NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel Writing Month. Their website explains it better than I can.
I first heard about it from Rachael and some of the other knitbloggers back in the day. I was intrigued by the idea, and even participated in the Knit a Sweater in the month of November version, known as NaNoSweMo.
Two years ago, because the only writing I had been doing was the endless repetition of sending out my resume and why I would be the be perfect candidate for the position pieces, I decided to give the contest a go.
If you have known me for more than five minutes you know that I am just the teensiest bit competitive. Ahem.
So, I'd been writing on a deadline for work for a number of years, under some pretty serious pressure to get the details right, and I figured, what the heck. At least I'd be entertained by telling myself stories.
I got up every morning at 4AM to write. I wrote until my word count was above the curve in the graph, and occasionally checked to see how I was doing in comparison to other writers. I wrote on airplanes, in waiting rooms, before job interviews. I wrote on Thanksgiving day while the meal was cooking.
I didn't tell anybody I was writing.
I finished the contest and won. I saved my WINNER certificate to the hard drive, and figured I could check off another bucket list item. I'd written a book.
Last year, utterly bored by the job seeking process, I entered again. This time, I got up every morning at 4AM and was absolutely astonished by what the characters were doing. It wasn't the book I started out to write, and it wasn't following my outline or my spreadsheet, or any of my other plans, but I decided to go with it. I couldn't wait to get to the laptop to see what in the world was going to happen, or not happen, next. I was completely hooked.
I saved another WINNER certificate and started getting emails about editing and revising from the good folks at NaNoWriMo. So I started editing and revising and editing some more. I realized that the writing of a first draft is NOT the same as actually writing a BOOK. I sent the first draft out to some early readers, and went back to editing and revising. I used the feedback to edit and revise some more.
I talked to some published authors about NaNoWriMo. Most of them said they could NEVER have done that, and they admired anybody who could. "That is a boatload of words to write in a day, every single day," one of them said. "Not something I would even attempt. It took me five years to write my first book."
I met with a Publisher, and casually mentioned that I had completed NaNoWriMo two years in a row. I was very surprised when he congratulated me on the accomplishment. "LOTS of people start writing, not many of them finish. They fall in love with the IDEA of writing, but the follow through is what counts." The hair on the back of my neck stood up. One of my Daddy's favorite sayings popped into my consciousness "Life is a lot like tennis. You are only as good as your follow through."
I was beginning to think I could legitimately call myself a writer.
Thank you, NaNoWriMo.