I won NaNoWriMo 2016. My prize is the first 50,000 words of an unfinished first draft. It is very difficult to write a novel in 30 days, and 50,000 words doesn’t qualify as a full-length novel. So, what exactly do you win when you win NaNoWriMo?
You win a start. Getting started is typically the hardest part of any endeavor. We may have a good idea and may have fleshed out some pieces of character and plot. Until we sit down and write, the ideas are nothing more than thoughts floating around in our head. We need an impetus to get us writing. NaNoWriMo puts a date on the calendar when we can commit ourselves to putting our ideas into words.
You win discipline. All you need to do is write 1,667 words a day for 30 days to reach 50,000. But you have to carve out the time to write those words. I had to wake up earlier in the morning, write during lunch breaks at work, and use Scrivener for iOS to write while doing errands (including all that Black Friday shopping). It meant cutting back on social media (a blessing during this particular election) and scrolling past tempting clickbait. Writing becomes a priority.
You win momentum. Once you start writing, you inhabit the world of your novel. You think about your characters and plot, you listen to music that fits into the story, and you research to get more information about the world your characters inhabit. Once you enter that world, you don’t want to leave. That sprint towards 50,000 keeps you moving to complete all of the other words you need for your story. You have to resist the temptation to stop.
NaNoWriMo is only a start, but a good start. And having 50,000 words of an unfinished manuscript is better than no words at all. That is why finishing NaNoWriMo qualifies as a win.