Why I’m Still Excited About NaNo Ten Years in—And Why You Should be, Too

Isn’t it weird, after almost a year of regularly saying ‘YMMV’ basically every week, that there is, after all, the one thing I think you should try, no matter what? Yeah, it’s weird as fuck. But there are some things I just cannot deny, no matter what, and when November starts looming on the horizon, my innermost writing fangirl jumps out and starts screeching NaNo! Write! NaNo! Write! Aaaaaaaaaaa!

I started my NaNo escapade with one of the weirdest novels I’ve written so far, one which held such promise in terms of worldbuilding, especially because back in 2010/2011 I still had the hots for writing urban fantasy, but which was so incredibly bad I can only do so much right now not to laugh about it. Which is not such a bad feeling, after all, because the novel I wrote several years in—2012, to be exact—ended up being just manageable enough to get published as my debut work in 2017, yay. If all goes according to plan, the novel I wrote last year will be published this very October (which I’ve finally shared yesterday, although there’s still a lot of work to be done).

I didn’t ‘win’ NaNo every year I’ve done it—the Supernatural fanfic and my first ever attempt at a novel in English, respectively, didn’t make it to the 50k line—but I sure had my share of fun each and every time I’ve tried. The earlier novels were funny because I used to outline into excruciating detail, years before I learned I had to leave enough space to let my characters and my setting do the work they were created for. I still have a lot of my early notes—you know, the ones in several different coloured pens—and most of the wordcount statistics for my NaNo novels.

The first time I wrote (err, started writing) a novel off-season after I was already in love with the NaNo rush, I kinda remember feeling weird, but… like I already had it under control. (Back then, I most definitely didn’t feel like it. But memory is kind to my writing—except for that first NaNo novel. There’s no way to be kind to that clusterfuck.) The second time… was easier, just like the third. (Both of them were werewolf novels, if I remember correctly.) Nowadays, I’m not exactly bound to November, but in November, it’ just that much more fun.

NaNo is for sprinters. I hadn’t already realized I was one, though, back when I first started participating. If you’re the rational type of writer, the slow-but-effin-steady type of writer, you might want to think twice about joining. (Unless your ‘slow’ is 3k per day.) Through the past decade, I’ve come to understand that I work in short, but quite intense bursts of typing frenzy, and I put it to good use in November. Outside NaNo, if a novel is taking me over two months to write initially, something is truly rotten about it. (Like the villain in Werewolf Novel No. 3, the bane of my existence for the past few years.)

NaNo is, above and beyond all, a writing community. I couldn’t possibly list all the ways NaNoWriMo has kickstarted my life just with this feature. I’ve been lucky enough to be a Croatian co-ML for several years (a long time ago), and that was almost even better than just writing together. Back when we had write-ins, it was sometimes hard to even start writing because you were having so much fun talking and laughing out loud. Even though heavily used forums are a thing of the past (hey, I first got internet access around 2002, and, well, you know, there were only so many places LotR fans could hang out back then), there’s still the feeling of writing together. Non writers don’t always find the same things as funny as writers do, okay? And everyone can benefit from a safe space to rant. Even though the feeling has changed through the years for me, these things remain. Writing alongside others is, weirdly enough, one of my favourite activities. Yes, even when it gets too quiet because we’re actually working.

NaNo is an accountability heaven. Remember the cursed excel sheets I wrote about before? Well, guess where the habit comes from. NaNo has the most beautiful graphic representation of progress I’ve seen so far in my life. (Maybe because it’s writing progress?) Even if you’re only putting in, say, 60 words (or 600, which is my best, maintainable hourly quota), you can see it grow. Watch it grow. You deserve it.

You can do NaNo any which way you want. I did it by hand at least one year. Oh, yeah—the year I wrote short stories instead of a novel, which is why I still have a thick envelope full of handwritten fantasy romance and one, um, Arrow fic. I never got around to typing the stories out, because that was one of the ‘fun’ years, not ‘work’. (And when the fuck did writing become work?? I mean, I did want it to, but… )

NaNo makes you kiss your excuses bye-bye. Oh, I can’t write today. The dog’s being annoying. Oh, I can’t write right now. I’m still getting over the recent weird development at work. Or, I can’t write this year. I’m not good enough yet.

Newsflash—nobody cares if you’re good during NaNo. All we care about is that you’re writing.

NaNo makes early winter fun. If there’s one thing I would pick (if I had to!) as the most rewarding feature this year, I have a hunch it would be this one right here. It’s been a long Marchyear. The cold, dark days bring cold, dark feelings for many people, myself included. When you’re trying to meet your daily goal (whether the 1667 minimum or something bigger, like a lot of people aim for), and keep your daily job, and stay on top of things at home, trust me, you don’t have time to sweat the weather. Or the state of the world.

Thus begins my evil plan for October this year. I won’t write just about NaNo, hell no. But I just might try to persuade you with another post or three. Stay tuned, and if you’re already prepping for NaNo, best of luck! Let me know how it goes.

Photo by Nathan Dumlao on Unsplash.

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