November is a busy month.
From getting ready for Thanksgiving to growing a mustache for charity.
For aspiring authors, November is all about NaNoWriMo.
For those who don’t know, NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel Writing Month. Founded in 1999, NaNoWriMo challenges people to write 50,000 words of a novel during the month of November. NaNoWriMo is expecting 400,000 participants from 6 continents in 2014. (I am guessing Antarctica is the lone hold out.)
I have participated in NaNoWriMo several times and here’s why I think it is worth it for authors to give this month-long writing challenge a try.
1) You make a public commitment to your writing.
When you want to get something done, nothing holds your feet to the fire quite like telling everyone you know that you are going to do it. A public statement. Shout it out to the world.
NaNoWriMo is all about making a public commitment to your writing. You sign up, enter the name of your novel and its genre, and then you are added as a formal participant of NaNoWriMo. One of the 400,000 who had the courage to take that first step.
Once you make that commitment, your dream of writing becomes a reality. You have proclaimed yourself a writer and you need to live up to that expectation.
Admittedly, signing up for NaNoWriMo is not on the same level as taking out a full-page advertisement in the local newspaper to announce your writerly intentions.
But you have made the commitment and it is a true test of how much you want to be a writer.
Added bonus: Tell your family and friends that you are doing NaNoWriMo or even post on Facebook and Twitter to further that public commitment.
2) You are forced to put down words on the page.
Bottom line is that you are not a writer unless you write.
With art and writing, too often folks just think that one can create when inspiration strikes. But like most things in life, hard work over time is what carries the day. I learned this lesson in my martial arts journey and it is one that applies to my writing career as well.
NaNoWriMo has a pretty clear goal: 50,000 words written in a month.
That comes down to 1,666 words a day – give or take a few.
This is a challenge. Some days you only put down 500 words and then other days 2,500 words magically appear.
While the number of words is important, another benefit is that you develop a strong writing habit over a month. As a result of my now established writing habit, I find when I miss writing days that a feeling of dissatisfaction permeates my life.
Developing a daily writing habit is one of the most important things you can do as a writer, and NaNoWriMo gets you on the right track.
The better part of my fantasy novel Black River (to be released in Winter 2014-5) was written during NaNoWriMo with the rest finished during that daily writing.
Extra bonus: Outside of the confines of the word race that is NaNoWriMo, I am most comfortable writing about 1,000 words per day. NaNoWriMo is great because it 1) pushes me outside of my comfort zone, and 2) shows me that I can write more words than I had previously thought. (And no, the words in this blog post unfortunately do not count towards my daily NaNoWriMo goal.)
3) You can get deals from their sponsors.
Those who know me know that I am not motivated by swag bags or special time-limited offers. And honestly I am reluctant to sign up for lists for fear of being bombarded by emails.
So what gives with my like of NaNoWriMo sponsors?
First, all the sponsors offer products directly related to writing and you either get deep discounts (often deeper if you write those 50,000 words) or freebies. You are also the one to approach these sponsors for the deals so you only get what you sign up for.
I took advantage of Scrivener‘s deal when I completed my 50,000 words, and I got two things: a deeply discounted writing software product and an introduction to my favorite writing program out there. Scrivener has been the writing tool that has pushed my creativity further than anything else out there. And I have NaNoWriMo to thank for the introduction.
Tip: Scrivener offers a special trial period so NaNoWriMo participants can use it for free during November. (Yes, I know I sound like a shill for Scrivener but don’t worry I paid them and they don’t pay me. I just really like their product.)
Have you ever done NaNoWriMo? What did you like about it? How did it change your writing?
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