4 Things I Learned From Participating in Nanowrimo

Ever since I was a little girl, my biggest dream was to get a book published. Ever since I was little, I have always enjoyed writing. I have always had so many ideas running wild inside my head. I had an overactive imagination, but no way to organize all of my thoughts. My ideas were just ideas, with no prospect of ever turning them into a fully fledged book.

I first heard of Nanowrimo when I was seventeen years old in 2006. Nanowrimo was — and still is — an international writing competition, in which writers of all races and nationalities cheer each other on as they write a 50,000 word novel. Nanowrimo was — and still is — a wonderful example of camaraderie and love for the craft of writing.

It wasn’t until 2011 that I finally had the time to participate in Nanowrimo. I was excited. I had a plan for a book. Every day I wrote the minimum number of words. And for the first time ever, I finished a book that year. It may have been a complete mess. But I wrote a book. That was the important thing.

During each of my Nanowrimo trials, I learned something new from participating in this worldwide writing competition. I learned not just how to write, but also the importance of community. Furthermore, I learned that anything is possible in this world with determination, motivation, and some grit.

1–Anything is Possible If You’ve Got Enough Grit

One thing that I learned from doing Nanowrimo is that anything is possible. As a child, I used to stare longingly at the books on the shelves at Barnes & Nobles, wondering if I would ever get to accomplish this feat. I always wondered how it was possible to take a simple idea and then watch it grow to become something more.

After I wrote my first book in 2011 with Nanowrimo, I felt such an amazing array of emotions go through me. I felt so exhilarated. I felt as if I was living life on top of the world. I also felt so accomplished. It may only have been a first draft, but it was my first draft. It may not have been a published book, but it was my first book nonetheless.

There’s a saying that big things don’t happen overnight. We get there by taking small first steps, until eventually we make it. I may have only written a first draft, but it was my first step. It was my testimony that I could do it. I could write a book. If I could do it once, then I could do it again. And again, until I finally had a polished final draft.

2–The Importance of Writing Every Day

The goal of Nanowrimo is to have a 50,000-word minimum novel. To get there, you have to write 1667 words at a minimum every day. Nanowrimo helps writers to cultivate this habit of writing. I have had so many teachers and fellow writers stress the importance of writing every day. But I didn’t take them seriously, until I started to notice a deterioration in my own writing.

Before the pandemic, I was not writing every day. In fact, I was not writing at all. Between the demands of motherhood and working full time, I just didn’t have the time to write. But then, the pandemic happened and suddenly I found more time than I knew what to do with. I wanted to do something productive with this extra time. I chose to blog. I revived my old blog Crispy Confessions and slowly gave it life with new, refreshing content.

When I first started blogging, my writing felt awkward and rough. My sentences were short and choppy. I felt discouraged. But I kept writing. And soon, as my confidence grew so did my writing style. I had rediscovered my writing voice.

3–Write For Yourself First; Write For Others Second

One of the steps to discovering your writing voice is to write about things that you are passionate about. This might go against the grain of the writing that you have done in school and for work, where you have to write for people. But I have found that the best work comes when you write about something that you are interested in. The best work comes from writing about something that you want to learn more about. Always write what you want first. Always meet your needs first.

And then, once your writing voice is established, you can then write for other people. Write to make yourself happy and fulfilled. And then, ask yourself how you can use your experience to help other people. How can you use your knowledge to bring value to others?

Write for yourself to ignite that fire and passion. And then, write for others to give them that same fire and passion back.

4–We All Need a Writing Buddy

Sometimes when I am writing alone in the dead of night during a Nanowrimo session, I can feel extremely lonely. It is just me trying to meet a word count goal. It is just me fighting sleep. It is just me as I struggle through a plot hole or character driven conflict. It is just me, writing tirelessly with no end in sight.

For Nanowrimo, the solution to this was to have a writing buddy. For Nanowrimo, I participated in a few in-person write-ins. I also participated in a few virtual write-ins and writing sprints on both the Nanowrimo official website and Twitter.

What this did for me was give me the confidence and encouragement to keep writing. The fact that there was someone — or rather, a group of people — who were there going through what I was going through meant the world to me. We didn’t even have to talk. Just the clickity, clack of the keyboard beside me was enough to give me the motivation to carry on. Just hearing that sound gave me the courage to spring forward to the finish line. Just hearing that sound gave me the determination to win.

Each and every time I participated in Nanowrimo, I was able to hone my craft. I learned the importance of writing every day with a community. I also learned that I must write for myself first, before I can even attempt to write for other people. But most importantly, I learned that writing a book is possible if you have the determination, motivation, and courage to do it.

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Hi! I'm Helen and I am a 32 year old biracial millennial mom raising two multiracial children. I am a writer, English consultant, and social media manager. I am a self-proclaimed chocoholic.

14 thoughts on “4 Things I Learned From Participating in Nanowrimo

  1. I’ve been doing NaNo since 2010 and I have YET to hit over 15k words. This is the first year I attempted as a mom to a toddler and it did NOT go well. The hard part is always that my mental health tumbles in Nov, I should prepare for that better next year!

    But these are great tips to keep in mind; and esp writing every day. I would get that advice a lot.

    1. Thank you! ๐Ÿ™‚ It doesn’t matter how much you write. The fact that you wrote anything at all is an accomplishment in itself . ๐Ÿ™‚

  2. Congratulations on setting out to complete a goal and actually doing it, thatโ€™s really great! Iโ€™ve never participated in nano but I have heard of it. You have a great writing style so your book must be good.

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