To NaNo or Not to NaNo

I usually don’t blog twice in one day, but since the month is half over and a lot of people are talking about NaNoWriMo, I thought today would be as good a day as any.

I want to share my own NaNoWriMo story because it is so integral to my writing life.  Before I found NaNoWriMo, I had never EVER finished a novel before.

For those of you that don’t know, NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel Writing Month and it is held every November over at  It’s a writing challenge in which you are, should you be crazy enough to try, supposed to write a complete 50,000 word novel in the 30 days of November.

I first heard about NaNo in 2002, my junior year of college.  I was supposed to be writing a 25 page research paper on the role of women teacher’s in the west, but this sounded like a lot more fun.  Besides, despite having been trying to write a novel for something like 7 or 8 years, I never had.  So, I figured it was worth a shot.

And I did it.  In fact, because I was going to be spending the last few days of November at my grandparent’s for Thanksgiving with no computer access, I actually finished in LESS than thirty days.  Wednesday night before Thanksgiving I had to work, then I stayed up the rest of the night finally bring a novel to completion.  (Making for a very long drive the next morning, but SO worth it).

Without NaNo, I’m not sure I ever would have figured out the secret to writing a novel.  You know what the secret is?  You just have to do it.  You can’t question yourself or worry if it’s good enough, you just have to WRITE it.  When you have less than thirty days to do so, it becomes easier.  You’re too busy and tired to worry about if it’s good.

I didn’t come away from 2002 with a GREAT novel, but I came away with a completed one.  In 2003, I participated again and finished my second complete novel.  From 2004-2009, I participated but did not finish, mainly because I had a pesky little thing called a real job.  Still, despite not finishing NaNo in those five years, I still managed to write to completion three more novels.  This year I have written two and am a third of a way to finishing my third.

I can never resist the call of NaNo, even when I know it’s probably not going to work out.  (This year, I would have to finish my current WIP before November, then manage to write 50,000 words in a month that will see me going back to work full time for the first time since May.  Unlikely to work, and yet I can’t help but think…maybe).

Anyway, I always, always, always encourage writers to join NaNo, to attempt it.  ESPECIALLY, if you’ve never been able to finish a novel before.  Even if you have.  It’s a great experience, a great challenge, and the worse thing that can happen?  You don’t quite make it to 50,000 words, but I can guarantee you will learn something about yourself as a writer.

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