Why I'm Participating in NaNoWriMo (Bonus: My Tips for Surviving)

It’s October. As a writer, that means two things to me. The first is that I haven’t posted here in a ridiculously long time, which I sincerely apologize for. The second is that November is nearly here, which means NaNoWriMo is upon us. It’s something you hear about quite a lot as a writer, because it’s kind of a tradition in our field; it’s the big event that a lot of people work towards all year long.

Today, I’m going to be talking about why I’m participating this year, and why you should potentially consider doing the same in the future.

I first heard of NaNoWriMo about three and a half years ago. This was before I was involved in a writing community, or even knew any other writers. One day, I just stumbled across it. I thought it was an amazing idea, but thought there was no way I could ever do it. 

I mean, 50,000 words in a month? That was beyond my reach, or so I thought.

Every year when fall rolled around, I thought about it again, but every year I chose not to participate. I was too busy to do it, I told myself, and it’s not really for me anyways.

I think there are a lot of other writers out there that are like me. Not just with NaNoWriMo, but with all kinds of challenges and accomplishments. We tend to sell ourselves a little short.

I thought I was an okay writer, when I wrote on my own time. Even the thought of that huge of a goal made me anxious; I was worried that putting that kind of pressure on myself would result in terrible writing, a mountain of stress, and leave me no better off than I was before.

So, what changed?

Well, first of all, I’ll admit I grew up a little. I’m still a teenager, but I’ve learned a lot about writing and life in general since then. I’ve gained confidence and experience that I didn’t have before. I know my limitations, I know how and when I write at my best. I know myself better.

Second, I’m now surrounded by an amazing bunch of writers, and more than a few of them are also doing NaNoWriMo, which helps more than you think. I’ve got a group of other girls who I’m already talking with, and we’re working on making sure we are 100% ready when November 1st hits. There’s a reason we call October “Preptober”.

Third, while I used to be scared of that drive and that kind of a goal, I need it now. I spend a lot of time focused on getting through college, and so I don’t always have a ton of time to write. I’m starting to re-write my first novel, but by the end of the day I don’t always have the motivation to sit down and spend a solid hour working on it. Instead I’ve been writing short things, like small stories or poems, because they don’t take as much concentration or time.

I need a goal and accountability to keep me working on it, and so I realized this year, NaNoWriMo is what I need.

So, what does this mean for you? If you find yourself in a similar boat as me, maybe you need that kind of commitment; maybe you need to participate. Don’t be too hasty, though, because it’s a lot of work. Think it over.

Also, keep in mind that you don’t necessarily have to do it in November. I know people who do it in August, or January, because that’s the best time for them to do it.

Most of all, remember that the point of NaNoWriMo is not to “win”, or come out with a perfect book that’s ready for publication. NaNoWriMo is about getting the writing community together to commit to writing, and having fun while doing it. It’s about doing that thing writers are supposed to do, and supporting each other along the way.

There’s no way to “fail” NaNoWriMo. Sure, you can fall short of your goal, but that’s not really a failure. The words you did get are more than you would’ve had if you’d never started, and that’s what counts.

Before I end this post, let me share with you some advice if you do decide to participate, and we’ll all do our best to follow it.

1. Don’t go alone.

There’s a reason there’s communities and forums on the NaNoWriMo site. Get involved with friends, or make new ones. Check in on each other, give encouragement when people need it, and don’t be afraid to ask for some yourself. Word-sprints are going to be your best friend. It’s amazing how much you can get done by adding in a bit of competition.

2. Don’t go unprepared.

 Even if you’re a pantser, make sure you’ve done at least a little prep. If you sit down on November 1st with no idea as to what you’re writing, you’re going to have a hard time. October is your prep time; use it wisely. Brainstorm, work out plot, figure out your characters, write out an outline, and do whatever else it is you need to accomplish before November 1st. You’ll be happy you did.

3. Don’t go without a plan.

They give you a wordcount you need to hit every day, but just acknowledging that you’ll need to write that much is probably not enough. You probably know your writing capabilities, and how long it takes you to write a certain amount of words. There’ll be days when you can’t afford that much writing time, so I advise writing ahead. If you can get an extra five hundred words in each day on the weekend, then go for it. That takes off the pressure if you’re gone most of Monday.

Learn to schedule your writing sessions, too. If you’ve got homework to do, start with that, and work for a certain period. Then reward yourself with a period of writing time. Don’t try and cram all the writing in one sitting if you can’t. Plan breaks to get up and stretch your legs, get some water, or eat a snack.

Remember, NaNoWriMo isn’t about slaving away over a project; you should be having some fun.

All right, I think that concludes today's post. As always, I hope y’all have enjoyed. If you’re participating, let me know! I’d love to keep in touch during NaNoWriMo, or even just do some word-sprints. 

Thanks for reading, and have a wonderful, blessed day. 

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