful new connections, and a glorious time honing your writer’s craft. I’ll be cheering you on!

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