As fall approaches, chances are that most of us authors are thinking about NaNoWriMo or have at least seen other authors talking about their plans for November. Maybe you’re a veteran author who’s done NaNoWriMo before, maybe you’re a veteran author who’s never been sold on it working for you, or maybe you’re new to the community and you’re wondering what on earth “NaNoWriMo” even means. Wherever you stand, here are five benefits I’ve found of participating in NaNoWriMo.
First of all, a quick explanation of NaNoWriMo for anyone who’s new to the term: NaNoWriMo is short for National Novel Writing Month. It refers to an event that spans the month of November, in which authors are challenged to write 50,000 words in a month. This is the average length of a novel, and the idea is that the month results in a completed first draft of a novel you haven’t started yet. That’s not always the case, since some novels are longer, or some authors (myself included) choose to work on an already-started draft, but that’s the basic idea.
Now, on to the benefits.
1. NaNoWriMo provides a concrete goal
This isn’t a struggle for everyone, but if you’re someone who finds it difficult to set concrete goals in your writing, NaNoWriMo could be just the solution. The event has a built in goal and deadline, so it’s perfectly simple to shoot for that. Having a concrete goal allows you to split the project into manageable pieces and know what your aim is for each day or writing session, which makes it easier to actually achieve your goal. Knowing that your goal is 50,000 words in 30 days, for instance, allows you to determine that your daily word count should be 1,667, or you can divide it in whatever way works best for you and your schedule. But having a concrete starting point makes the smaller goals possible to figure out.
2. NaNoWriMo provides outside accountability
It can be hard to keep yourself motivated and disciplined to keep working on your writing project, but NaNoWriMo provides accountability–through the community, or even just through the goal itself and your progress through the month–and can help to keep you on task and motivated. Whether you’re competitive and get spurred to write by trying to keep your word count higher than your best friend’s, or you just want to hit the word count each day, or you want to challenge yourself to hit the goal as fast as you can, or it just helps to have someone there cheering you on… Whatever your accountability style, NaNoWriMo can be a great opportunity to revive that determined spark and get you writing consistently.
3. NaNoWriMo provides an automatic, encouraging community
When you decide to do NaNoWriMo, you’re joining thousands of authors all over the world who are undertaking the same challenge, and the majority of them are going to be super excited to cheer on a fellow writer. Whether you find a community on the official NaNoWriMo website, find people in your existing writing groups who are participating, or attend write-ins* in your area, chances are you’ll have at least one person you can turn to when that mid-month writing slump sets in. (If you ever need a writing pep talk, feel free to shoot me an email!)
*Write-ins are in-person meet-ups in a community, where local writers get together to work on their NaNoWriMo novels. They usually include writing prompts, word wars, and snacks. Write-ins are often hosted by libraries or coffee shops, so check out your local venues to see if they have anything set up, or join your “home region” on the NaNoWriMo site and get notifications of write-ins that way.
4. NaNoWriMo provides an excuse to carve out writing time
Whether your family isn’t good about letting you get time to write, or you have too many engagements to make time, or you just keep putting off the novel you’ve been wanting to write for ages, NaNoWriMo provides one month out of the year where you have a clear excuse to give people (or yourself). Having an official event makes it way easier to tell people you need time to yourself to write and get them to take you seriously.
Of course, there are some things you simply can’t shrug off (work, for instance–although I’ve known some people who have taken a week off work during November to give themselves additional hours to write), and you should always make sure you’re flexible and aren’t totally shutting people out for a month (I see you, introverts). But it does provide a solution to something I know is a legitimate problem for a lot of people.
5. NaNoWriMo is just plain fun
Whether you “win” or “lose,” NaNoWriMo is a ton of fun. Chances are you’ll make new writing friends, or better get to know the friends you already have, and be challenged to write more than you would ordinarily. You’ll have a chance to participate in word wars, to read other authors’ snippets and share snippets of your own, and maybe to push yourself out of your comfort zone with your writing. If you’ve never tried it before, I definitely recommend participating at least once and checking it out. :)
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Bonus: Preptober Prompts is made for NaNoWriMo
Preptober Prompts is an event I designed last year to get writers excited and prepared for their NaNoWriMo novels, using themed writing prompts. You can absolutely participate even if you’re not doing NaNoWriMo and just use it as a challenge for whatever project you’re currently working on, but if you’re getting excited for your project and getting to know your story better right before November, why not participate in NaNoWriMo too?
Whatever your plans for November, preparations for Preptober Prompts are in full swing and prompt submissions are OPEN! There are three days at the end of October that aren’t part of the main four weeks, and for those three days I’ll be featuring reader-submitted prompts. All you need to do is submit your prompt idea through the form, but you can also improve the chances of your prompt being chosen by sharing and participating in the event through the month. Share posts on social media, post your prompt results in the comments, etc. and you’ll get more entries to be chosen for one of those three spots.
The readers whose prompts are chosen will get a special shout-out and a graphic for their prompt, and if they’re bloggers then they’ll get to host their prompt and I’ll share their blog here and on social media.
But all of your prompts will be shared! I’ll be putting together a list of bonus prompts at the end of the month, including any prompts that weren’t selected for the last three days, and sharing it on social media and on the blog.