I expect there are people out there who are wondering why we do NaNoWriMo every year, subjecting ourselves to the soul-eating antics of our misbehaving characters. There are probably a couple of others who are wondering whether or not they should take part in this madness, even though they’re busy / have to go to school / have to work / are lacking in sleep / have never written a novel before / have exams coming up etc (delete as appropriate).
The answer to that is? Yes. Do NaNoWriMo. And this is why.
1) It’s a chance to prove yourself. You’ve told your friends (who are desperately trying to persuade you to join in) that you could never write a novel because you’re too busy, or you can’t spell, or you’ve never managed to finish anything. Well, I’d never finished anything longer than 5000 words before I did NaNoWriMo last year, and now I’ve written a good four novels, one of them so far clocking in at around 90 000 words! That’s what it’s done for me.
2) It’ll change your life. It certainly did mine. I suddenly realised that if I could write something pretty mediocre in 15 days that was that long and that crazy, what could I do in two months? I’d never really allowed myself to write so spontaneously before, but it certainly worked, and I’ve never looked back.
3) It’s pretty darn weird. Yes, that one is certainly true. Conversations or arguments with characters are considered perfectly normal; dares such as to make your character say “I lost the Game” at an important moment are strongly encouraged. Lots of caffeine and all-nighters will do that to you (though I had neither during the whole of last November).
4) It’s fun. People tell you that about every challenge, but with NaNo it genuinely is true! There’s something innately satisfying about getting home, turning on your laptop and typing. Just solidly for an hour or so, following your characters wherever they want to go, and not having to worry about your inner editor, because he’s been kidnapped by a dragon and is currently residing in your school homework diary, which has not been opened for a couple of weeks. Plus, the excuse to eat lots of tic-tacs, meet up with other crazy people in random cafes and write for several hours, and spend time haunting internet forums — that’s certainly an incentive.
5) You get something out of it. It won’t just transform your writing, or your opinion of your writing, it’ll impress everyone else too. You can tell them, “I wrote a novel!” and you’ll know that it’s true. Or you can use it as an excuse to get out of awkward parties — “Sorry, I’m writing my novel.” And if you get there, if you reach the 50 000 words, you’ll get that code which will give you a free proof copy of your novel from a self-publishing company. Which, trust me, looks pretty good on your shelf. (Disclaimer: I don’t actually know if this offer is available this year, but it has been previously!)
And if you’re trying to work out whether to do NaNo again when you’ve done it in previous years, have a look at what’s stopping you. Are you too busy to write? Maybe it’s time to make time for that particular hobby. Did you lose last year? Well, here’s a chance to redeem your winning streak. Have you got writer’s block? Then this is the perfect moment to smash it down, once and for all.
Even if you’re a professional writer, something like NaNo can be a great way to get your ideas down on paper, and you’ll end up with a first draft much more quickly than you ever thought you would! Perfect for the slow writers.
Have you still got a problem with signing up to NaNoWriMo (www.nanowrimo.org) this year? Then let me know as a comment, and I’ll address that particular issue in a later post. Because it’s my opinion that everyone who has ever written a story which was praised by their English teacher or has ever thought, “You know, I might like to be a writer” should do NaNo. Whatever their experience.
And if you’re under 13, go for the Young Writer’s Program. You don’t have to get to 50 000 words – instead, you chose your own goal. But it’s equally as satisfying.
Which ever you go for, let me know so that we can encourage each other through this. If I haven’t managed to persuade you, tell me what I’m doing wrong.