Why NaNoWriMo?




Here we are, heading  into the home stretch of NaNoWriMo. No matter where you are in your challenge, whether you have already hit 50k or are trying to reach it, or are worried that you are too far behind to write everything you need, or know you’re too far behind to reach the goal, or gave up in the first week, there’s a question that might be in your head.

What does it mean?

Why am I doing NaNo? What is the point of this challenge?

Even if you’ve written 50k words, chances are that your story is not done. Whether there’s more story to tell or you need to go over it to revise it, NaNoWriMo is only one part of a journey towards writing.

I’ve  been doing NaNoWriMo for 10 years now, and I feel like my results have run the gamut from giving up (year 7 I think) to finishing the story at 100k (year 1). Sometimes I end up with a manuscript that I am confident in and keep working on for the following years to finish. Sometimes I end up with the beginning of a project that I finish up the next year at NaNoWriMo (NaNo rebellious). Sometimes I’ve got some pretty good fan fiction to post. Sometimes I just discard what I worked on because that flu in the middle of November really did me in.

There is no one way for NaNo to end up. There is no proper form for your NaNo writing to take.

So why do NaNoWriMo?

Because the process of NaNoWriMo gets you writing.  Aside from whatever manuscript you end up with, that body of work that you wouldn’t have at all if it weren’t for NaNo, NaNoWriMo gets you to commit to your writing, to sit down, to type out those words and begin to craft a story.

No matter where you are as a writer, whether starting out with your first major writing project, or after decades of writing experience, NaNoWriMo offers an impetus to commit fully to writing.


What are the benefits of committing to NaNoWriMo?


  •  Whatever you’ve written— 100k, 50k, 25k, 5k— you’ve written it. That’s something that didn’t exist before. Congratulations. 
  •  Engaging in the regular practice of sitting down to the keyboard or paper and writing means you are developing a habit of writing. You are learning what it takes for you to write. And what might interfere with your writing practice that needs to be dealt with. This is the heart of writing. Applying butt to chair. It seems like it would be more complicated than that, but nope. Show up to the page. Deal with what comes next. This is being a writer. 
  •  Committing to writing, to BEING a writer for the month of November, means that you are declaring yourself. It means that you are taking your desires to write seriously enough that you will give time and energy, space and thought, to yourself, your dreams and your own goals. It’s the commitment that makes you a writer? Whatever your process, if you declare it and act on it, you are it. You are a writer. 
  •  Facing your demons. Here’s the news flash folks. It doesn’t matter where you are in your writing career, everyone struggles with writing. Writing is hard. And it’s not putting the words in the right places that is the hardest thing, at least not once you’ve gotten past a certain place. The biggest struggle of writing is the internal struggle. It’s the fight with yourself. The doubts you have that you are good enough. Fears that you shouldn’t be doing this. The question of whether you deserve to call yourself a writer. The insecurity about whether you have a voice, or something to say, or a good story, or anything at all that is worthy of being read. Sitting down and pounding out those pages means you have bearded your dragons in their den. It means you are brave, a warrior. You fought for those words. And you won them. 
  •  It’s fun. Whatever is the best part for you, whether it’s having those words finally done and counted, or watching that little graph thingy go up every day and getting new badges, or talking about writing and story on the forums, or figuring out your characters and conflicts as you go, or working out that tricky plot point, or that feeling when the writing is going well and you are entirely absorbed in the story you are telling and don’t even realize that you aren’t living in the world of your mind— well, NaNo is just fun. Sure, the deadlines and word counts might add to the tension, but in a way, it’s that challenge that keeps it exciting. 
  •  You are now fully engaged in the process of writing. You’ve got a writing practice that you can adjust to something that works for you personally. You’ve got a habit of writing so you know how it can be done, what works for you and what doesn’t. You’ve got a place or places where you have actually successfully written and can return to when you want to write. You have techniques and tools that have helped you get your writing done that you can use as you move forward. You might have made writing friends if you went to a write in or engaged in the forums or with your buddies, that is a writing community. You’ve got an MSS in whatever state it is, which means you have a project to work on. There is no more blank page.


In my experience, NaNoWriMo is not an end point. It is the beginning of a process that continues on. It is about getting us writing and putting those words down on the page so that we can move forward as writers.

NaNoWriMo is process, not product.

However, we also get that nice 50k (or however many words it is) product at the end, so that’s a bonus.


Rowena Murillo is a writer, artist and teacher from New York City, now living in Florida horse country. She’s got to get her drama somewhere. Hello, The 100.
You can find her on her blog, Tumblr, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest and check out her Etsy shop.


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