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Participant Pep Talk from Charlie S.

I was thirteen when I first took on the NaNo challenge. I remember thinking, "Fifty thousand words? Heck, I write that every year. No biggie—I'll just cram twelve months' worth of drafting into a thirty-day period." I thought that sitting down in front of my computer and not leaving my seat till I'd written my daily count would be easy and effective. Well, it was—for the first three days.

You know that feeling, when you're just getting to know the characters, and the plot, and the setting, and it's like you're newly born to your own world? The way the words seem to flow out of you faster than you can think, and thousands of ideas pop out of nowhere, teasing you and spinning around your head as you try in vain to write them all down?

Those moments of pure creative energy are, to be honest, what I live for. But that's beside the point. The thing is, that only lasts so long.

Eventually, you start to get to know your characters. It's not like your first kiss anymore. (Although, since I've never had a first kiss, that comparison is debatable.) You'll get to the dreaded "middle" of the story and the burnout begins.

What is this story, anyway? you’ll ask yourself. Who cares if I finish it? It's not even interesting. Nobody will read this. I probably won't even read this.

The self doubt kicks in. You start to think twice about what possessed you to do this challenge in the first place.

And there is no quicker way to kill your first draft than to think twice about it. Second drafts are for thinking—first drafts are for wearing down all the keys of your computer except the "delete" key. Who cares whether the plot makes sense? Who cares if the characters stay "in character"? NaNoWriMo is about pushing yourself until you can't go on—and then pushing yourself even harder. Every moment that you continue, every word that you write, is a success. It's a medal that you've earned.

Ultimately, though, NaNo isn't about winning, just like working out isn't about "winning".

It's about being stronger than you've ever been before, and knowing you're the one who made that happen. It's about proving to yourself that you can write. That you—and your thoughts—are worth it. It's an adventure that many people will abandon as soon as the road gets hard. But you will not give up. You are a writer. You are trailblazing through the Mirkwood of perfectionism and poor self esteem with a machete, and nothing in Middle Earth will be able to stop you from reaching Mount Doom and tossing fifty thousand words into the all-consuming fire, to be born anew as a sparkly, shiny novel.

I can tell you firsthand that the reward is one hundred percent worth all the blood, sweat and tears that pour into this challenge. I hope that by December, you will feel that rush of pure euphoria when you finish the first draft of your first ever novel, and realize that you've created a universe with just the tips of your fingers. Good luck.

photo of Charlie.

Charlie is a seventeen-year-old Christian trans man who has been writing stories ever since he could hold a pencil. He has an obnoxious tendency to immerse himself completely in the fandom world. In his free time you can find him listening to Korean hip hop (stan Block B stan talent), playing Overwatch, and spoiling his leopard gecko Stormlight with delectable mealworms. He loves language, and dreams of being a writer and English teacher in Seoul, South Korea.

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