NaNoWriMo 2010. Because of that contest, I wrote a 50,011 word novel in 30 days, a book that otherwise would never have been written.
I'm not sure that anyone can write a deeply nuanced and eloquent novel in a month—mine certainly isn't. But I didn't expect it to be. And that lack of expectation really gave me a wonderful freedom to write.
The other great thing about NaNoWriMo is that I could actually talk about it with people. I charted my progress on my profile page there (see chart from it, above), and put occasional updates on my Facebook page. It made my fiction writing visible, for once; I felt a part of a (temporary) community. And it made me write, no excuses. Dirty dishes, unmade bed, work deadlines—so what? I had 1,665 words to write each day and until they were done, I put other things aside. But, as you can see from the chart, I struggled to always find the time to write. Sometimes regular life was unavoidable.
In my novel, I wrote from the perspective of a 12-year-old girl, something I probably never would have otherwise attempted. It was the first thing that popped into my head on November 1st and I had to see it through, no time for redos or rewrites or more than minimal editing. I couldn't lose time to rethinking the plot or the characters. They were mine for 30 days.
Writing for the YA audience also required a more resolved and happier ending than the usual melancholy ending I fall into when writing for adults. I found the happy ending wasn't that difficult when it was inherent or organic to the story, so I hope I can write happier endings in the future even when I'm not writing for children.