NaNoWriMo - National Novel Writing Month. When over 150,000 writers from around the world get together and attempt to write 50,000 words in the space of 30 days. It kicks off on the 1st of November - minutes away as I write these words - and ends at the closing of the 30th. Your goal: write 50,000 words or more of a novel, and paste the words into a little counting widget on http://www.nanowrimo.org so that you will be verified as a winner. It's all honor system. There's no big award (you do get a certificate you can print out and sign yourself). It's not about who gets to win, but rather about challenging yourself to do something difficult on a deadline.
For me, NaNo is pretty special. Not least of the reason for that is that my wife and I have done it together the past two years. This will be our third, and our four year olds are joining us this year as well. They're doing fifty sentences and fifty pictures over the month - after all, a picture is worth a thousand words, right?! When they're done, I'll do the scanning and layout to get their work into a PDF, and we'll send it out to get them each a copy. Hey, how many four year olds get to hold and enjoy a picture book which they wrote and illustrated? Start 'em young, I say!
NaNo is also special because I credit it with giving me a fresh start on writing. I used to write. I used to write often. Then I took a long break from any serious writing as my life took other directions. When my wife wandered across NaNoWriMo in October 2008 and suggested we try it together, it was a reawakening. I took an idea that had been burning in the back of my mind for years, and turned it into a book. Then...I let writing drop again.
Last year, I did NaNo again. This time, I had a fresh idea, something new and different from anything I had written before (a historical novel). I slogged through it for weeks, and at the end of the 29th, I was just shy of 25,000 words completed, even though I'd put in over 6,000 that day. Yeah, I let it go very late.
Midnight rolled past, and I wrote until 2am. I woke, ate something, and wrote. I broke to make the family lunch, then wrote. I broke to make and eat a fast dinner, then wrote. And at 11:30, I posted my novel to the NaNo website, having completed over 25,000 words in less than 24 hours time (probably in about 15 hours of actually writing). And darn it, reading over the work - it wasn't half bad. Not half bad at all, for a rough draft.
I was elated. I was exhilarated. I was stunned.
That was when the idea really became fixed in my head: I can do this. I can write, and write well. I can write, and get novels finished. I can hone those novels, and get send them out into the world. I can do this.
Today I am working to build a career as a novelist. That's a dream that a couple of years ago I could never have imagined dreaming again, and it's because of NaNoWriMo that I can.
I invite you to join me. Toss your inner editor out the window, believe in yourself, and just WRITE - for one magical month.
I will do it because I can. You can, too.