NaNoWriMo changed things, but it’s okay. Really.

Chances are good you know me from National Novel Writing Month, a writing challenge where participants write a 50,000-word novel from scratch.

Wait. Scratch that.

From the NaNo FAQ:

Do I have to start my novel from scratch on the first of the month? Can I use an outline?

We think NaNoWriMo works best when you start a brand-new project. However, what’s most important is being excited about what you’re writing. If you want to work on a pre-existing project, you have our full support!

Wait a minute, that’s not “from scratch”.

This change is a recent one that will start to take effect for NaNo 2014. You don’t HAVE to start your novel from scratch anymore, but it’s still encouraged.

And you know what? I’m okay with that. It’s not a rule change, it’s a rule adaptation, one that adapts to the needs of the community because people were already continuing works for NaNo. Even ten years ago returning Wrimos were invoking the completely unofficial Zokutou clause to win NaNo by completing a first draft. They were a small group, but over time more people started using NaNo and its inspirational community to get started on a project or heck, finish one. This is a wonderful thing. Not only are more people writing, but they’re writing more types of things, from novels to scripts to academic theses to poetry collections. And they’re sharing their knowledge and process with the NaNo community, cheering others on, and contributing to the overall camaraderie.

NaNoWriMo believes your story matters, and you’re the only one who can tell it. Not just the one you started on November first. Your story. That includes your existing story too. Neither one is better, though one may be more challenging depending on your writerly disposition. They’re both valid ways of finishing your tale.

All this said, I plan on continuing to start my NaNo novels from scratch, so those unfinished books will have to wait for camp. As for you? Start from scratch or pick up an existing novel. As long as you’re writing, that’s what matters.

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