Ode to NaNoWriMo

As someone who did NaNoWriMo for the first time last year, I’m oddly attached to it.

If you haven’t had the pleasure of being introduced to NaNoWriMo, let me tell you a little about it. It stands for National Novel Writing Month and it happens every November. Each year, thousands of people flock to nanowrimo.org and pledge to write at least 50,000 words between 12:01 a.m. on November 1 and 11:59 p.m. on November 30. (Yes, the minutes matter, as evidenced by entire discussion threads devoted to outsmarting the clock on your computer to buy an extra hour at the end.) In addition to providing a goal, and a deadline, NaNo provides community, both real and virtual, via write-ins, discussion groups, contests, encouragement, and occasional threats.

I signed up last year at the nudging of a friend. I dived in. I met a plethora of fascinating people who were working on a huge variety of projects. There were sixteen-year-olds and sixty-year-olds. I wrote my heart out. I hit 50,262 words. I printed out, and proudly display in my office, my winner certificate.

I’m not doing NaNo this year, although it’s for the best possible reason. Winter’s Harbor has been accepted for publication and my first round of major edits are due at the end of November. To have a manuscript to edit, an editor to give me deadlines, being a Bold Strokes Books author–it’s a dream come true and the culmination of what NaNo was all about. Still, I’m a little sad. I’m going to miss the camaraderie, the flurry of it all.

Ironically, Winter’s Harbor isn’t my NaNo novel. I actually started it in January, after deciding I needed to set aside what had consumed me for the month of November. That said, I credit NaNo with giving me the thing I needed most: a compelling reason to write every day. It became enough of a habit that I’ve been able to sustain it, and I wrote the first full draft of Winter’s Harbor in about six months. And now that I’m starting to think about my next book, the NaNo project is being dusted off and will be my starting point.

If you haven’t given it a try, I highly recommend it. You never know what will unfold. For those of you that do, I’ll be with you in spirit. Have a cup of coffee for me.

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