Anyone who talked to me before this time last year probably heard a few of my opinions on National Novel Writing Month–several of which were more or less against the idea of taking part in the highly popular, thirty-day writing event. I decided I had to give it a try myself before I really sat there and tried to say National Novel Writing Month wasn’t really as great as everyone makes it out to be.
While this year I am not partaking (being pregnant makes it difficult–so does being overwhelmingly swamped with work), I’m really glad I took the time to do it last year. There were a few things I did that weren’t exactly smart–such as deciding to do National Novel Writing Month in the same year that I did my crazy-intense “write a blog a day” thing, as well as insisting that I was going to actually write one complete novel and not count at NaNo’s suggested 50,000 words as a success if the novel wasn’t finished.
However, there were also a lot of really great things that did come out of my experience with National Novel Writing Month, and while I maintain that there are still some cons that go largely ignored by the majority of die-hard NaNo’ers out there, those cons aren’t necessarily enough of a reason for people to not participate.
Here are the top reasons I think it’s great for writers to try giving National Novel Writing Month a try at least once:
It gives you practice working toward a deadline.
If you’re going to be a professional deadline (whether writing articles for a client or chapters for a publisher), you’re going to need to know how to keep a deadline. There’s nothing more devastating to a writer’s career than being unable to get a draft on the table when you said you’d be able to. National Novel Writing Month can give you an idea what it’s like to need to meet a deadline (even if the consequences are totally in your head and you won’t get fired).
It gives you something to win.
As writers, we need to learn to celebrate the little victories. Too many of us look at “winning” as getting our books published. But the pathway to publication isn’t a marathon that only ends when you finally get your book on the shelf. It’s more like a series of shorter sprints. Celebrate the first time you finish your book. Celebrate the rewrites. Celebrate your first successful query letter (even if it doesn’t lead to representation). National Novel Writing Month gives you another thing to win and celebrate!
It gets you writing.
This was the biggest point I made last year about the benefits of NaNo: it just gets people writing. Some people only seriously write during NaNo and don’t for the rest of the year, and if that’s what it takes to get them to work, then I say go for it!
It forces you to budget time and resources.
This kind of goes hand-in-hand with the whole “deadline” thing, but when you’re working on a piece during National Novel Writing Month, you need to figure out how to budget your time accordingly. You can’t just write whenever you feel like it. You may need to get daily word count goals set up. You may need to figure out how to work around holidays like Thanksgiving (and, if you’re me, your husband’s birthday!). You also need to figure out how to make sure you still eat and sleep. Basically, it’s like training how to be an adult in a super-intense, thirty-day course.
Happy writing, all you NaNo’ers!