Let’s start with the basics.

What is NaNoWriMo? It stands for National Novel Writing Month. Every November, writers across the world gather with their writing groups and attempt to write 50,000 words in 30 days. That adds up to 1,667 words written every day. 

NaNoWriMo is very much a marathon, not a sprint. 

If memory serves, this marks my tenth anniversary of doing it. To be honest, I have not won every year. In fact I think I’ve won less than half the years. And that’s okay, because you learn so much about writing and yourself as a writer along the way. (It seems like there’s a lot of things in my writing career that are hitting their tenth anniversaries this year…)

November is usually one of my most productive months as a writer because I take advantage of NaNoWriMo in a…not so traditional way. I rarely work on one project at once. Usually, you find me working on a handful of things and catching up where I’ve left off in previous years. Last year, I used it to crank out the end of a novel before switching to other projects. This year, I plan on doing something similar. 

If I haven’t scared you away from the idea yet, let me walk you through some of the reasons why I find it easier to be productive that time of year. 

1) Accountability

I think I’ve made this point numerous times this year. And I’ll keep making until it registers in my head (and hopefully y’all’s too). 

Accountability helps writers stay on task. As an example, if I haven’t messaged James by a certain point about my column, I get a check-in message. 

With NaNoWriMo, you have so much potential for accountability. The site itself has a chart that grows as you reach the word counts. If you hit certain word counts you get badges on the site. If you stay on target all month you get a badge. 

But then there’s also your region. COVID forced us to get creative. It used to be, we would meet once a week for write-ins in addition to a kick-off and closing event. But in November 2020, in-person meetings were banned. In fact, this is the first year they’re allowed to happen again. 

With the lack of meetings, how were we able to help hold each other accountable?

The answer ended up being simple. They created a Discord Server for our region. While it’s most active during November, you find people poking their heads in throughout the year. It’s where I go to do word sprints year round. 

I think this was better than in-person meetings. We were able to hang out more frequently. In fact, we block a couple of hours every day to hang and sprint. And I’m competitive so that really fuels me to write. 

It’s funny. I’ve been in a Discord server with people who live in my town for over two years and I don’t think I’ve met any of them in person. I’m excited to do so next month. 

2) Deadlines

Every time I start a new writing project, I tell myself that this time it will be different. That I won’t crunch up against the deadline and write in a flurry of desperation. 

Eventually, I  need to stop lying to myself. The sad but true fact is I work best with a deadline looming over my head. It’s part of the reason why I almost always write this column the day before it’s due. Unless I’m especially inspired, the deadline helps me to sit down and put my thoughts on the page. 

Deadlines and NaNoWrioMo come in two parts. There’s the big overarching deadline of 50,000 words in 30 days. But there also the small incremental deadlines every day. Some days it’s easier than others to crank out that 1,667. 

I’m a little scared about approaching it this year because it’s been a while since I’ve had that kind of daily output. But, I’m going to try. Like last year, I’m hoping the pressure of the daily deadlines helps me either finish this project or get it mostly done. 

It really should have been done months ago. 

There’s just something about having that deadline looming that forces you to stretch and to reach for your creative goals. In a perfect world, I’d get myself to a point where I’m writing at that level every day. I’m aware I’m a long way towards that. 

3) Being Part of Something

That’s why I did it the first time. I’d recently joined a creative writing club and they told us about NaNoWriMo. Some of my fondest memories were meeting up to work on word counts and discussing just what made a story. Because when you’re attempting to write that much that fast, you need to know. 

For a lot of people there’s something about the social aspect of being a part of NaNoWriMo. And I’ll admit, that’s part of the reason I’m there too. As I mentioned earlier, I’ve yet to meet these people in person. But for the last two Novembers, we’ve come together in a Discord server as writers. We encourage each other and offer advice. It’s not unusual for someone to hang out in voice chat. 

NaNoWriMo is a global event. And there’s something to be said about reaching for a goal with millions of other people. 

If this post hasn’t made it obvious, I’ve got a real soft spot for the event. It’s something I highly recommend every writer do at least once. It tests you, and you learn a lot about writing and a lot about yourself as a writer. 

If you want to friend me on NaNo’s site, I’m girlinpink44. Let me know if you’re participating this year!