Last year, I was one of those participants. This year, I will not be, though I'm not passing it up without a bit of reluctance. However, as I've chosen to focus my writing time on short fiction and trying to write 50,000 words of short fiction in a month is an even more significant task than trying to write 50,000 words of a novel in a month, NaNo is not in the cards for me this year.
However, I had a great time last year and I think it's worth giving it a try if you're intrigued by the idea. Here are four reasons why.
- It gives you a very specific time period in which you can prove to yourself that you can writing a novel. This was the biggest thing I got from NaNo last year. And, if I never whip my first draft into shape for submission, it will be the main thing I got from it. But it was a significant thing for me to learn. I've always been a short story writer but I no longer think to myself "I don't know how to write a novel." I do know how to write one. (Well, the first draft of one at least. Maybe sometime soon I'll learn how to edit a novel!) And, if you don't "win" NaNo by getting through those 50,000 words in November, that doesn't mean that you've proven you can't write a novel; it just means that you didn't do it that time under those circumstances. Frame it that way for yourself and it's a no-lose proposition.
- The community opportunities are fun. Admittedly, this may not be as relevant if you live somewhere very remote, but the fondest memories I have of last year's NaNo are of the vacation days I took (one a week) when I went to a local write-in and spent three to five hours working on my novel project. There were a handful of us who were regulars and meeting and bonding with them was both a huge encouragement for my work and a lot of fun. In fact, one of the people I met later offered to critique a short story for me and her input was valuable to that story's development. Getting to know people can be both fun and valuable. And, even if you do live somewhere remote, there are plenty of on-line opportunities for socializing and cheering each other on during NaNoWriMo, both on the official site and on other sites like Twitter.
- It could be a part of building a daily writing routine. One way to approach NaNoWriMo is to plan to write a certain number of words every day. You could aim for the 1667 words per day required to hit 50,000 by the end of the month. Or you could set a floor of, say, 1000 words and plan to exceed it significantly some days. You can also do NaNoWriMo without working on your novel project every day; as I recall, I skipped one or two days to work on other projects during 2011's NaNo. But it's a high-energy, high-support time to try to get through the beginning portion of developing a daily writing routine.
- You'll most likely learn something about yourself as a writer. As the post I linked to in point #1 above indicated, I learned that I can write a novel. You might learn something different, but an experience this focused is likely to help you learn something about yourself, especially if you're relatively new to writing.