Note that the title says “participant” and not “winner.” National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) isn’t over yet, but it is very possible I will not make the 50,000 word count required to win. NaNoWriMo is all about quantity over quality, but it’s a surprisingly difficult task to write so much without getting hung up on revision! Someone asked me what my word count was the other day, and I refused to tell him out of shame. However, I’d like to own up to my word count now, and tell you why I’ve loved (and am still loving) this experience.

I haven’t written every day, but the four times I have, I’ve focused completely for two hours and churned out a surprising amount of material. Unlike some of the other more dedicated Scottie Wrimos, I did not have a plot or story in mind before I started writing. I began the moment I sat down at our first write-in and wrote whatever came to mind. The result of this first session was a mixture of a pep talk to myself, reflections on how difficult writing like this was, and a few detailed scenes in which various unrelated characters emerged. By the end of the write-in, one character began to take centerstage, Wilburt Clodfetter of Tennessee, a 12-year-old boy who likes baton-twirling and his mother’s green beans.

In my next writing session, I discovered Wilburt’s twin sister, Jima, a terribly shy little girl who hides under the stairs and applies her mother’s lipstick. Mr. and Mrs. Clodfetter are also present, but I don’t know them very well yet.

Despite my shameful word count, I’m having an amazing time taking on this challenge. I’m sure other Wrimos will agree that there’s something special about that word count building. No matter what I write, I feel a surge of pride every time I see that hundred-mark tick up, followed by the thousand-mark. The writing process is what’s important, not the product, and with this approach I see value in every word I think to compose.  

So what is my word count? 5, 072.

Whether you start prepping for next year’s NaNoWriMo or you just start writing on your own, I highly recommend the judgement-free writing philosophy that NaNo encourages—I bet you’ll be surprised what material happens.

I’d like to send big, heartfelt thanks out to Daren Wang and Tom Bell of the Decatur Book Festival and Agnes Writes for their support at our write-ins. Tom connected with two best-selling writers, Pearl Cleage and Patti Callahan Henry, who wrote inspirational advice on writing that we read aloud to the NaNo group. He also invited Joshilyn Jackson, a New York Times best-selling author and NaNoWriMo participant to join us last week. It was such a treat to write with her!

Shannon Yarbrough graduated from Agnes Scott College in May of 2009. She's a co-coordinator of the Agnes Scott Writing Center and the Digital Design Fellow.

Yay, you go girl! Haha.


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