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Six Reasons Why You Should Try National Novel Writing Month

When people start donning costumes, carving pumpkins, and collecting candy in preparation for Halloween, I’m usually scribbling story ideas and sketching characters on every scrap of paper within reach. October 31st goes by two names for me: Halloween and NaNoWriMo’s Eve.

National Novel Writing Month, often referred to as NaNoWriMo, is an online community of writers who work toward the goal of writing a 50,000-word novel within the month of November. I have been participating since my junior year in high school, and I plan to continue even as I study abroad. NaNoWriMo has done so much for my writing, and I recommend it for any aspiring writers, poets, and playwrights! Before you decide NaNoWriMo isn’t for you, consider how you could benefit from trying this year.


1. Intensive writing improves your time management.

Adding another time commitment may seem counterintuitive, but each year I have found that November is my most productive, organized month. Since I have to write so many words each day, the time that would usually go to checking Facebook or watching a TV show becomes much-needed writing time. I become much more aware of how I spend my time during November, paying much more attention to my schedule, deadlines, and daily activities.


2. You develop a writing habit.

With the sheer number of words you’ll be writing this month, you have very little leeway to procrastinate. The NaNoWriMo website gives you a daily target word count and organizes your progress in a bar graph, even awarding you badges for writing milestones regarding word count and days spent writing. I try to write at least a few words each day during NaNoWriMo, and that habit of writing continues into the months that follow.


3. You grow closer to other writers.

Even though you are writing your own project, NaNoWriMo is a group effort. I spend most of November around other writers, sitting at coffee shops with friends as we frantically type our stories, challenge each other to “word wars” and “sprints” (writing races based on time or word count), and ask each other random questions about our characters. Between the online community and local events, you can find plenty of writing buddies to share your writing journey with during and after NaNo!


4. You improve your writing.

While preparing for this November, I have been reading old NaNo projects and reminding myself of their stories. I often laugh reviewing those scenes and stories I wrote years ago, shocked by how much my writing has improved. Every word you write helps you develop your literary voice; I can’t tell you how many people have told me their writing “isn’t good enough” to try NaNoWriMo, even if they want to become a writer. Guess what? The act of writing makes you a writer, and the more you write, the more you improve your craft!


5. It’s not too late!

Are you finding out about NaNoWriMo a few days into the month? Going back to the previous point, even starting a few days late will help you improve your writing. Don’t know what to write yet? Many participants don’t plan before the month starts, preferring to start in November and see where the story leads.


6. You don’t even have to write a 50,000-word novel!

But Anna, isn’t that the point of NaNoWriMo? So many people I’ve discussed NaNoWriMo with hesitate to try because of the number. Though the traditional NaNoWriMo encourages the creation of a new novel, many NaNo “rebels” adjust their word count or medium to suit their interests, writing poetry, short stories, plays, or even fan fiction. The ultimate goal of NaNoWriMo is to help you achieve your creative goals through writing, so anything you write counts as a success. Even if you join NaNo and write only 1,000 words over the month, that’s 1,000 words more than you would have written had you not tried!

Anna Dolliver is a junior studying Chinese and English at the University of Texas at Austin. An aspiring novelist and teacher, you will often find her wandering the shelves of a library, reading outside, or writing in rooms filled with windows. She is currently studying abroad in Taiwan; you can read about her experience at her blog, www.talesoftaiwan.com.
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