Monday, November 4, 2013

NaNoWriMo: Does it really work?

There is a never-ending quest among writers to find "the key" to getting published.

You can find articles, essays, and whole books and magazines devoted to ways to get published.  Very rarely do any of them mention NaNoWriMo as one of those ways.

This is my twelfth year competing in NaNoWriMo.  For those of you in the dark, NaNoWriMo is shorthand for National Novel Writing Month, an idea born of a genius by the name of Chris Baty back in 1999 who wanted to encourage creative writing.  The goal is to write a 50,000 word novel in 30 days.  This is where I question Chris' genius in choosing November for NaNoWriMo instead of, say, April which also has thirty 30 days and no major holiday (except for Easter, occasionally) in it or immediately after it that seems to require immense preparation.

The reason I entered NaNo the first time, back in 2004, was because I had one major obstacle in becoming a novelist... lack of discipline.  I was a world-class procrastinator (Who am I kidding?  I still struggle with this.) and had a hard time finishing anything I started.  I worked better with a deadline and since I was just starting out, toying with the idea of a novel, no one was really expecting anything of me--I certainly did not have a publisher waiting impatiently for me to finish my novel so they could publish it--there was really no "good reason" to finish the novels I started.  It was way too easy to put off writing time as well. 

So in October of 2004, I registered and on November first, with the encouragement of my ever-patient husband, Paul, I began. I think I got as far as 25,000 words before I tanked.  But somehow, I still managed to find the optimism to try again the following year.  And the following year.  In 2007, I finally managed to finish.  Not the novel (How many novels actually stop at 50,000 words?) but I "crossed the finish line" in that I wrote 50,000 before midnight on November 30.  And the overwhelming feeling was that of accomplishment.  I did it.  I finished writing 50,000 words in 30 days.  And a few weeks later, I picked up that manuscript and continued working on it.  And because I had developed confidence from meeting that 50,000 word goal, I knew I could actually finish the novel.  And I did.

That was the beginning.

Somewhere I have that first finished novel.  And the second one I finished the following year (yes, I actually "won" NaNo twice in a row!)  And with those two "wins" under my belt, I realized that I can do this; I can actually BE a novelist. I can start something and finish it.  And that was what set me on the road to writing for publication.  It doesn't matter how talented a writer is or how interesting the characters and plot might be; if you don't finish the project, whether it's a novel or short story or essay, no one will ever read it.  Especially a publisher. 

So whenever anyone asks me, "How do you become a published writer?" I always respond with "Have you ever heard of National Novel Writing Month?"
It's a testament to the power of persistence. 

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