NaNoWriMo #02: what has it ever done for us?

Try a quick search for 'What NaNoWriMo means to me' and you'll find a mass of evidence that can only lead to one conclusion: there are far more reasons to do it than there are excuses not to. This does, however, come with a prerequisite - that you are considering having a go in the first place.

Many people know straight away that NaNoWriMo is not an event that interests them, although this opinion may be subject to change in later years. The rest of us either fall into the 'I definitely will' or 'I might' categories. To aid your decision, I present here some of the things other writers have said about taking part. I've tried to offer a positive, yet balanced, selection of views, as ultimately NaNoWriMo is not for everyone.

Overall it means getting back together with close friends that you may have drifted away from since last NaNo. People you keep a special room in your heart reserved for, and even though you haven’t seen them for up to eleven months, you pick right back up where you left of. Because these people understand you in a way most don’t.

I think the most important lesson NANO taught me is how to make and keep promises, not to other people, but to myself and only myself.... So when I say that I am going to write 50,000 words in one month NO MATTER WHAT...well, that just gives you an insight to what drives me. How can I believe anything I tell myself if I never follow through with it all the way? Because I think it's possible to lose credibility with yourself.

NaNo has shown me that I can not only write a book in a month, I can write two and even three in a month. I can write scripts and even a musical. It has given me the drive to push myself to limits I never thought was possible and then repeat.

Don’t stop on November 30th. You want to do this thing, do this thing. Your energy and effort can turn NaNoWriMo from a month-long gimmick to a life-long love and possibly even a career. Let this foster in you a love of storytelling made real through discipline — and don’t let that love or that discipline wither on the vine come December 1st.

I love NaNoWriMo. I love the competition with myself. I love the competition with friends. I love the pure abandon of putting writing first. I love writing rough drafts, so this exercise is great for me. I’ve participated for 4 years now. The first year was so much fun. I wrote a book that will never see the light of day. The guy I planned to be the hero isn’t, and the guy I planned to be the villain became the hero. The story would wake me up in the morning, and I reached my goal a week early. I loved writing that book, but it’s a mess.

As for National Novel Writing Month, they seem to care more about making you feel good than about anything having remotely to do with storytelling. And you'll excuse me if I find that just a little depressing.

But then...
The irony is this: I've just been laid off from my day job, part of the process of outsourcing my entire group and most of my department to cheap contractors in India. Which means that this month I'm going to be writing full time, and after my own experiments with speed writing I hope to write considerably more than 50,000 words this month, and complete the first draft of my own unfinished manuscript. So, in a way, I will be actually participating in National Novel Writing Month, though I won't be registering at the website or anything.

Funny how things work out.

NaNoWriMo gets you into the habit of writing every day, which, hopefully, you can continue beyond the month of November. It forces serial restarters such as myself to keep working on the same damned project, and keep moving forward with it (rather than writing fifty different openings, as I seem to have done this last year.)

If you find yourself writing because you have to write or you will fail, you’re doing it wrong. If you’re writing because you have to finish NaNoWriMo, because you have to win, because quitting means you’re a loser – your attitude needs tweaking.

If you’re writing because you love writing, because writing fuels you, because writing is what you want to do – well, you’re already a success in my book.

If you’ll pardon the pun.

Kyeli Smith - Guest post on

My thoughts? I agree with much of what Kyeli Smith says - if you start NaNoWriMo and find yourself hating every minute of it, then you're doing it wrong, or at least for the wrong reasons. It is meant to be fun, but it's also meant to be challenging, so there are times during November when it isn't fun; nonetheless, the good times should outweigh the bad. However, if you plan on making a career out of writing, there will be deadlines and word counts and occasions when (as in all jobs) you don't feel like working, so don't quit just because you have a bad day.

And if you end up wishing you'd never started NaNoWriMo, but know you can write - indeed, have had some success with writing before - then you can give up without feeling that you've failed. Even if you don't make it to 50,000 words, but you truly gave it your best, then who else can judge your achievements but you? Maybe NaNoWriMo is not your thing - maybe writing isn't either. The only way to know for sure is to try it and see.