But I want to talk about the process of NaNoWriMo and why it's so damn valuable.
Everyone knows that having a thick skin is part of the publishing industry. At least, they say they know that, but come November, there will be blog after blog, and post after post, shitting on the idea that any good books can come from NaNoWriMo. People so pissed off and threatened by the idea that their techniques aren't the ones featured, that they feel the need to put others on blast. Here's the problem with that, just because it doesn't work for you, oh wise ones of the writing world, doesn't mean it's wrong.
Here in the world of creativity, there isn't a right or wrong, there is finding what works for you. And just like I will swear up and down the world would be a better place if everyone was forced to work the holiday season in retail at least once in their lives, I will go to bat for the idea that every writer should try NaNoWriMo...and for more than just a week.
For those of us who do well fast drafting and editing the shit out of the manuscript later, NaNo shows us that we can do this. That it's hard, and it's frustrating, but there is a community to reach out to, and a way to write those glorious words..."The End." I'd argue that there is just as much to gain from "Losing" NaNoWriMo. Or from going off script and setting a lower goal, or finishing up an already started manuscript, or even doing edits instead of writing new words in November. Because you have to find joy in what you accomplished, even if no one else does. There is always someone ready and raring to tell you that you're "Doing it wrong" or that you "Didn't really win" or that it "Doesn't count".
You're going to get the wind knocked out of your sails at some point in the month. It could be from outside forces, or your own internal dialogue telling you that because you can't write 10k in two days that you're not as good as other writers. There are plenty of opportunities to compare yourself to others this month, because everyone who is participating likes to talk about it. (You're reading this blog, so you know I'm one of those people.)
Which brings me to another lesson NaNoWriMo taught me...No good comes from comparing your success to other people.
You have to find strength inside yourself, and this month puts that shit to the test. Even if you don't sign up on the official website, you might be avoiding the internet for more reasons than the upcoming election. And it's a great reason to ask yourself why.
There will always be someone better at something than you. Not being the best doesn't mean you should take the technique and chuck it out the window. It's a time to hone your craft, and practice your skills. Or maybe it's time to practice embracing the joy other people feel even if it's not your bag. Other people don't cause your feelings. That's all on you. So if NaNoWriMo makes you mad, it's time to do some real work and figure out what in your own mind is getting your panties in a bunch.
I've "won" NaNoWriMo for the last five years, but there were years I didn't feel great about it. I'd look at other writers clocking twice the word count I did, and feel bad. And that was my bullshit to work through. It wasn't easy admitting it was my own brain sabotaging me, but it was the fucking truth.
I'd argue the biggest challenge NaNoWriMo offers isn't the 50,000 words it prompts you to write, but what you do after this month is over. Some of us will end up with a finished draft, others will have thousands of words to go until they hit the end, and still more will only have clocked a few thousand words, that they may have to trash all of. What you do with that information is up to you, and how you move forward is also completely in your court.
NaNoWriMo taught me I wasn't a quitter.
I didn't hit 50k the first year I wrote. I didn't hit the end of a book for a few more rounds. But the next year, I finished a novel. The year after that, I wrote a better one. Then I started editing. And soon enough I let other people read what I wrote. My first books sucked. Hell, there will be a lot of people who will tell you all my books suck. But I've also hit PAN status at RWA. I've been featured in magazines. I've been "Top Picks" on a couple blogs. All because I didn't stop trying.
Now, fast drafting might not work for you. I'm not saying it will. I'm saying, talking about writing a book and never putting the words on paper is the only way you really fail. And if you go through the month of November, and realize you don't want to work on this book anymore, no one is going to come for you and point a shaking finger at you in shame.
Picking yourself up and trying something else, is how you win. Writing another book is how you win. Taking the next step and editing your work, is how you win. Are you still writing? Are you still working on what you set out to do this November? Be proud. Power on. Whatever you're doing with your writing or your career, someone will tell you you're doing it wrong. Do it anyway. You might find out it doesn't work for you after all, but you won't know until you try.
NaNoWriMo taught me determination. It taught me to keep going. It taught me to try new things. What are you going to learn this month? You won't know until you sit at your computer and start.
I'd love to hear about what you're trying. Or what NaNoWriMo is already teaching you.