Updated: May 1, 2021
There's an old folk saying that goes: whenever you delete a sentence from your NaNoWriMo novel, a NaNoWriMo angel loses its wings and plummets, screaming, to the ground. Where it will likely require medical attention. Chris Baty
I stumbled upon the National Novel Writing Month, or Nanowrimo as it affectionally called, in October 2018. I had just enrolled in a Master of Letters in Creative Writing and had also completed six months of planning for a five-book time slip series that I wanted to write.
I decided that I would warm up my writing skills by writing a story. Just for fun.
Just for fun …. Hmmm … stay on that thought.
I had two weeks to think of an idea for this ‘just-for-fun-story.’
I finally uncovered an idea.
I live in an inner-city suburb in Brisbane and there are these amazing and beautiful art deco apartments that have survived since the 1920s. There is one that I absolutely love. I love it so much, that when I go on my Sunday afternoon bike ride, I make a beeline for this apartment. I stand across the road, straddling my Retro 1950s lady’s bike and just take in the apartment’s old charm and beauty.
Okay… maybe it’s a little like stalking.
While I was sighing… and wishing… and gawking… a story came to mind. It was to be my 2018 NaNoWriMo story.
When the 1st of November 2018 swung by, I started. I did the maths. To achieve the 50,000-word goal I needed to write 1,667 words per day. Actually, all seasoned WriMos know this one, true number – the daily word count to aim for to win.
Working full-time meant I didn’t always hit the required word count each day. So, I kept a schedule of IOU word counts from the week. I then invested time on the weekends to catch up on my word count. This worked a treat.
I did win. I wrote over 52,000 words.
What do you win? Being a winner unlocks discounts on a wide range of writing programs. This is where I discovered Autocrit and Fictionary; two writing programs I have continued to use.
From NaNoWriMo I went on to write a complete first draft. It was my very first novel.
It wasn’t very good.
But it was my learning manuscript.
I thanked it and let it go.
NaNoWriMo had been instrumental in kick-starting my desire to write again. For me, this was my prize.
In 2020, the year Australia and the world will never forget, I decided to compete in NaNoWriMo once again.
Then I decided it wouldn’t.
I had just started my 1st draft of a second novel. I didn’t want to load words into my manuscript just to build on my word count.
Then the fear of missing out made a visit.
On Sunday 1 November, while I was working on my draft, I received an email notification about the first day of NaNoWriMo. I couldn’t resist.
Fear of missing out. FOMO was too strong. I was in.
Here’s the premise of this article. NaNoWriMo is more than winning. More than achieving 50,000 words. It’s all about starting to write. Getting words on the page. Beginning that story, you’ve been itching to write.
The 50,000-word count isn’t easy. It’s not meant to be. It’s a competition. It’s supposed to be challenging. But it does have some great benefits for a writer. Especially an emerging writer.
It helps you to develop a regular writing habit. Helping you to develop a writing routine that fits into your lifestyle.
It alleviates the ‘blank page’ dread. You learn to resist fear and just put your fingers to the keyboard and type. It will help you develop confidence.
You begin to discover the need to keep writing. To not look back. To move forward and not to stop until you type ‘The End’. This will help you to build personal writing resilience. To stop being precious about the first draft.
You join a community of writers. This is a great way to connect with other writers. Writing is lonely. It’s just you and the page. NaNoWriMo gives you a common task with other writers.
For now, NaNoWriMo is motivating me to write every day, push past the blank page dread and forcing me to type forward. It’s also building my resilience to tell my inner critique to back off and squash any feelings of imposter syndrome.
If you are also doing NaNoWriMo in 2020, or if you are reading this article in the future, I wish you every success.
If you’re thinking about it, I say, give it a go. You never know where it may take you.
Bookbub.com lists seven books that have been published after participating in NaNoWriMo. Water for Elephants by Sarah Gruen, The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern and With the Fire on High by Elizabeth Acevedo are three such books.
Who knows? Maybe yours will be the next one?
Stay faithful to the stories in your head. Paula Hawkins
Image Courtesy of Chorniymax @ Dreamtime.com