Chances are you already know what Nanowrimo is–if you don’t, it’s explained quite well here–and you’re here because you’re considering participating. Or because you’ve already decided you’re going to do it.
I’ve been participating in Nanowrimo for nine years–this will be my tenth–and blogging about the experience for four. Most years around this time I write up a post about why you should try Nanowrimo.
This year I’ve decided to take a different approach. I’m not going to tell you what you should and shouldn’t do. I’m just going to tell you why Nanowrimo is awesome. Maybe it will convince you to take on the challenge this year, maybe it won’t. Either way, your decision doesn’t bother me.
But if you do sign up, you should know what you’re in for. So here goes:
1. The competitive aspect of Nanowrimo inspires me to test my limits. Every year the city I’m in does a word war, usually against another city. Occasionally I race against an individual, though people rarely challenge me now that everyone knows I once wrote 300K in November.
Nanowrimo has inspired me to push myself farther than I ever thought imaginable. In the last few years I’ve focused more on telling coherent stories than creating massive word counts, but I’ve still written over 100K every year since my third year. I’ve written a mixture of things interesting and awful, and learned a lot about writing–and myself–over the years.
This year someone’s actually challenged me to a word count race, and since it happens to be my tenth year, I’m going to aim for the largest word count possible. I’ve already started planning, in the hopes that having more detailed outlines will make my Nanowrimo drafts a little less hideous than some of the early ones, despite my desire to maximize word count.
2. Nanowrimo makes you feel good about a crappy first draft. A lot of would-be writers stall at some point during the writing process because part of them believes they’re terrible writers.
You can tell yourself all you like that “The best books aren’t written, they’re rewritten”(I have no idea who said that first; enlighten me if you do) but eventually it stops soothing the mental pain of an awfully written first draft. But when thousands of other writers are writing awful first drafts with you and you’re receiving pep talks week after week, you’re constantly reminded that everybody else feels the same way.
It’s a pretty awesome feeling.
3. The Nanowrimo boards are a treasure trove of inspiration. Still trying to decide on various aspects of your Nanowrimo novel? Need some help creating characters? Hop on over to the Adoptables forum, where you can find characters, names, subplots and entire, sometimes incredibly well developed plots waiting for some frustrated writer to pick them up and breath some life into them.
I actually have a file with a handful of characters I at some point hope to adopt. It’s never quite worked out that way, but often reading through the threads inspires characters made up of bits and pieces from different posts. It’s a great way to build a side character quickly so you can move on.
Oh, and you can always go to the dares threads if you need more inspiration, but a lot of those are just ridiculous. Which may or may not work for your novel.
4. You can learn about pretty much anything you ever wanted to study. The “reference desk” forum on the Nanowrimo boards is usually the first place I check when I need a few quick facts about something historical… Or anything that involves someone dying.
Writers tend to be morbid, but aside from that, one of the great things about Nanowrimo is that people gather there from all different walks of life. Which means there are experts on all kinds of things who will answer your questions. If you can’t find a helpful thread, ask a question.
The best part? The “Reference Desk” is one of the few forums that seems to stay active throughout most of the off season.
5. Want to write a book a year? Do Nanowrimo every year. At one point I pretty much spent half a year doing intense Nanowrimo-based writing challenges and very, very slowly editing old projects. Eventually I had a pile of first drafts and a few second drafts staring at me every time I opened my documents.
This year I decided I’m only going to work on first drafts during Nanowrimo. Sure, that might mean a few books for me this year, but next year I may only work on one. And either way, it means that when I do sign a publishing contract, I’ll have different novels in different stages of editing. That’s a pretty good position to be in.
It also just feels awesome to say “I write a book every year”.
6. There are well over a dozen published Nanowrimo authors. Whether they’re published with big houses or indie presses, these authors have all reached some level of success with their novels. There are also quite a few self published Nanowrimo authors doing fairly well for themselves.
I love watching the numbers grow every year because it reminds me that I can also be successful, even if I have to edit each of my novels a dozen times.
I’ve also met a few of these authors through the forums–and will be introducing a couple of them to you in the couple weeks–and had some wonderful conversations with them.
7. Nanowrimo participants are the friendliest people ever. Of course, there are some bad apples in every bunch, but for the most part Nanowrimo participants are super friendly and extremely supportive. You’ll rarely find a more supportive place than the Nanowrimo forums during November. I’d be surprised to find one myself.
Some of the friends I’ve made through Nanowrimo are my oldest friends. They’re good people, good company, and good friends. I’ve known some of them for as long as nine, ten, even eleven years. I suspect I’ll continue to know them for a long time.
I’ve never really had strong connections like that in school, so Nanowrimo’s been an essential part of my life–and my favourite time of year to socialize.
8. There’s built in opportunities to find critique partners. There’s an entire novel swap forum, not to mention that being a member gives you access to thousands upon thousands of writers. A lot of them will be looking for critiques at the end of the month, even throughout the off season.
Some of my Nanowrimo friends have turned into critique partners, and every critique partner I’ve had–wherever I met them, whatever part of the world they lived in–has at some point participated in Nanowrimo.
Finding solid critique partners is hard–most of mine have only lasted one or two projects–but it’s a lot easier when you know several other aspiring novelists. Or several dozen.
9. Nanowrimo keeps me–and other folks in the northern hemisphere–busy through some seriously depressing weather. November isn’t usually the nicest month here in Canada, but I don’t complain. In fact, I would argue that November is the one month I really love, because I always have something to look forward to.
Part of it is that I get to see friends I hardly see throughout the rest of the year. We go out, have fun, laugh a lot, and occasionally get some writing done.
Nanowrimo also helps me really focus on writing new fiction for an entire month, which is often difficult. I have a lot more trouble keeping my schedule rigid the rest of the year. During Nanowrimo, I’m all business. I’m working hard to see what I can accomplish this year, along with everyone else. And I certainly don’t care that the weather’s bad when I’m cooped up inside on my computer.
10. Free books! And cute graphics! And feeling like a boss! The best part about Nanowrimo is that when you complete it–even if you fall short of your goal–you’re celebrating with thousands of other people who get it.
Anyone can say they get it, but people who haven’t actually tried to write a novel rarely grasp how difficult it actually is. On the other hand, everyone participating in Nanowrimo understands what you’re going through. It’s the one time you’re able to celebrate with other people who’ve survived the same process–at least until you manage to befriend some published authors.
Of course, the winner’s prizes also help you feel like a boss when you reach the end of Nanowrimo. The graphics are adorable, the annual winner’s certificate will bring eternal smiles to your face, and most years you’re also given the opportunity to see your novel in print–even if yours is the only print copy ever made.
All in all, I love Nanowrimo, and I’m excited to start writing.
Are you participating in Nanowrimo this year? Have you participated? Tell me about your thoughts and experiences in the comments section below!