Why NaNoWriMo?

National Novel Writing Month is almost here. They have a new website, some amazing inspirational talks, and there's already enough chatter - from bloggers and writers and readers - to know that 2014's going to be another stellar year. I haven't blogged for a while (writing, y'know), but wanted to emerge briefly to ask one simple question: Why NaNoWriMo?

For those who don't know, NaNoWriMo is the name of a challenge / community event held every November that encourages everyone, everywhere to write a novel of 50,000 words in a single month. It sounds hard, and it is, but the community during November, and the support provided by so much of the writing world, makes it a special thing. NaNowriMo has its detractors as well as its uber-fans, but, at the end of the day, it's basically a lot of people having fun, making things, and learning how to be better writers.

I've written about NaNoWriMo before, for sites like Writers' & Artists (and on this blog, actually), and I'd encourage you to scour the Internet for inspiration, advice, and news. There's a lot out there, and a lot of it is very good. As for me, I just want to offer three reasons to give it a try.

NaNoWriMo: Why Take Part?

1. It's as good a time as any to tell your story. When Benjamin Cook began his (very good) Becoming Youtube series, he used the first video to encourage viewers to make their own videos, arguing (more or less) that 'if you're looking for an excuse to begin, maybe this is it.' I think there's a parallel here. So many people want to write, but they don't have the time, or the support, or the inclination to begin. NaNoWriMo is a call to arms, in a way. You want to write a book? it says, Well come on then, let's go.

2. You won't be alone, even when you're alone. In his Nobel acceptance speech, Hemingway suggested that 'Writing, at best, is a lonely life.' There's a lot of truth to that, and it's probably one of the reasons people don't finish the books they start. It's November. It's cold. You're sitting alone at a computer. Motivation lags, fizzles, and fades. Why bother? What's the point? That's where NaNoWriMo's community helps so much. Forums, videos, local groups, hashtags - NaNoWriMo gives you an instant and understanding writing family, all doing the same thing, and happy to pull you along.

3. It's fun. It is. I promise. 50,000 words is a lot to write in a single month, especially when normal life gets in the way, but some words is better than no words. Yes, there'll be distractions, but a month really isn't that long, and at the end you'll have ... something. Neil Gaiman once wrote:

People in your world get sick or die. You fall in love, or out of love. You move house. Your aunt comes to stay. You agreed to give a talk half-way around the world five years ago, and suddenly you realise that that talk is due now. Your last book comes out and the critics vociferously hated it and now you simply don't feel like writing another. Your cat learns to levitate and the matter must be properly documented and investigated. There are deer in the apple orchard. A thunderstorm fries your hard disk and fries the backup drive as well... 
And life is a good thing for a writer. It's where we get our raw material, for a start. We quite like to stop and watch it.
It's worth thinking about. You can find a balance, and the words will come. They will. I promise.

What NaNoWriMo Isn't

NaNoWriMo has no dark side, but there are some things to bear in mind if you're going to take the plunge. For instance:

It's not about stress and guilt. Didn't get any words done for a day, or a week, or at all? It's fine. It's not a race and it's not a test.

It's not about beating other people and it's not about beating yourself up. Words written in haste are often ... bad. Editing comes after, and rewriting, and changing the story so it stops fighting back. 50,000 words doesn't make a book. 50,000 good words, in the right order, makes a book.

Actually, on that topic - it's not about writing 50,000 words. Well, I mean, it is, in a way, but I never did. My book, started as a NaNoWriMo and, now published, is still short of 50,000 (by about 7,000 words, I think). Word length isn't the be all and end all. Writing is. Telling a story - that's what matters. Making art and stretching yourself and learning and teaching and taking part in a Thing That Is Good. That, more than anything, is the NaNoWriMo spirit. It's special, and it's mad, and at the end of the day, the world has more stories in it.

So, bring on November. Happy writing, all.