I am a HUGE fan of National Novel Writing Month, aka NaNoWriMo. Not only does it include an uplifting community and serve as a charming and satisfying way to kick off the holiday season, but I’ve become a better writer every time I’ve participated.
Alas, it’s not in the stars for me this year, as I will have a newborn and the only writing I’ll be doing is sending texts that are mostly emojis anyway, BUT I figure if I can convince one other writer to do it, I’ve contributed to the cause! If you’re on the fence, here’s how participating in NaNoWriMo made me (and could make you) a better writer.
It forces you to turn off your inner editor.
There are few things more detrimental to a writer, but especially a first draft writer, than editing while creating. While we all know that a first draft is universally regarded as “okay to be sh-tty”, so many of us still struggle with making progress when we can see that it’s, well, sh-tty. The pace and goal of NaNoWriMo (to write 50,000 words in one month), prevents that inner editor from taking over. There was no way I was going to hit the word count goal if I kept stopping every twenty minutes to reread and rewrite. That mindset helped me achieve that beautiful “flow space”.
It gives you a sense of confidence and accomplishment.
Especially in what is otherwise a nebulous and disheartening enterprise. There are no gold stars when you write, and certainly not in those early drafting stages. You have to find value and joy in the act and the tiny milestones you reach on your own. NaNoWriMo helps because it is both community-focused and because when you hit your word count every day, you get to watch your graph steadily increase knowing you did that. You’re inching along, making progress, working hard and it is paying off. That sense of accomplishment feeds into the next day’s work, fueling this mad journey to write a book in one month. And by the end of it, you’ve written a book!
It instills the discipline and routine necessary for writing a novel.
After writing concertedly for six years, going through the highs and lows of revisions and edits, I now understand the type of discipline it takes to make progress on a novel. But before NaNoWriMo, I really didn’t. It was in sitting down EVERY DAY, chiseling away at a mountainous word count, that I realized how progress on a book is accomplished: slowly, methodically, and only by actually sitting down and writing it.
It teaches you how & when you work best.
It was the trial and error of writing any time I could that taught me when and how I work best, especially as a writer mom (in an ideal world I write: 10AM-2PM four days a week, one full weekend day 10AM-6PM, one day off to rest and the seventh day as a wild card — I may write or I may binge watch all the things).
NaNoWriMo is an amazing exercise in pushing and challenging yourself as a writer. I will always sing its praises for all these reasons, and the fact that the novel I started during NaNoWriMo 2017 is the one that got me my agent and that we are now submitting to publishers! (wish me luck!!!!)
Let me know how NaNo goes for you this year, either here or on Instagram. Now, go write your next novel, beauties!