The Benefits of NNWM

Forgive me if this post seems redundant of Megan’s, but I was going to talk about NNWM and she totally stole my thunder. So instead of changing my topic this week entirely, I decided I would talk about it anyway.

While Megan is braving the waters of NNWM for the first time this year, I am something of a NNWM veteran. I’ve done it (successfully, no less) for the last two years and I always enjoy myself immensely. Even though I am a college student and am fighting the uphill battles of term papers and midterms, NaNo November always has a special spot in my heart. So despite the fact that I often wake up on December first feeling like I’d been run over repeatedly by a semi-truck for the past thirty days, I am here to impart what I think are the benefits of NNWM.

Benefit the first: You learn that you can write a book.
My first year doing NNWM, I was sitting down to write with a bright shiny idea and a very rough outline. Prior to that November in 2010, I had written drabbles and snippets of scenes and the occasional snatch of conversation. I had written a few short stories for creative writing classes, but I had never sat down and plowed my way through an entire coherent long-format work. So even though 50K is about the size of a novella or a middle-grade novel, it was way more than I had ever written before that. But I did it.

I daresay that I rocked it, even.

Which is not to say that I wrote anything spectacular. In fact, I would say that the 50k I wrote during that month should never be seen by human eyes ever again. But that’s the beauty of NNWM. In order to write that much in such a short time, you have to shut off your internal editor. You have to stop telling yourself that you suck and that you can’t write anything until you don’t suck. You just have to go for it.

But let me tell you–finishing up that novel, writing those last words and submitting them to the NNWM word-count validator, that feels pretty great. It’s empowering. You just wrote a freaking book! How cool is that?

Way cool, is the proper answer.

And since my first NNWM, I’ve learned that I crank out words and stories. I’m no longer bound by intimidation. I’ve proven to myself that I can write a book–even if that book will stay safely buried on my hard drive forever– and that’s a pretty impressive thing.

Benefit the Second: It’s a crash course in time management.
Here’s a funny thing about me: the more busy I am, the more productive I usually am. NNWM forces you to micromanage your schedule. I usually end up sitting down and mapping out my daily schedule by the hour, carving out time little by little to write. And because I also have papers that are due and tests that need to be studied for, I have to make time to write and do my homework. The result is that I’m usually far more on top of my assignments than I am at any other time of the year.

I might be alone in this, but I kind of thrive with that kind of insane pressure.

Of course, that high level of stress does have it’s drawbacks. Case and point, I was so overloaded with school and work and life this past weekend that I didn’t write my two papers and I didn’t prepare for my colloquy with my professor, and instead I spent most of Saturday watching reruns of The Big Bang Theory and Veronica Mars. My body and my brain had crashed completely and I needed a weekend of vegging to recoup.

But the fact is, in order to succeed in NNWM (and you can succeed–don’t let anyone tell you differently), you need to manage your time. You need to be prepared to come home from class or work or whatever and sit down and write to meet your daily word count goal. If you set time aside for it–I usually give myself an hour and a half per day to get it done–then it’s more likely to get done. And if you set time aside for all the OTHER stuff you have going on, you can get that done too.

Benefit the Third: Creation is energizing.
Okay, so maybe that’s not completely true, but I like to think it’s mostly true. Creativity does have it’s toll. Your mind can burn out, which is why you need to have time to do whatever it is you do to recharge.

But I think by and large, creating things gets your mind working in different ways. Being creative is a habit. I don’t believe that it’s something dictated by muse or inspiration. If you make a point of creating something every day, your brain will start to get in the habit of it. It will expect to be have to be creative–and it will rise to the challenge.

Because here’s what I love about NNWM: as much as you’ve outlined, as much as you’ve planned for this month, you will hit a point where you will say, “Screw this. It’s not working. I’m going to make something crazy happen.” Now the crazy something you make happen might not be the best storytelling and it might not be the best plot development, but it will probably be one of the most creative and hare-brained thing you have ever thought of.

Putting yourself under the pressure of NNWM forces you to drop assumptions of what good writing and storytelling is. It’s not worth it to fuss around with the plot you wanted to write when you have word-count deadline and that plot isn’t working. You have to come with new ideas that propel the story forward. You have to be creative.

And I think that sort of creativity is powerful. It energizes. It moves you forward. Simply put, it’s pretty dang awesome.

Benefit the Fourth: The spirit of competition compels you.
So again, this might be something that applies to me and not you, but I have a HUGE competitive streak. I do best when I have someone to beat or when I have to prove myself to someone. When things get hard, I have a tendency to work harder to prove to myself that I won’t be beaten by the hard thing.

And NNWM is perfect for people like me. If you’re signed up on the website, you have bar graph that tracks your progress each day and you have this beautiful red diagonal line that shows you where you’re supposed to be. For me, that red line is a challenge. It taunts me. It tells me I can’t conquer it.

Which just makes me want to conquer it more.

Benefit the Fifth: No matter what, if you try, you win.
And I think this above all is my favorite benefit, and this is the one I share with people trying NNWM for the first time. If you’re not a consistent writer, if you’ve only been able to write a couple hundred words of any given story in the past, so long as you try–and try hard, no namby-pamby trying here–you’ve written more than you would have otherwise.

Because let’s face it, any substantial amount you write is better than nothing. Writing 5K words is better than writing 1K. Writing 10K is even better than that. And getting to 50k? I mean, dang, if you’re writing a YA novel, you’re more than half-way done!

The only thing that will stop you from writing a book is not writing. And every year, NNWM encourages you to put aside your excuses and your fears and to bury yourself in words and stories and just write. And if you don’t make it to 50k, that’s totally fine. Because in the end, you wrote something.

And that makes you awesome.


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