NaNoWriMo this year! Of course "winning" means writing 50,000 words in one month. That's it. The only person you're in competition with is yourself.
There really are no losers. The whole point of NaNoWriMo is to write, to dedicate yourself to writing every day. Or almost every day. Even if you don't "win" by the rules, you're a winner merely by participating. Only you don't get to post the cool graphic on your blog or get the discount coupons for the goodies.
Everyone procrastinates when it comes to writing. Okay, not everyone. There are a few insane people who are eager to get to the keyboard every morning and continue working on their latest story. There are thousands more who write professionally and have formed a habit of doing the work so they can eat.
But you'd be surprised at how often writers go into long, whinging screeds about how they'd rather clean the toilet than start writing. Or sort that stamp collection they inherited from their great grandfather. Or do anything other than writing. You get the picture.
Being a writer who completes something takes perseverance. It takes playing tricks on yourself, like promising you'll let yourself eat ONE square of a Hershey bar if you write 500 words. Or you'll check your email when you're done with your daily word quota, but not before.
NaNoWriMo helps you with those tricks. For one thing, you're not alone in doing this. Or, at least, you're not alone with just those voices in your head. They offer you little tchotchkes, like that badge up there and a PDF of a winner's certificate, little stuff like pencils and stickers at write-ins. There are word sprints, where one of the NaNo staff sets timed writing periods on Twitter, often with a prompt or an object you need to include in your writing (or not), when you're dragging your feet on writing more words.
My big incentive this year was the forty-percent discount on Aeon Timeline for winners. The last NaNo I finished, I did it with the discount for Scrivener as an incentive. While neither of these programs is terribly expensive, I find it hard to justify spending more money on "toys." I mean, to write a novel all you really need is a pad of paper and a pen, and I've already got lots of those. Of course, writing on a computer is easier, especially if you want something legible that you can read when you're finished. (My handwriting is getting really awful as I get older and my fingers get stiffer.)
Did I really need Scrivener? Well, now that I've been using it for several years, the answer is Absolutely! But lots of people don't use it. They use Word or Open Office or other tools, some of which are free. I have no idea whether or not I'll find Aeon Timeline useful. It looks way cool! And I'm hoping to replace that board covered in pink and blue stickies on my office wall. Deliver Us From Evil, the next in my Community of Faith Mystery Series, has some serious timeline issues that I need to resolve before it's published. That's why I put up the stickies. But software is generally more flexible and the glue doesn't dry out leaving a pile of colored paper on the floor.
Amazingly enough, I like the story I wrote for NaNoWriMo. That doesn't always happen. With little planning, I wasn't sure what I would get. There have been times when I've finished--or more likely, quit--and wound up with total rubbish for my efforts. But sometimes, when I'm just letting the words flow and not worrying about where I'm going, when my mantra is Write the next sentence even when I have no idea of what comes in the sentence after that, much less in the next chapter, magic happens. That's what happened this year. And it was fun!