First off, I’d like to proudly say that, as of day 16, I am more or less on schedule and very pleased with the way things are going. I have to say though, I much prefer writing new stuff than rewriting and editing. It can be quite a drag.
But that’s not what today is about. Today is NaNo Inspired Day, a day to talk about what inspires us and how the NaNo community in particular has inspired us. This November will be my fourth year of NaNo, and in those four years, I have come a long way, both as a writer and a person. Goodness, you can tell that much just by reading my old reviews (actually, I highly encourage you not to do that). Most of this I can attribute to just maturing and gaining experiences, but NaNo has played a part in that, too. NaNo has pushed me to reach beyond what I think is possible for myself as a writer. Without NaNo, I don’t think I ever would have finished my first novel.
In 2012, I was about 20,000 words into my first novel when I saw on Veronica Roth’s tumblr page a post about something called National Novel Writing Month. As a new writer, constantly searching for inspiration and advice, I was mystified by this glorious website where some of my favorite authors had actually taken the time to write advice to people like me. Naturally, I joined right away. So did I technically win my first year? That would be a no, but it still shows up that way. Oh well. But the point is, I actually finished my first novel. Is it an absolute train wreck? Of course. Will I ever attempt to edit it again (after 3 or so attempts)? Probably not. But I learned a valuable lesson: I can do this. Every time I started a novel in the past, I would think to myself: Oh, this is just some random kick you’re on. Give it a week and you’ll never come back to it. And that’s what always happened. The only things I had ever finished were two God-awful fanfictions that we don’t talk about. But in November 2012, I learned that I could write something original, something that my friends would beg me to let them borrow my iPad so they could read it. Few things are better than the pride you feel when you finish a novel, especially when it’s your first one.
My third year was when I really changed. First of all, I gave myself my most challenging plot yet and had a ton and fun writing it. Second of all, I discovered the off-season workshops at a library near me. I now go to those whenever I can, and I have learned so much from those. I remember feeling a bit intimidated at first, because I had obviously come in to a very close knit group of writers (all of whom were a lot older than me, which didn’t help with the intimidating-ness), most of whom were already published or being published. I also went to the NaNo 2014 kickoff party and I finally was able to meet some other teen writers in my area, which was an incredible experience. It made me feel like I wasn’t crazy for doing all of this writing before I even graduated high school.
Thanks in part to everything I learned from the workshops, my good friend and I started a creative writing club at my school. I learned more from teaching writing than I ever learned from how-to books and internet articles. I even got a few people to attempt NaNo with me. It was a fun experience, and for shy, quiet me, it was a huge step in coming out of my shell.
That’s another thing NaNo and the writing club have done for me. I used to be very hesitant and embarassed to talk about my writing. Now, I am much more open about being a writer, and I’m not afraid to say ‘yes, I’ve written 4 novels.’ (Funny Story: I read a thing I had written when we were working on dialogue in my English class and one person said, “Dang, you should write books,” and I turned around and said “I’ve already written four.” Best. Reaction. Ever.). The confidence I have gained in my writing and, by extension, myself, is invaluable. That alone has made the challenge of writing a novel in a month worth it.
To all of you out there who are writing your first novel, or thinking about starting one, here’s what I want you to know:
- You can do it. Don’t get that mindset like I got, because you will pull yourself into a vicious cycle of disappointment. Don’t let yourself think negative thoughts, because you can do it. If seventh grade me could do it, so can you.
- There are people out there who want to read what you write. This is especially important if you are looking to get published. If someone, even if it was a close friend of mine or a hundred people or so on Wattpad, would read MY first novel, trust me, someone out there wants to read yours. Follow that old advice, write what you want to read. There’s always someone out there with the same taste as you.
- This is something an author told me around this time last year: Write because you have to write. Don’t write for word count, don’t write to win NaNo, write because you have a story inside you that you have to get on the page. Remember, writing should be fun. Don’t get so caught up in competition and other people’s expectations that you lose your passion.
- Get involved. Look at your NaNo region’s page. See if there are workshops and write ins that you can go to. Trust me, having a community of other writers, some more experienced than you, some less experienced, is amazing. You will learn so much, and it will make writing, especially around NaNo time, so much more fun.