Four years ago I won Nanowrimo. I dislike saying I won it, as it sounds as if I bought a raffle ticket or that my story was considered the best. It wasn’t. In fact, I didn’t let anyone read it, which was for their own protection. Nanowrimo is short for National Novel Writing Month, and all who succeed in its set goal of writing a 50,000 word manuscript within a month can claim to have won Nanowrimo.

To achieve this goal I wrote around 2000 words every single day for a month. This was sometimes easier than it sounds and often harder. At the time I had a not quite two year old, and I wrote frantically in desperate bursts whenever she was asleep.

What did I dislike about Nanowrimo? There were times when I didn’t know what to write, times when my daughter didn’t sleep or actual real life got in the way, and times when I was convinced I was writing the worst manuscript imaginable. I also didn’t like a lot of things about the forum support. We were placed in virtual camps with other writers, so we could chat and support each other, but my camp mates went AWOL and it was a bit lonely in my tent all by myself. But my dislikes were really just niggles and insecurity.

What did I like? This bit seems more important, because the main thing I liked has stayed with me for the past four years. It left me believing that I could write a novel. Sure, 50,000 words is not long enough for most novels aimed at adult readers (70-80,000 would be more typical), but it is still a really long story. I learnt a lot about the story arc from that experience. In particular, my story climaxed way too soon, and my characters were left floundering, embarrassed. (“I’m sorry, Jennifer, this has never happened to me before. What should we do now? Um… Hopefully we’ll think of something.”)

I liked the discipline of having to write every day, and I especially liked the feeling of worthiness having completed the month with a (somewhat dodgy) manuscript. And the end result was not terrible. It was an okay first draft that, if I wanted, I could edit and improve – but I’m not really interested in doing that. It was a great learning experience, and I often think about it when writing now.

Oh, and the thing that triggered this random musing about the virtues of Nanowrimo? My cup. On completion of Nanowrimo I proudly ordered a mug to celebrate my efforts, and it still makes me smile a little proudly whilst sipping my tea (a difficult feat, but one I have mastered).

Writers, have you tried Nanowrimo? What did you think?