Teens Can Write, Too!

Changing the world's opinion… as soon as we finish this math homework

NaNoWriMo Changes Lives

***(For those who are unfamiliar with NaNoWriMo, you can learn more about it here. Spoiler: it’s awesome.)*** 

Today I have the honor of welcoming Miriam Joy, who is here to share her experiences with NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) in hopes that it will inspire you all as you work through your own novels. I would elaborate, but I love her post so much that I’d rather it speak for itself.


NaNoWriMo changed my life.

Sounds dramatic, doesn’t it? But it’s true. Before I participated in NaNo in 2009, I’d never written a novel. I’d never even finished anything of note. Writing was a vague dream, something I enjoyed and wanted to do but had no real expectation that I’d be able to make a life that way.

My NaNoWriMo journey began where many of my journeys and friendships did: Protagonize. A writers’ website I’d been a member of for just a few months, I’d already made several friends among the community, including Charley and Cathryn with whom I’m still pretty close. Around November time, everybody was talking about this thing called NaNo.

I didn’t know what it was, but it sounded interesting, and finally I got around to looking it up – on November 7th. Sitting at my desk in front of the window with the fireworks going off outside, I signed up for an experience that would alter everything.

I had no plot. No characters. No idea how to write a novel. But I started writing that day not because I wanted a novel – but because I wanted to prove I could. Because 50,000 words would be the evidence to all those people who said ‘You’ll never do it’ and ‘writing’s a waste of time’.
15 days later I turned around to those people and showed them the 50k manuscript. Ah, but I had more than that. I had a novel.

It was terrible! Filled with joke plot written to amuse the only four people who’d ever read it, self-insert characters and appalling clichéd dialogue, it will never see the light of day unless I take just a few elements of it and scrap the rest. Yet it was the start of something amazing. Before then, I’d never completed anything over 20k, and I’d never written a novel, and suddenly I’d discovered that actually, I could. This was something I could do.

So I did it again. I wrote another novel in December of that year. Another in March of 2010; another spanning April to May; two more for NaNoWriMo that winter. And a couple of them were salvageable and a couple of them were useless, but one thing was clear: each scrappy first draft that I wrote was slightly less scrappy than the last one, and actually, I was pretty good at this.

Many writers spend years on one book, and that’s not my style. I’m a child of National Novel Writing Month and I binge-write. I’ll spend a month editing, a month writing, a month off – rinse and repeat until finished. I don’t write slowly, with the exception of St Mallory’s Forever! (a collaborative novel with Charley Robson and Saffina Desforges that’s been in progress for well over a year). My technique is very much ‘get it all on paper, edit later’. But that works for me.

This year, I’m changing that slightly. I’m planning. I want a novel that is well-structured, where the only editing that happens will be to improve the writing itself because the plot isn’t flawed, where I know what’s happening and don’t fill gaps with filler chapters and wordpadding. I want a novel that’s good.

If I were still writing for the four people who read that first novel, it wouldn’t matter about the structure or the plot. But I’m not. There’s more to it than that these days.

Because, you see, writing is now my life. Writing is everything that I am and everything that I want to do. And without NaNoWriMo, I would never have written my first novel, so I have the Office of Letters and Light to thank for my skills and my obsession.

I’m a child of National Novel Writing Month, and they changed my life.


About Michael Waters

I'm Michael, I'm eighteen, and I blog about YA books for Barnes & Noble.

16 comments on “NaNoWriMo Changes Lives

  1. M. Saint-Germain
    November 4, 2012

    Wow, Miriam! What a great post. I love your voice and your commitment. You’re an inspiration to so many. Well done! Will you please, please guest post at my blog too? We’d love to have you. (John, I hope it’s okay to ask.) I have so many questions for you.
    Keep writing,

  2. maelilly
    November 4, 2012

    You’re plan seems similar to mine and it’s my first year too 😀 except I had a bit of an idea of what to do and I’d had a week of planning, and yes I love the idea, I need things like this to make me write. though at the moment I’m only at 3,000 something [can’t remember the tally] I’m actually new to write 1,000 in a day [that’s why I’m a little behind] but you are so inspiring I might just go off and write another several thousand or something.

    • Miriam Joy
      December 3, 2012

      Ehehe, well, I like to know I’m inspirational…
      Sorry for not replying to your comment before now, I forgot to check the comment section of the post. *headdesk*

  3. loonytuney
    November 5, 2012

    My first year doing NaNoWriMo and I’m up to 27k already! It’s amazing how far you’ve come, and I hope I can take as much as you have from NaNo. Great post 🙂

    • Miriam Joy
      November 5, 2012

      That’s pretty impressive, keep going. NaNo definitely gives more to different people – I hope you take something from it too 😀

  4. Charley R
    November 5, 2012

    Haha, she puts me to shame, she really does. I shouldn’t hang out with this girl!
    Awesometastic post, Miriam!

    Now . . . back to that novel. 10k in, but that’s nowhere near enough for me!

    • Miriam Joy
      November 5, 2012

      You worry me every time you say you shouldn’t hang out with me. DO NOT LEAVE ME!

      • Charley R
        November 5, 2012

        NEVER! I mean it figuratively, and as a joke. Very much as a joke. *hugs*

  5. bandersontps
    November 5, 2012

    I’m at a pretty 11K. Things aren’t going totally to plan, but I’m finally getting to a good part.

  6. seersha
    November 5, 2012

    Last year I did NaNo for the first time and barely passed 4k. This year I decided to go again, but I actually planned things ahead of time. I think the reason why I couldn’t make it last year was that I was too obsessed with sounding exactly right.
    This year I’m not even proofreading. Probably the only reason I’m already near 8k, but hey; at least it’s working! It’s especially exciting because I usually write, at most, 2ks for each story I write; even the ideas I fall in love with. So, yay progress!

  7. Miss Alexandrina
    November 5, 2012

    Awesome stuff, Miriam. I have to say, I think NaNo changed my life, too. Well, I’m not particpating thi year, due to uni stuff, but the year I did do it, NaNo aside (I didn’t write 50K in a month, but, eventually, 70K in four months! 😛 Can’t speed write), it left me with something more solid than I had had before.
    Alex 🙂

    • Miriam Joy
      December 3, 2012

      Absolutely. Even if 50k in a month doesn’t work for you – it happens to, for me – NaNo is still a push to do SOMETHING, and it’s often the kickstarter we need.

  8. Pingback: It’s Not About Writing « Miriam Joy Writes

  9. Pingback: Writing Advice, Agent Interviews, Teen Authors, And More | Teens Can Write, Too!

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