What I've learned from National Novel Writing Month

Write an entire novel in one month.

It will be fun.

Write 50,000 words while you're trying to live the rest of your life.

You can do it.

I've always wanted to participate in National Novel Writing Month--a national phenomenon that encourages writers to complete an entire book manuscript in the month of November. The organization lets participants know that the book doesn't have to be perfect, it doesn't have to be complete...but it does have to be written.

I've had fellow writer friends who've participated in the past; they'd even accomplished the seemingly-impossible task to write 50,000 words. I'd even started doing it once before, but then fell apart on day three and completely gave up.

This year, though, I decided to give it another try.

I've had a young adult novel idea that has rumbled around in my brain for a few years now. Over a very extended period of time I'd written around 10,000 words on it. I'd write a day or two, then stop for months; I'd get back to it and write half a chapter, then forget about it for another six months. I knew I'd probably never write it.

But what if National Novel Writing Month could help?

I decided to bite the bullet once again, and signed up on the NaNoWriMo site; I shared my venture with fellow writers and found others participating.

The month didn't start out great, when I couldn't write for the first two days of November because of family obligations. But on the 3rd, I started writing...and kept writing...and kept writing.

My goal was a bit different than the recommended 50,000 words. I decided that if I could write 35-40,000 words, I would be close to completing a rough draft of my novel that I'd dreamed of writing for years.

And now I sit here on the eve of November 25 with right at 29,000 words written. With just five days left in the month, I doubt that I'll make it to my goal. (Besides, Thanksgiving and all of its surrounding festivities will surely set me back a bit.) But, I'm still incredibly proud of what I've done.

This National Novel Writing Month has been rewarding and educational. It's taught me some valuable lessons about the act of writing--whether that writing be fiction, nonfiction, poetry, or any other possible genre.

1. The act of writing is the thing.

We can all talk about writing, but we need to come to the point where we're actually writing.

I'm a very accomplished writer of nonfiction; I've published thousands upon thousands of articles over the years and have authored nonfiction books. But, I've always been afraid of writing fiction.

I would talk about how I wanted to write a novel; how I wished I could be a novelist.

But I'd never sat down and worked purposefully at the act of writing.

National Novel Writing Month has forced me to do so.

2. Writing can be communal.

We know that writing is a very solitary action. Our imagination alone creates the world of our writing; we alone put the pen to page; we alone do the writing.

But community is also important to a writer.

One of the best things about National Novel Writing Month has been the connections I've made with other writers. We've met together to write, we've shared our progress with one another, and we've bent each other's ears with our questions and concerns.

3. Our writing doesn't have to be perfect.

One of the most often repeated points among National Novel Writing Month participants is to put worry aside and just write.

We writers often have such a fear of perfection that it keeps us from doing any writing. We write a little bit, then obsess over what we just wrote. We finish a chapter, then can't get to the next chapter because we're not happy with what we just did.

This month, I've simply written.

There will be time to go back and make things better.

4. There's no time like the present.

I'm getting older everyday, and that has become a great motivator.

I can get tell my family everyday about how I want to write a novel, but if I'm not doing it now then when am I going to do it?

I don't want to look back someday and regret that I didn't try to write a novel while I still could.

As I look to this last week of National Novel Writing Month, I'm so grateful that I took this step. And as the month fades into December, I'll stay devoted to this novel and will finish it.

Before this month, I don't think there's any way I could have said that. I couldn't have had such confidence.

(For more information on National Novel Writing Month, visit the organization's website.This is my personal profile on the NaNoWriMo site. There's also this awesome Facebook page for the month.)

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