For those who are as yet unaware: National Novel Writing Month, commonly abbreviated as NaNoWriMo, is a 30 day literary challenge in which each participant strives to write 50,000 words before midnight on the last day of the month. All of these words must be written during the month of the event, which is November. And contrary to the name, it's actually inter-national now.
But what's the point, you ask? The point is to let go of your doubts, your fears, that voice in your head that says you can't/shouldn't/have-no-business doing something. In this case that something is writing a novel. A lot of new and established writers deal with doubts about their work. NaNo give you an excuse to force those doubts from your mind, suck it up, and just write the first draft.
On to the reasons!
Reason 1: Anti-Someday
Have you been thinking about writing a book someday? Ever noticed that someday never seems to come around? Half of everything is just showing up. If you want to write a book, you have to "show up" to write it. Sit down and do this thing. NaNo can be very helpful with that. It's only one month out of a year. And if you try and decide it's not for you, that's fine. NaNo asks the question: why wait until someday when you could write it in Nowvember? Yes, I made up that word. I like it, and I shall keep it.
Reason 2: Motivation
Maybe you're already writing but you've hit a slump, or a block, or like me you couldn't self-motivate to save your asterisk. Well it's oddly motivating to have several hundred thousand people all over the world doing this with you. Everyone writes their own story, but you're all writing at the same time. If you're competitive, you can use your writing buddies' word counts as motivation to do better. If you're not competitive, there's still the self-challenge, which isn't much to ask for one month. I do most of my writing in November. Why? Because NaNo is highly motivating for me.
Oh, and before I forget, you don't have to be a novelist to participate. The Rebels forum is full of people who are writing non-fiction, memoirs, short story collections, etc. You can even work on an existing story, as long as you only count words written during the event.
Reason 3: Support
The site is jam-packed with people who know the joys and pains of writing. Whatever you're going through, someone else has been there. Need advice, or just a place to vent about a character who won't behave? Go to the forums or NaNoMail a buddy.
There are Pep Talks too, to boost your spirits in those middle days when your momentum is flagging. This year alone we will have pep talks by Bella Andre, James Patterson, and Patrick Rothfuss, and those are only a few of the well-known authors who will help us along our journey. Also writing pep talks: NaNo veterans and staff who have been there and done it, and quite literally have the t-shirts.
Reason 4: Community
This is sort of related to support, but goes to a whole other level. There are inside jokes, and tips, and entire fora devoted to helping you on your NaNo journey. Need a name, a plot twist, a bit of dialogue or a title? Check out the Adoptables. Have a research issue? Try the reference desk. Plot holes the size of small European nations? Go to Plot Doctoring. Can't decide between two or more things? Post in the polling booth to get opinions from others.
There are genre lounges, and age groups, and fan groups, there's even a forum called "NaNoWriMo Ate My Soul" for people having trouble (though I think I've laughed more in that one than any of the others, except maybe "Adopt a Villain Catchphrase"). The world of NaNo is also organized into geographic regions so you can connect with other writers in your area, if that's something you want to do.
Throughout the forums the rule is friendliness and help. There is a real sense that we're in this thing together. We cry on each others' proverbial shoulders and celebrate each others' successes, and we all share a unique experience. Win or lose, we are WriMos. And we are awesome!
Reason 5: It's fun!
I won't lie, the first year was terrifying and nerve-wracking, but it was also amazing. Each year since the fear gets less and so far the fun keeps going. This will be my fifth NaNo, and it's something I look forward to each year. In fact, it something a lot of people look forward to. There are many, many repeat WriMos.
We have a great time bonding over strange things that appear on our computer screens, especially when we're writing while tired, or fun typos. There's a forum called "Games, Diversions, & other Exciting Forms of Procrastination" that's full of word games and such. There are word wars, which I've never done but I hear are a ton of enjoyment and also help with the word count. People write songs about NaNo, poems about NaNo, there's even a musical about NaNo (look it up on YouTube; it's great!). NaNoToons, an ongoing, event-specific comic about fictional WriMos, is awesome!
Some people have parties, and write-ins. And if you win, there's a certificate, special offers from the sponsors, and if you like you can buy that year's one-of-a-kind-design winner's t-shirt (see last line of Reason 3). Not to mention this little detail of having written a novel.
Well, it's late and I have novel-planning to do. I apologize if I forgot anything, and I'd be happy to answer any questions you have.