Why I do NaNoWriMo

Why I do NaNoWriMo

How National Novel Writing Month helps me as a writer.

November is National Novel Writing Month, an annual challenge in which participants attempt to write 50,000 words during the course of the month.  Although I am not always successful, I participate in NaNoWriMo every year, and have ever since 2006.

I've also been a freelance writer since 2005, so one might question why it is that I got started doing NaNoWriMo.  Early on, I found that as a full-time freelancer, I rarely ever got around to working on my own projects -- I always felt guilty about neglecting paying work from clients in order to write fiction or work on an ebook idea of my own.  Yet not just writing for a living, but writing fiction, has been my dream ever since I was old enough to really know what I wanted to be when I grew up.

Enter NaNoWriMo.Doing a challenge like NaNo, complete with a goal and a deadline, forced me to get both my client work and my own writing done.  Fifty thousand words in a month works out to about 1,667 words per day, which is a significant -- but not impossible -- commitment.  At a minimum, it requires an hour a day, but depending on how fast I write (and that varies according to the type of scene or how immersed in my writing I am at the time) I more often need an hour and a half or two hours.

I "won" (reached 50k) the very first year I did NaNoWriMo, but for years after that I fizzled out shortly after starting -- I think because I never had another story idea that was compelling enough to inspire that kind of speed in my writing.  Last year, however, I started used NaNoWriMo to finish the first in a series of novels that are extremely compelling to me.  (No, I don't always follow the NaNoWriMo rules of starting a new novel at the beginning of the month -- I just keep track of new word count during the month if I use it to continue working on a project I've already started.)  Then, this year, I participated in Camp NaNoWriMo for the first time, and started the second book in August.  I "won" both sessions, and plan on using next month to finish the second book.

What about you?  If you do NaNoWriMo, or are planning to do it this year, why do you participate?  Is it just for fun, for motivation, or for another reason, such as extra credit in school (I have heard of some teachers offering that)?