23 December 2015 - 5:55 pm

Why NNWM: Proof positive

Part of the why NaNoWriMo is good for writers series.

NaNoWriMo is an annual challenge that is run on an honour system. That means that it isn’t policed, and sure, there are a huge amount of ways to cheat if that’s what you want to do.

Ultimately, I don’t think that NaNoWriMo is about proving anything to anyone but yourself. That’s why its honour system works, and why that honour system is enough to make NaNo meaningful: at the end of the day, if you cheat, you’re only cheating yourself. Anyone can mock up a winner’s certificate easily enough; it only means something if you’ve actually earned it. And if you have? Great job!

A lot of people say that they want to write a novel one day. NaNo is the chance to make ‘one day’ be today, and it’s a chance to realise that yes, you can actually do it.

When you get to the end of the month, if you’ve hit the target and completed the challenge, you’ve written a novel. Sure, it’s the first draft of a novel and needs work, but you’ve done it. Even if you haven’t reached the end of the story, that’s okay, because you’ve just proven that you’re capable of writing 50,000 words in only a month. If you can do that, you can get to the end of the story, however many more words that means. Then you’ve got the first draft of a whole novel, and that’s pretty damned awesome.

You’ve proven to yourself that this writing thing isn’t so far out of reach. It isn’t some unicorn you say you want to tame like it’s a fantastical dream that lives on the other side of the rainbow. No, you’re Dorothy fucking Gale, riding the whirlwind over the rainbow, and you’re squashing that unicorn like its a stripey-stockinged witch. You went forth and made your way through every twist and turn of your own personal yellow brick road. You collected characters along the way and saw them changed by the end. You looked behind the curtain. And you came home in one piece, but different. Broader, more accomplished, like you just saved a whole multi-coloured world.

You know now that you can do something amazing. You managed to put your self-doubt aside, sat on your inner editor and all those other voices that tell you you can’t do it, and proved them wrong. You are capable of doing more than you thought you could.

And if you didn’t reach the 50,000 words? Either way, you’ve learned something. Maybe it’s how to fit writing into your life, or the best way to plan a novel. Maybe it’s the opposite: you’ve learned what doesn’t work for you. That’s all good: it’s all a step forward. And, chances are, you’ve now got 35,000 or 20,000 words of a novel under your belt.

Let me tell you: that’s still damn amazing. It’s still something. That’s still 35,000 or 20,000 more words than you had at the beginning of November. It’s still an adventure and an experience.

For many writers, NaNoWriMo is a way to realise that writing a novel is possible, and plausible, and achievable. Particularly for those who don’t have their own personal cheering squad, or whose self confidence can be unkind and unhelpful, this can be the kind of lift that they need. It can give them the impetus and confidence to continue forward, to keep writing and maybe finish that novel. Or maybe just that warm, fuzzy feeling of a goal achieved, a win they can call their own.

We all need that bit of validation every now and then. Some, more than others. Never underestimate the value of a sticker, or a cheer, or a PDF certificate to say hey, you did this awesome thing, you wonderful writer you.

Good for you.

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  1. Daniel says:

    Hell, it’s just good to give you a kick in the pants. Whether you’re a pantser OR a plotter.

    December 24th, 2015 at 4:29 pm

  2. Mel says:

    Absolutely! 🙂

    January 4th, 2016 at 2:02 pm