(Source: Tribune News Services)
(Source: Tribune Media Services)

For many college students, November is about finishing up end of semester projects, prepping for finals and enjoying a turkey coma. For me, November is about something entirely different: National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo).

NaNoWriMo is a special occasion for many writers. It’s the time of year that we embark on a month-long writing marathon. The goal? Write 50,000 words between midnight on Nov. 1 and 11:59 p.m. on Nov. 30.

I’ve participated in NaNoWriMo for the last few years, and though I haven’t always reached 50,000 words, my writing has always benefited from it.

There are a lot of mixed opinions about NaNoWriMo in the writing community, and I’m sure if you were to query random English students and professors on campus you’d get a variety of feelings as well.

Many people think of NaNoWriMo as a waste of time and say that it’s impossible to produce quality work in such a writing frenzy. The naysayers believe that when your goal is an average of 1,666 words per day for 30 days straight, the emphasis is on quantity, not quality.

I don’t disagree with that view, but I think it’s important to understand the purpose of NaNoWriMo and the ways it can be useful to writers.

The purpose of NaNoWriMo is to write. It’s not to finish that last, highly-polished draft of your novel, and it’s not to create, in a single draft, a riveting piece of literature.

National Novel Writing Month is, literally, just about sitting down and writing. It’s about taking time out of one’s busy life to make writing a daily priority, which is something writers tend to struggle with.

I know a lot of students in the creative writing program who are waiting until they earn their degrees to make writing a daily priority. They think that, once school is over, they’ll have more time to devote to writing the next great American novel.

I disagree. There will never be a point in anyone’s life where they’ll have all the time they want to write. NaNoWriMo encourages its participants to write on a regular basis over the course of an entire month. There’s a saying that it takes 21 days of consistently doing an activity to make it a habit. After slogging through a month-long writing marathon, many participants have entered December with a brand-new regular writing habit.

For that reason alone, I wholeheartedly support NaNoWriMo.

The frenetic pace of 1,666 words a day isn’t ideal for creating highly-polished work. However, it’s perfect for first drafts. I won’t speak for other writers, but for me a first draft is all about getting the words down on a page. I don’t nitpick. I dump the words out and revisit them in the second draft.

NaNoWriMo promotes a great sense of community between its participants. There are local meet-ups and online writing sprints, which allow participants to meet and write together. Fifty-thousand words feels like a lot when you’re writing alone, but with friends it can go by much faster.

Those interested in participating in NaNoWriMo should check out nanowrimo.org. While I might not reach the 50,000-word mark this year, I’ll be participating all the same. NanoWriMo will push you to achieve something you may not have thought you had in you—so go ahead! Join me in making November about more than just a pre-finals turkey fest. Instead, make it the month you wrote a novel.


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