Yes. Absolutely yes.
At this point in the internet I think everyone who writes or is in some way related to writing is aware of the existence of Nano, no matter their opinion on the subject. I know agents and publishers live in dread of the uneducated masses who will heap their unedited “masterpieces” on the world come December and I know some people just can’t figure how anything useful comes out of stuffing 50K words into a month.
Reasons why Nano is Awesome and Everyone Should Try it:
1. It gets things done. Nano claims to promote “literary abandon” – the idea that you should just write without dwelling on whether you’re using too many adverbs or if your first character has a silly name or if space octopi really would eat only kumquats. The point is that we get hung up on things all the time; Nano encourages you to just push past it and let the story flow.
2. It builds community. Yes, writing is a solitary activity. Only you can write your novel. However no one said you had to do it alone. Admittedly sometimes when I attend a write-in occasionally I spend more time socializing than writing, but Nano has helped me find critique partners, beta-readers, and a writing group, all of which have been instrumental in helping me improve as a writer.
3. It’s not that hard. Some people will probably want to punch me for saying that, but it really truly isn’t. If you want to be a writer, if this is something you want to do with your life, it’s not that hard to write 50K in a month. I try to write 2K every day. It takes me about an hour and a half, give or take (depending on the flow and if I need to research something, etc). You should be writing, editing, submitting, polishing or in some way working on your writing every day anyway. Dedication of a few hours of your day to the craft is something to be expected. Especially if you have at least a basic outline beforehand, Nano can fly.
4. It’s fun. Now, you don’t need to do Nano to write 50K in a month, but if you do, then you get to experience Nano. It is truly unique, unlike any other writing contest or challenge I have ever participated in otherwise. Nano is a force of nature, a wild, crazy, exhilarating ride. It’s silly at times, profound at others, but always itself. And between the word wars, plot ninjas, plotbunnies, trebuchets, lesbian pirate cabbages and all the other madness that gets mixed in (to the event, not necessarily your novel) you will never ever be bored.
5. It allows experimentation. Now, at this point, eight years into the madness, I work mostly on serious projects, even during Nano. But Nano is a time when anything goes. You can try out new genres. You can try out new POVs. You can try out new structures. Everything you’ve ever wanted to try, why not try now? The forums are full of people who are willing to help you out on whatever endeavor.
6. It’s life-changing. When I first did Nano, I wrote occasionally, mostly short things I thought would amuse my friends, a short story here or there, several stalled novels, nothing to write home about. I would have said I liked to write, but not that I was a writer. That first Nano I didn’t win, but it opened the flood gates. It allowed me to say – hey, I like this, I want to do this. It taught me that I have the ability to plot an entire novel and, perhaps most important of all, that I was fully capable of doing so.
I know I’m not the only one who’s felt this. I’ve seen the awe with which Chris Baty (the founder) is regarded (though he always seems a little confused by that fact). One Nano staffer told me last year that someone from elsewhere in the States stopped by the office on vacation and honestly burst into tears when she met Chris. The realization that you are capable, the good things Nano brings with it – they are heartwarming.
And nothing, nothing my friends, compares to crossing 50K. Even if you’ve done it before. Even if you suspect you left a plot thread in chapter three. Surrounded by people doing the same thing at the same time, cheering you on – knowing that, until December, all that’s important is the journey.
Do Nano. It rocks.