So back in June, I joined the off-shoot program JuNoWriMo to try and finish my first manuscript. Did I finish? No. But I learned a lot about my own style of writing, and I got a really great novel idea out of it. The original National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) is coming up in November. Many of my writing friends are joining the fun. Writing a novel in one month sounds impossible. What are the best parts of NaNoWriMo that makes it such a huge presence in the writing community?

I can only speak from my experience with JuNoWriMo, but I can say that there’s a huge sense of community. When I first started this blog, I wrote about feeling the need to connect with other writers in order to stay focused and inspired. While NaNoWriMo is an online community, you do get the sense that you are a part of a huge movement. If you put yourself in a room of at least ten writers, I guarantee at least two have tried NaNoWriMo. Whether you’re participating in that year or if you’re a past participant, the program gives almost a sense of family. For writers who tend to write alone, that sense of connection can be important. And you can get immediate support when part of the program. I can’t tell you how inspiring a virtual pat on the back can be!

For those who like to ride the procrastination roller coaster, joining NaNoWriMo forces you to set very clear writing goals. You measure your progress through word count, and 50,000 words make you a champion. You earn badges as you reach word count goals. We all could use some carrots to help keep the writing wagon going.

So if you finish a novel draft of 50,000 words or more, does that mean you have something publishable? In an article on mediabsitro.com, they talk of several books that started as NaNoWriMo works such as Water for Elephants by Sarah Gruen and The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern. You won’t have a publishable piece straight out of NaNoWriMo, but perhaps what you write could turn into something you can put out in the world (and if you need an editor, check out my WordFalls Services for your editing needs at www.wordfalls.com).

For those who are thinking about using the writing tool Scrivener, there’s a 50% off deal for NaNoWriMo participants who reach their 50,000 word-count goal. If you haven’t used Scrivener yet, consider signing up for their 30-day trial and using it for NaNoWriMo, and then purchase it when you finish. Those 30 days are not consecutive – they’re of usage. Fair warning: the program takes a little getting used to, but Literature & Latte has a lot of helpful videos. Once you learn how to tweak it, Scrivener is an incredible writing tool!

(What do I love about Scrivener? Here’s a list of my few favorite things: virtual corkboard for planning, outlining feature, gathering research and keeping it all in one place for projects, name generator, compatibility with smart phones and tablets, taking a “photo” to keep a record before you change something, the ability to compile your work to create your e-reader files…the list goes on.)

One major tip I would offer before you start your novel with NaNoWriMo is to plan ahead of time. I know that I’ve talked about whether to be a planner or pantser for writing. But if you’re going to finish 50,000 words in a month, a plan is really a good thing to have to help keep you on your word-count goal. Also, you don’t want to waste any of your time having to do major research. Sure, you may find little things you’ll need to research further to add richness to your story, but you can save that for later. If there’s anything major you need to have notes on, do it beforehand. It will just help you be able to focus on the story and reaching your word count goal.

So what if you participate and you either don’t finish or what you have isn’t any good? Let’s be honest – everything we write isn’t always ready for the public eye. And a lot of times, we don’t finish what we started (like my JuNoWriMo project). However, writing at all is practice. We find out more about ourselves like how we write best and what works for us the more we practice.

I don’t see any of the time as being wasted even if you don’t finish or reach the 50,000 word goal. Through my work in June, I got a solid piece to submit for my Dragon*Con intensive writing workshop. From the workshop, I learned a lot about what worked and what didn’t. Through my ruminations on that work, it weirdly led to my current work-in-progress (WIP). So my time with the program in June was definitely not wasted.

And the final question – am I joining NaNoWriMo this year? The answer to that is, sadly, no. Due to my current WIP and where it’s at, I will already be squarely in the middle of it in November. The writing is flowing so well that I’m not going to stop and save it for next month. However, I wish all you future NaNoWriMo participants the best of luck. I will be cheering for you virtually. I would love to know how it goes for you as you’re going through it and as the month finishes. Keep me posted here or through Twitter @jrfalls.

If you can’t participate this year, consider donating to the program. It is run strictly off of donations. You can donate off the home page, or you can help by buying some of their cool swag like a t-shirt. If you’re not participating but you know of a young writer who might be interested, check out their Young Writers Program. There really is something for every writer out there through NaNoWriMo. If you are interested, go sign up today at http://www.nanowrimo.org/ !

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