I’m sorry to anyone who isn’t interested in National Novel Writing Month, because a lot of my posts are going to be about it this month. But you know, to me, NaNoWriMo is about more than the writing and the wordcount and the NaNoisms, hilarious as they are.
Earlier this week I wrote a guest post for the Teens Can Write Too blog on how NaNoWriMo changed my life. That was about writing. But that’s not what NaNoWriMo means to me, really. When it boils down to it, what’s the month really about? 50,000 words? I managed that in three and a half days this year. Writing something new? Yes, that’s a part of it, since it’s my first new project since last NaNo, due to editing eating my soul. Write-ins and overcaffeination? They’re fun, but…
NaNo is more than that.
See, for me, I love the NaNoWriMo forums. They’re a total time suck, don’t get me wrong – I’ll go on and find myself still laughing at NaNoisms (also known as hilarious typos, fourth wall breakages, and the results of typing while falling asleep) an hour later. And yet at the same time, the opportunity to communicate with so many other writers, some published, some just starting out, is amazing.
I generally live in the NaNoWriMo Ate My Soul forum, which used to be called ‘I Hate Myself And Want To Die’ until they changed it a few years back. It’s mostly full of people for whom the month is going badly, and who will only reach 50k if they resort to some desperate measures, but there are a few of us who live there despite high word counts.
The Spork Room is a support network. This year, the thread opens with these words:
Cry here, we have tissues.
Rant here, we have hugs.
Congratulate yourself here, we have cheerleading ability.
No matter what, as long as you respect everyone, we will listen. We’re cool like that.
And include a Spork in your novel.
(The ‘spork in the novel’ part is optional, I’m hoping.) So basically, we sit there, and we let people rant.
There are a lot of rants. I’ve contributed a fair few. I’ve been hanging out in this forum for two years solid now – there are several of us who don’t leave when November ends, and there’s also another (semi-secret) Spork Room that runs independently of the NaNo site, into which I was initiated earlier this year. That makes it sounds so dramatic. (It’s really not.)
The introduction basically sums up the nature of the thread. You go there when your novel is going badly and you hate all of your characters. Or your computer just crashed and lost 3000 words, or your entire novel file got corrupted and is gone. Forever. You go there when real life is getting you down, when you’re ill or struggling to cope or there’s somebody in your life who is just making everything horrible. You go there when you need hugs and you need someone to talk to.
And we listen. And we hug. And we don’t mind your 1000 word rants because we’ve all shared ours. Hell, I was over there the other day crying about my Merlin feels. They don’t judge. They just offer sympathy. (“I know those feels. Supernatural does it to me all the time.”) We know a lot about each other. We know when people have been sick or their difficulties with their family or when cramps are stopping them writing, and no one is embarrassed to tell their story.
We have parodies of songs rewritten to be about NaNoWriMo – often from Veggie Tales, though I’ve contributed a Frank Turner parody (‘NaNoWriMo Fatigue’) and a Simon & Garfunkel parody (‘The Spork of Writers’ to the tune of ‘The Sound Of Silence’). We have links to hilarious pictures and videos. We make each other smile.
For me, the Spork Room is everything that’s good about the internet. It’s supportive and not judgemental and full of like minded people.
It’s not the only thread that I love, but it’s brilliant and I owe it a lot.
I’ve made many friends through NaNoWriMo – some of them in the forums, as I’ve said above. Others are people I met at write-ins who added me on Facebook and Twitter before I’d even left the coffee shop (mildly creepy, Karl, but I’ll forgive you), or the people who recognised me from write-ins TWO YEARS AGO when I looked completely different and had long hair.
These people are wonderful.
And so for me, NaNoWriMo isn’t about the wordcount or what I produce in marathon writing sprints. It’s not even about the writing. It’s about the opportunity to make friends with so many other writers, to support them in their writing and personal lives, and to have their support in mine. It’s about watching your school friends write a novel for the first time.
That’s what I love about it.
So those people who dismiss it because “you don’t even find it a challenge”, you’re right. I’m not doing this for the ‘challenge’. I’m doing it for the people.