I Wrote My First Novel And NaNoWriMo Made It Possible
I did it. I finally wrote my first novel. Thank you, NaNoWriMo! I want to yell it from the roof tops. I’ve dreamed, wished, planned and threatened to do it since I was a kid. I’ve made character profiles, outlines, and struggled with plot ideas for years. Every time I sat down in front of a blank page to begin it always ended the same. Nothing. So instead I trifled with poetry and prose and a few short stories but always with a heavy heart. It just wasn’t the same as tackling the novel I wanted to write. This year that story has a new ending.
Whether it was fate or luck, I blundered into a contest that changed everything. I say fate or luck because this contest is the National Novel Writing Month competition, known warmly to its participants as NaNoWrimo, held every November. I just happened to be browsing through my Facebook page shortly after midnight on October 31, killing time and boredom. One of my friends just happened to post something about it. I just happened to click the link. The rest is history.
What is NaNoWriMo?
The first National Novel Writing Month began in 1999 with only 21 participants. Last year over 200,000 budding writers from all over the world hopped on board and pounded out over 2.8 billion words. This year, there were even more. NaNoWrimo has also spread to classrooms and home schoolers encouraging young writers through their young writers program. Since then it has reached non-profit organization status, supporting novel-writing world wide. NaNoWrimo even assists writers without regular computer access with a loaner lap top program.
Generous sponsors and private donations allow workshops and write-ins on a local level to be held, as well as a multi-faceted online community offering support to participants throughout the world. I can tell you now, it’s quite an experience. Even if you’re new to writing and haven’t a clue what you’re doing, the support is there to help you win.
How Do You Win?
You register at the NaNoWriMo official website and complete a 50,000-word-minimum rough draft between November 1st and November 30th. It’s a grueling pace, but if you begin the first day, the average daily word commitment is 1,667 words. Some days, hitting the average target is a piece of cake and easy to exceed by leaps and bounds. Other days, it’s like trying to pull out your own teeth with a pair of pliers. The deadline, however, is a wonderful motivator. NaNoWrimo doesn't leave you alone out in the cold wildnerness of words. They help you along with weekly pep talks by experienced writers and a vast forum where members help each other with plot suggestions, character adoption, research expertise, word challenges and more.
What Do You Win?
You win a completed rough draft of a novel YOU wrote, ready for editing and publishing. You also win the soul-lifting satisfaction that you actually accomplished it. But the biggest reward, and the one I'd be hard pressed to put a price tag on, is what you learn by going through this experience. If material goodies are what you're looking for, sponsors also offer a few tid-bits and you have the chance to purchase your own NaNoWriMo Winner’s t-shirt.
What Do You Do With Your Completed Draft?
Well, NaNoWriMo has that covered too. A sister project, NaNoEdMo, or National Novel Editing Month begins in March. You don’t have to have been a participant in NaNoWriMo to participate, but if you are, the 3 months cooling-off period is just right to begin editing your story with fresh eyes. If not, you just need your own novel and the desire to edit it, the motivation to log a minimum of 50 hours editing time in 30 days and to register on the official website.
Tempted To Try It? Do It!
Writing your own novel, if you’ve never done it before, will leave you changed. It’s an amazing experience. You will love it and you will hate it -- in a good way, of course. You'll learn a new definition to the term "obsession" as well as "joy". Your story weaves itself through your dreams, your meals, your work, brushing your teeth, studying, whatever you're doing. You create a world, fill it with characters, and direct their lives. You feel the pang when the story ends and you have to leave the world you created, at least for awhile. There's always next November...
A Few Notable Past NaNoWriMo Participants And Their Novels
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