How could I not post something to the blog on the eve of 2023’s NaNoWriMo?
It has certainly become popular with around half a million official participants each year (based on the most recent number I could find). That’s not even counting people who decide to take on the challenge without registering with the NaNoWriMo website.
Makes me wonder if December is a busy month for beta readers and editors. I’ll have to ask a few.
Anyway, I’m a big fan of the event’s concept for one reason: the deadline.
I wrote my first novel-length work around fifteen years ago because I wanted to see if I could put 60,000 words on the page within 30 days. That was my sole goal. Not quality. Not to get published. I just wanted to tell a somewhat coherent story within the allotted timespan.
It was tough, but I did it. I spent every minute I wasn’t at work typing away at a little Asus netbook. My friends wondered where I went. My girlfriend at the time threatened to break up with me repeatedly.
I didn’t care, though. I had a goal, and I intended to see if I could pull it off.
And that’s really the point of the whole challenge in my opinion. Proving to oneself that they can write 60,000 words. In many ways, that realization is more important than quality when you’re first starting off as a writer.
After all, honing an amazing skill with prose isn’t all that great if you can never write more than a chapter of a novel before giving up, right?
At the end of the day, one of the most important writing skills that I’ve cultivated over the decades is the ability to sit down and write for long periods of time. Quality comes later — a matter of practice. Ideas are cheap and plentiful. It’s the dedication, the persistence, that leads to success.
Granted, I’m not speaking from personal experience in terms of publishing novels, but that rule applies to damn near everything else in life. The people who come out on top, the champions, the icons, are most often the ones who sacrificed the most time, not the people with the most innate talent.
Let that be the lesson learned from NaNoWriMo. That you can write a novel-length manuscript. And as an extension of that, you’ll get the chance to learn what it’s like putting that kind of time and focus into writing. See how sustainable a pace of 1700+ words a day is for you. Find out how that affects your lifestyle. Use that knowledge when it comes time to buckle down and start scheduling your writing sessions (if you haven’t already).
Hey, chances are you’re going to chuck that first NaNoWriMo novel in a drawer like I did with mine. If it’s your first novel, the combination of low experience and compressed time will almost certainly make it terrible.
But that doesn’t matter one iota when you know — as you do — that most successful authors write quite a few bad manuscripts before they hone their skills enough to pull off a winner.
That’s just how stuff works. Not just writing, but all matters of skill and persistence. The key is to write fast, write often, and get those bad manuscripts behind you so you can get to the good stuff.
And therein lies the great appeal of NaNoWriMo. The appeal to write fast, get it done, and not worry about the details. Early on, that can be the most valuable experience a writer can gain.