Why and how National Novel Writing Month is effective

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Peer pressuring gets the novel written. Pixabay

Sometimes, self decipline isn’t enough

It’s almost the end of October. While for most people that might mean excitement over Halloween approaching, or joy over the start of the Christmas prep season, for me, October means something completely different.

In the writing world, the weeks leading up to November are filled with excitement, anticipation, worry, and, depending on the year, a bit of dread. That’s because for me and thousands of writers around the world, November is National Novel Writing Month.

National Novel Writing Month (also known as NaNoWriMo) is an international challenge (despite the name) that encourages writers to actually get their creative works on a page. The challenge? You have 30 days to write 50,000 words, which will hopefully be a rough first draft of a novel.

“But what do you get if you win?” you ask. Well, bragging rights. Not a lot of people can say that they pumped out 50,000 words in a month. But if you want, you can also buy a winner shirt and print out the free certificate they give you on the website for reaching the goal.

Now, every time I explain this to a non-writer, they look at me like I’ve grown three heads. “But why would you do that to yourself?” they ask. It may sound silly to those who aren’t writers, but one of the hardest parts about writing is exactly that: doing it. Forcing yourself to write is a real struggle for creators, and who can blame them? Writers essentially take a concept only they envision and attempt to explain the vast, intricate concept to others, and the only medium they’re able to communicate with is text.

It’s stressful and difficult, is what I’m trying to say.

What I’m also trying to say is that NaNoWriMo pushes writers past this block. It gets writers actually writing. It forces people past the “what if” stages of creation and forces them to make their creative vision a reality.

I argue that NaNoWriMo successfully encourages writers to sit down and write, regardless if they get the 50k milestone. Writing is an isolating task. With NaNoWriMo, however, not only does it give you a writing community to connect to while you work, but it also provides a public forum to motivate you to hold yourself accountable to put the work, effort, and time into a project that you may otherwise not feel the drive to work on.

On top of that, other than the satisfying feeling of a semi-completed manuscript, NaNoWriMo gives writers a concrete goal. Instead of “finishing a novel,” the goal is to write 50,000 words, which is far less abstract and overwhelming. Along with a “finished story,” you also get a certificate. While the feeling of having a complete or semi-complete novel is phenomenal, sometimes it’s not enough to drive writers to get going. Having a physical reward can make the achievement feel more tangible.

The only downside to NaNoWriMo, of course, is that my free time for the month will be entirely dedicated to writing. I will dearly miss you, free time. See you in December.

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