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The value of NaNoWriMo

If you’ve never heard of NaNoWriMo…you need to get out more. Visit their website here. Basically, a whole bunch of people (in the hundreds of thousands, here) attempt to write a novel in a month. The month of November, to be precise.

This is the 5th year in a row that I [Valerie] have participated in NaNoWriMo. The first year is the only year I didn’t make the goal of 50,000 words, and I blame that on a really challenging semester in college (excuses, I know). NaNoWriMo has become a set feature of my year, something that I look forward to for months in advance.

There’s an energy about it. Writing is generally a solitary art. I have the benefit of a co-author, which I wouldn’t give up for the world. Yet still, there is an energy to writing in large groups. NaNoWriMo has forums where the WriMos can moan about their troubles, whether it’s characters who won’t behave, a plot that is mired in muck, or the simple lack of ideas or motivation. It goes from a solitary world in one’s mind to a group effort.

NaNoWriMo also gives a writer drive. You have 30 days to write 50,000 words or more. That gives you a deadline that you don’t normally have as an unpublished author. Once you get into the publishing world, that changes somewhat, depending on your editors and their timeframes. But here is a chance to work against a deadline. I don’t know about you, but I find that increases my productivity…by a LOT. The need to finish in 30 days keeps WriMos writing.

It also forces you to turn off your internal editors (as much as possible) because the time frame does not allow for revising and editing. You simply have to write. For many people, that’s the greatest challenge of all.

No matter if you win or lose, you’ll have created something, even if it’s only ideas. With a win, you’ve got the start of a manuscript, a story that has some potential. With time and skill, you may be able to turn that into something worthwhile. Most importantly, you have further honed your skills as a writer–the ability to sit down and write, despite distractions, despite a lack of time or energy or focus or what have you. That is an invaluable skill indeed.

And you never know what will come of it. A year later, our 2009 NaNoWriMo has sold, and we’re looking at a December release. What will come of this year’s adventure?

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