Today, I was writing a check and feeling all proud of myself for remembering to write 2017 instead of 2016, when I realized it’s freaking November! In less than two months I’ll have to remember to write 2018. How did that happen? I’ll tell you how it happened. I’ve been busy. And when you’re busy, time flies. This year I’ve been extra busy and time has flown by extra fast, so fast, in fact, I think I have whiplash! I’m ready for some downtime.

So, that’s why I signed up for NaNoWriMo. (Read that last part with dripping sarcasm.)

For those of you unfamiliar with NaNoWriMo, it’s a nonprofit organization that encourages people to write the novel they have always wanted to write during the month of November. NaNo, as I like to lovingly call it, does this by creating a cool website and launching a fun campaign that runs each November challenging folks to write fifty thousand words in thirty days. Yes, that’s 50,000 words. But they make it fun. By breaking it down into 1667 words each day, they take a daunting task and make it doable. The idea is to write straight through, no editing, no revising, just spew the story out. All of the other stuff comes later. In November you just write. And at the end of November, you’ll have 50K words, which is a decent start to a novel.

I love NaNoWriMo. I’ve done it for seven years and I have seven manuscripts because of it. My first novel, Life in High Def, started in NaNoWriMo. My upcoming fourth book, Without a Net, also started in NaNoWriMo. This year’s effort, a story I’ve called An Idiot’s Guide to Love also promises to become a manuscript I think I’ll take all the way to publishing. So, the NaNo effort pays off.

The NaNo challenge encourages me to step up my game and it changes how I write. Normally, I edit as I go and it takes me a few months to write 50K words. But, it’s hard to write 1667 words a day. Especially since I have a full-time job, an active family, and a social life. November is also a busy time for our family, with a few birthdays and Thanksgiving factoring into everything. This year has been particularly challenging, though, because the ill-health fairy decided to gift me with a nifty case of shingles, which set me back a few days last week. The painful buggers are still vibrant and alive, however. Either my nerve endings have gone numb or my pain tolerance has gone up a notch or two, but either way, I can deal with them better now. Writing is even helping me to ignore them a little.

I’ve also made a few friends through the challenge. My writing buddies. We cheer each other on, write together in word sprints, share our victories, and complain about our setbacks. In the month of November, this solitary work of writing that we do becomes a communal thing. I find myself longing for it during other parts of the year.

So, it’s a crazy thing I do each year, this NaNoWriMo challenge. I sacrifice all of my spare time and I stress over word counts. But, I guess they wouldn’t call it a challenge if it were easy. As difficult as it can be, what I get out of it is so much more than a great start to a new novel.

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