Confessions from a writer too scared to try the challenge.
If you’re a writer reading this, I’ll just go ahead and say it: I know your secret, the one you’re embarrassed to admit out loud, the one you’re hiding in your bedroom at night, or scared to even tell your partner about. Yup, that one.
I know that you’ve always dreamed of writing a book.
And not just any book, but your novel. That one that you dream about, the one that you keep saying you’re going to finish “someday,” the one that’s making you shift guiltily in your seat just thinking about.
Am I right?
I know I’m right, because I have one too. A half-finished novel that probably doesn’t make any sense because I’ve started and stopped so many times, a book that I dream about seeing on the New York Times bestseller’s list on the daily (no shame), a book that I am plucking away in a simple Word document because I figure something is better than nothing. But if you’re ready to take your dream into a reality, you probably need to check out NaNoWriMo.
If you haven’t heard of NaNoWriMo, it stands for National Novel Writing Month and it’s, well, pretty much what it sounds like: a movement of writers to join together, with resources and support along the way to finish their novels in November. Well, the goal is 50,000 words in a month.
The concept has always sounded great to me as an aspiring novelist, but I admit that I’ve never actually tried NaNoWriMo because I’ve been too intimidated to even try. An entire novel in a month? It’s been 4 years of working on mine and I’m nowhere near close to done, thank you very much. But despite my intimidation, I started thinking: what if NaNoWriMo didn’t have to be stressful? What if I didn’t finish the challenge? Could there still be benefits from just enrolling in the challenge?
I decided to check out the challenge (finally) for myself and here’s what I learned:
You become part of a community
One of the main reasons I go to the gym every day is, quite frankly, so I can actually see and talk to other people during my day. Writers tend to live inside of their heads so much and before we know it, we can be in danger of spending a lot of our time pretty isolated. (I’m preaching to the choir here, just so we’re clear.)
So putting ourselves out there and becoming a part of a community—especially one that “gets” us—is kind of a big deal. NaNoWriMo lets you join that virtual community, as well as plugs you into a local “home” region, so you can find writers working on their books close to home too. Knowing you’re not alone in your quest to become a published author, or even just an author for yourself, is a pretty powerful thing.
You earn badges
Are we in preschool or are we professional writers? Honestly, it doesn’t matter. Because if there’s one thing that we all love, it’s getting rewarded for our work, so sign me up for all the shiny virtual stickers I can get. Yay! And as blogger Bryn Smith recounted in her recap of her 2017 NaNoWriMo experience, those badges might just be the very thing that keeps you going when the fun and newness wears off.
You get plenty of inspiration
I’m not exactly sure why I thought this, but I imagined that joining NaNoWriMo was essentially joining up with a bunch of other writers across the country pecking away alone at their computers. Not that that would be bad per se, but just that it’s not that different than my normal day-to-day challenge of making a living as a freelance writer. When I actually hopped on to their website, however, I was pleasantly surprised to find that the challenge actually includes a lot of resources, inspiration, and tools for support. A word counter in your browser? Um, yes.
And last but not least? NaNoWriMo is completely free, so you really have nothing to lose. Also, this is truly not an ad of any kind, just a rousing bit of inspiration from a writer who is currently sitting in her home office, surrounded by novels that other authors finally got around to writing, and I’ll be darned if I’m not going to join them.
Ready to join me? Let’s all sign up and keep each other posted on how you’re progressing! It’s time to make that dream a reality…
Chaunie Brusie is a labor and delivery nurse turned writer. She lives in Michigan with her husband, four young kids, and a flock of chickens. Find her at chauniebrusie.com.