In case you've been living in a cave with no connection to the outside world, November is National Novel Writing Month. The goal is to write 50,000 words of a novel between 12:01 a.m. on November 1st and 11:59 p.m. on November 30. That averages out to about 1,667 words per day.
Mind you, they don't have to be great words. They don't have to be good words. Sometimes they don't even have to make sense. The challenge is to tap into your creative center and let the sentences pour forth. It's a strict rule that you can't delete anything from the first draft. Everything goes in your quest to meet your word quota.
Not all writers love NaNo, but I'm a huge fan. If you haven't given it a try yet, here are a few good reasons why you should.
1. It Separates You from Your Inner Critic
You don't have to kill your critic off or put her in chains. After all, you'll need her alive and well for the revision process, but for just 30 days, imagine that he or she has gone to a spa or a conference for frustrated English teachers. This will free you up to write your worst--and, paradoxically, your best.
2. You Can Have Fun with Writing
I write for a living, and while I love what I do, most of my assignments aren't really that much fun. When you're participating in NaNo, though, you can be as crazy as you like. Want to add ten monkeys to a story just to see what happens? Drop them in! Sick of your main character? Give him a case of the plague and let the chaos begin.
3. It Gives You the Chance to Commit to Your Own Projects
Most of the time when I'm writing, I'm busy with other people's projects and concerns. When I write my NaNo novel, though, I'm writing just for me. I can take on any topic I like and be as serious or as frivolous as I like, and no one will ever know.
4. You Can Meet Other Writers
Don't try to plod through NaNo alone. Half the fun is participating in word sprints on Twitter or sharing your agony or ecstasy in the NaNo forums. The socialization is fun, and you may even make some lasting friendships.
5. Experiment with New Styles
Since your NaNo novel is your project and yours alone, you can use it to practice new styles of writing. If you're used to writing in the first person, for instance, write your novel in third person or even in second person. Or write from the point of view of a character who gives you the willies or who stands for everything you hate.
6. Learn What You're Capable Of
I started NaNoWriMo in good form last year. Then I let a week and a half sneak past without writing a word. I woke up on November 30 with 7000 words to go to meet the quota. I was sure I couldn't possibly do it...but I did. When you set a challenge for yourself, you may be amazed at how well you rise to the occasion.
7. Have a Success Experience
Humans thrive on success, especially on big successes. NaNo can offers a chance to make yourself proud and happy, and those feelings will carry over into other aspects of your life. (Note: You don't even have to hit 50,000 words to have a success experience. If the most you've ever written is two pages, and you complete ten or twenty, you've still "won.")
8. Claim Bragging Rights
Writing 50,000 words in 30 days is a real challenge. Don't be shy about tooting your own horn and letting your friends know what you've accomplished.
9, It's a Get Out of Jail Free Card
Don't want to spend Thanksgiving with the in-laws this year? Beg off, explaining how you'll be spending all day working on your novel. The novel excuse can also be used to get you out of doing various chores, as long as you don't overplay your hand.
10. You May End up with Something Publishable
Okay, I'll be honest. The book I ended up with last year was not publishable, at least, not without a lot of editing and re-writing. But if you're lucky, you may come up with something that will boost your career as well as your confidence.
So, why not go ahead and sign up for NaNoWriMo? At worst, you won't complete your word count. At best, you'll have a fun experience and end up with something you can use.
P.S. I'm glad to be "buddies" with any NaNo writers. My user name on the site is DebraStang.