NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month = November) is not a contest. There is no limit to how many people can win. The organization sponsoring the event calls anyone a winner if they complete the goal of writing 50,000 words (about the length of The Great Gatsby) of an original novel during the month of November.
So why would anyone want to “win” this event?
Winning NaNoWriMo means I’ve made significant progress toward writing a story I’ve had in my head for years, and have not been able to write in any meaningful way. It’s a shared event within the amateur and professional writing community worldwide, and that makes it fun to take part in whether you meet your goal or not. Which is why this is my fifth year participating. This year, however, I finally completed this goal that I attempted four other times, and had previously failed. Each time I’d made more progress than the previous year, but I’d never actually completed my goal until now (and this time I finished before Thanksgiving, 4 days early!). This is also one of the goals on my list that could not be done in one day (such as slurp an oyster), so it took more planning and dedication to accomplish, and that makes the success so much more satisfying.
NaNoWriMo is supposed to teach you the discipline of writing daily, of building that habit of putting your words on paper (or on screen if you use the computer), and getting your story out there. The emphasis is quantity over quality for the first draft, because it is easier to edit when you actually have written some words to edit.
It helped me get about halfway on my story, and without this push to get a certain number of words done by the end of the month, I would be editing as I wrote, and would have hardly written a third of what I have now. However, just as I did with the 100 thank you notes in 100 days, I had a hard time doing the daily quota, daily. Instead, I would skip some days, then catch up on others. It’s a work pattern I am working to break. I would really like to get more disciplined on things like this, so that I get in the habit of making daily progress toward my goals.
I feel very happy that I completed this goal this year, the first year I was truly determined to do it (first year out of school). It makes me feel like I accomplished a huge task, something I am definitely glad I had on my list. And who knows? Maybe it will become one of the three books I want to publish…
Have you learned the discipline of making daily progress on your goals? Leave a comment and let me know if you have any tips.
Resource: Do you need that extra help getting motivated to write? An application called Write or Die gives you rewards (positive reinforcement), consequences (like showing creepy spiders for not writing quickly enough), and stimuli (like annoying sounds). It also has the Kamikaze option, which will erase previously written words if you stop writing. It is available free on the web, or as a paid version for Windows, Mac and Linux.
I’m still raising money for the organization who sponsors this event, to send curriculum kits to schools and support literacy efforts. Please join me in donating at least $1 to help children and adults reach their literacy goals. Donations accepted until December 19, 2014.