November is National Novel Writing Month — popularly known as NaNoWriMo, or simplified even more to Nano. It’s not a “themed” month (like National Poetry Month) and doesn’t point you towards a cause or issue (like Ostomy Awareness Month), but instead refers to a specific writing challenge. The goal is for participants to begin writing on November 1st, with a goal of completing a 50,000-word novel from scratch by the end of the month. Don’t worry; I’ll do the math for you. That’s 1,667 words a day.
Chris Baty founded NaNoWriMo in 1999. A whopping 20 other people participated that year. The project began not because Baty and his friends wanted to write the next great American novel, but because they “wanted to write novels for the same dumb reasons twenty-somethings start bands.” I’m going to touch on that point a little later.
It has grown tremendously since 1999 with the addition of a website, forums, events, charities, and even “Camp NaNoWriMo,” a less formal version of the challenge that takes place in July and April.
There’s even a Young Writers Program that encourages schools to have their classrooms participate in the challenge each year.
I’ve been participating in NaNoWriMo off-and-on since 2003 or 2004 when I was in High School. I’ve mentioned here many times that I’ve always liked writing, so when I first heard about NaNoWriMo — I was hooked.
I would write any chance I could get. I’d write in class, between classes, at lunch, after school, and even on Thanksgiving. I needed to get my 1,667 words in a day. The frantic timeline also allowed me to just… write. I didn’t have time to stop and edit and second guess if anything I was writing was “good.” I just wrote.
But here is the honest truth — in all the years that I’ve participated, I have never actually finished. I’ve never hit the 50,000-word goal.
And this is where I’m circling back to Chris Baty’s point about NaNoWriMo being for “the same dumb reasons twenty-somethings start bands.” It’s not about finishing or the “success;” it’s about the journey. It’s about making art for the sake of art.
None of which I think is “dumb,” by the way.
There’s something exciting about going to a midnight write-in event and starting a brand-new project amongst the creative buzz of other writers doing the same. Writing so often is such a solitary art. NaNoWriMo gives us a platform to experience writing together and discuss our novels and characters, struggles, and breakthroughs.
And that is the reason I keep doing NaNoWriMo.
Because it’s not about finishing, really. It’s about the community and the process and taking a chance by starting something new.
It’s never too late to start. If you start today, you just need to write 3,333 words a day to hit the 50k goal. Or, you can just create every day. Maybe it’s a sentence or a paragraph. You may want to work on an outline for 15 minutes every day. You may want to start a new project or continue working on one you’ve already started.
All of that is okay.
It’s about the journey. Not the destination.
If you’d like to have some inspiration for your journey – you can check out this list: NaNoWriMo Resources | Main library (jcls.org)
Also, if you’d like to check out some books that started out as NaNoWriMo projects, you can find some of them here: Bestselling Books Written During NaNoWriMo | Main library (jcls.org)