What I learned from NaNoWriMo:

And what you can too

National Novel Writing Month, or NaNo as it is affectionately known to its participants, is a challenge to write a 50,000 word novel in the month of November, 30 days. 

On November 1, at 12:00 am, I began a journey to complete this challenge. I was well prepared with a pedantic outline that I had printed and spiral bound! I knew my characters, their personalities, their stories and how they would change in the process. I knew the first chapter and last chapter almost word for word before I wrote anything down! 

Then on November 29, at I don't know what time!, I wrote the final words, submitted them, and clicked DONE! I had done it. I did it. Whew.

Why participate in NaNo? Is the goal just to write a book? I don't think so. If you want to write a novel, if you really have a story bursting out of you... write it. You don't need to wait for a writing challenge to get motivated. 

There were a few things motivating me to participate in NaNo this year.

  • Could I do it?  I spent the last half of 2012 and the first of 2013 writing a book. I knew I could write a novel length story that I found interesting. But could I write with a deadline? Yes. I can crank out a few thousand words a day if needed. I can spend the time to ponder a scene, and work out what my characters would do, and write it.
  • I wanted to be a part of the movement. I wanted to join, commiserate, and participate with others who were typing their fingers to the bone, just like I was. I wanted to join in conversations, and if NaNo was mentioned, I could say, "I've done that! I won that!" And share experiences with others.
  • I had a story that wanted to be written.
  • In January I had the idea for A Borrowed Life. I wrote down my basic idea, a few pages of plot and character. But I didn't write anything else. From the beginning I knew that I wanted to write it during November. When I first had the idea I was in the middle of writing Planted, and definitely didn't want to interrupt that process to go tearing off to another story. 

                        And, I already have the germ of the book I want to write for NaNo 2014! 

National Novel Writing Month is whatever you want it to be for you. I've exchanged messages with others who just wanted to prove that they could write something every day. Others want to finish a book they started earlier in the year. It doesn't matter to me what the goal is for you. I'm just glad that we can all look for what we want to find under this common umbrella.

I learned so much from this process. 

This month I learned that I can write thousands of words a day, for many days in a row! 

I learned that there is a community of writers that are wonderfully supportive of each other. I saw people lament that they weren't at their word count, or that they were behind and didn't think they could catch up. Then others join in with encouragement and kind words, and sometimes with the cold hard truth. It is amazing what we can accomplish when we all want to win the competition. 

And that may be the best lesson of all. Winning the competition. It's okay for me to win, and for you to win. If you hold me up, I can support you better. And when we encourage each other, doesn't that make our community better? Our world better?

What if other competitions in life were better if more people won? I'm not talking about participant awards for little league, or no scoring pee-wee football. I'm talking in our daily lives, at our jobs, in our families, and our communities. What if we stopped competing against each other, and start competing with each other?

I don't know if National Novel Writing Month is a blueprint for happiness... but could the basic concept be a start?