NaNoWriMo, or National Novel Writing Month, is an international event during the month of November in which writers all over take the personal challenge to write out a 50,000 word novel in 30 days. I was instantly intrigued when I first heard about this, and decided to use this challenge as my excuse to finally sit down and write out one of those stories I've had floating around in my head for so long. I learned a lot about writing that first November, but more than anything, I learned that writing was hard. That first "novel" I wrote up was complete and total garbage. And yet, I didn't regret the experience, because, in taking the challenge, I learned so much more about the art of writing than anything I've ever read in any "how to" book.
In the years that followed, I applied what I had learned in order to prepare for the next year's events. And, after three years of participating in NaNoWriMo and becoming more involved with the local writing community, one of the things I learned was that the NaNoWriMo style of "get it all down now and go back to fix it all later" just does not work for me at all. In fact, that's one of the most important things about writing that I've learned, is that each and every single writer is different. What works for one person might not necessarily work for somebody else. Everybody has their own different approaches, which is why I've grown increasingly wary of those same "how to" books and writing advice pieces that I alluded to before. So much of the advice out there is presented as strict rules that every writer absolutely must adhere to, when really, they should be presented merely as ideas to keep in mind and give a try, but should you find that it doesn't apply to you, then by all means, disregard that particular "rule".
However, in order to get to that point, you obviously have to start somewhere first, which is why even though the NaNoWriMo style of writing doesn't work for me personally, I still can't recommend it enough as the best possible starting point for any aspiring writer. In those 30 days of churning out word after word, you'll eventually discover your own unique approach to writing. Whether you're an under-writer like me or an over-writer like the majority, or whether you have to plan everything out beforehand or just gotta go in with an idea and see where your words take you, you'll discover all of this and more about your own personal writing abilities when you take the challenge.
I don't actually partake in NaNoWriMo anymore, preferring a much slower, more deliberate and more organized pace over the more frantic nature of November. But if it wasn't for taking the challenge that first year, all those stories I've got in my head would likely still be floating around up there, never to see the light of day. So for those of you who aspire to be a writer yourself, I'd say it's definitely worth a shot. You can find out more on the event at the official NaNoWriMo website, and nowadays there's also Camp NaNoWriMo, which is a more scaled down version of the event that takes place a couple different months out of the year, in case November's not a good time of year for you.
So that's how I got my start with this whole writing ordeal. And for you other writers out there, I'd love to hear from you and learn how you all got your start as well!