National Novel Writing Month (#NaNoWriMo) is a world-wide event during the month of November that encourages authors to write towards a goal of 50,000 words ­— either a full novel or a good chunk of one. Authors like Erin Morgenstern’s The Night Circus (which I discuss here) have published novels resulting from NaNoWriMo efforts. I hope to publish Through Dragon Eyes in 2017, the novel I wrote 50,000 words of during my first experience of NaNoWriMo.

NaNoWriMo is also a non-profit with a number of programs supporting literary creativity, resources for young writers (including educator resources like free curricula for teachers and classroom kits), virtual writing retreat CampNaNoWriMo,  and resources for libraries, community centres and book stores to have write-ins. To support their cause, you can donate or purchase merchandise.

Why I Participated

#NaNoWriMo had popped up on my Twitter feed all year last year. I watched as other authors touted their successes and encouragement for the event. This year I decided I would give it a whirl. I desperately needed to catch up on Through Dragon Eyes, which I had set aside for business and everyday life needs (Not to mention book three of the Angels and Avalon series kept taking up focus and intruding into Through Dragon Eyes writing time).

Through Dragon Eyes is a Young Adult novel about a group of young friends who work together to save the Dragons and the communities built around them from the looming threat of an evil King bent on destroying all things Dragon.

I was also drawn into the idea of participating in a community of authors. It made the isolating work of writing seem less lonely. I knew someone, somewhere, was sitting down at the same time and writing their next best-seller too.

What I Liked and Learned

Aside from the sense of community, there were a number of things I really valued and learned during November 2016. Participating did motivate me and get me to the end goal word count. I’ve got a badge to prove it.

I really appreciated the momentum behind a unifying movement geared towards supporting writers of all ages and stages in their calling. It is built on the foundations of a global community and it focuses on a theme of non-judgement. Our world is filled with unproductive and harsh judgments that foster fear and stop us from achieving our dreams. For some, judgement-turned-discrimination robs people of safety, health and well-being, preventing them from participating fully in the world. Judgments are built on fear of the unknown, a theme I touch on often in my writing. NaNoWriMo fosters no-judgement writing, aiming instead to promote time dedicated to unfettered creativity in an effort to achieve a word count. Not a masterpiece, not perfection, just completion. Setting aside judgments and harsh personal criticism was one of my personal and professional takeaways. It reminded me to be mindful and gentle with myself, and to just write. Something so simple, but so very easy to forget.

What I Did Not Like

I would have loved to see a calendar feature for community events to make it easier to add important dates, times, and locations to my calendar. Community events in my area didn’t really suit my needs. They were imaginative, exciting and fun, but I prefer quiet gatherings with valuable feedback. I felt what was planned in my community didn’t meet that expectation.

Another thing I struggled with was timing. The winter months (for the Northern Hemisphere) are a perfect time to write. The world quiets and there is time for introspection. Unfortunately, this is also my business year-end. For whatever reason, 2016 was particularly chaotic and I found myself behind in everything. I also write part-time. As I dedicated that much time to writing, my office space slowly piled higher and higher with to-dos. I’m an organizer. I keep things in order and it helps me stay on top of what needs to get done. NaNoWriMo did get me to my writing goal, but it left me swimming through piles of work long overdue in December.

I would also like NaNoWriMo to have more media exposure. A big world-wide event celebrating the end of NaNoWriMo would have kept that feeling of global community lasting much longer. But how do you plan an event like that which people can enjoy from the comfort of their home with no budget? I’m not sure. I know that’s not very helpful or precise. What it is: a creative problem which others may run with, just like the beginnings of a novel. NaNoWriMo did have a lovely scarf which you could customize, even putting the book’s text on it, for $50USD. The cost seemed a little steep for me right now, but it is gorgeous and a good portion of the purchase goes towards a great cause. Maybe someday I’ll have it in the budget to get me one of those beauties.

Will I Participate Again?

I might. It was a great experience, but I would have to have my ducks in a row first. Maybe an accountant and some assistance with other areas of my self-published business, or, if I’m a fulltime writer/editor. If you’re a writer, or want to be, I do suggest you participate in NaNoWriMo2017. It will be the boost you need, but you’ve got to motivate yourself to sign up. NaNoWriMo has a lot of tools to hold you accountable, including a daily word count chart. They also have regular motivational newsletters, updates, and reminders on keeping yourself healthy through the intensity. All good things. So what are you waiting for? It’s never too early to start.

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