Words for Writers: The Value of Writing

Stories Matter

(From the Office of Letters and Light blog:)

This June, the nonprofit behind National Novel Writing Month, the Young Writers Program, Come Write In, and Camp NaNoWrimo is running a fundraising drive to increase the impact of their programs and resources. In 2012, they supported 369,541 writers in 615 libraries and 580 regions across six continents, and 82,500 students in 2,000+ classrooms as they reached for their creative goals and brought their novels to life.

Why care about new novels? Because making safe spaces for people to write their stories isn’t just about ending up with more books in the world. It’s about changing creative lives. You can help The Office of Lettesr and Light do that.

NaNoWriMo believes that stories matter.

“NaNoWriMo changed my life profoundly at a time when a new focus, purpose, and goal were needed just to keep me alive. I signed up because I desperately wanted something to take my mind off the cancer I was battling, and because there had been a story bouncing around in my head for over twenty years that wanted me to tell it. Thanks to all the wonderful people and support and ideas that are NaNoWriMo, that story is being told.”

– Julie Ann Thayer

NaNoWriMo believes that anyone can be creative.

“Before NaNoWriMo, the only projects I’d worked on were assigned by teachers or bosses. NaNoWriMo empowered me to choose my own creative goal, and helped me realize that if I am willing to spend hours working on a project for someone else, I should be willing to do the same for myself. Thank you for the gift of creative writing.”

– Mary Harner

NaNoWriMo is preparing to inspire 500,000 people to tell their stories in 2013.

This year, they’re working hard to make our resources as accessible as possible. They want to create a safe space for people from every walk of life to tell their next story. And the one after that. And the one after that… (This could go on for a while.)

Consider donating and partnering with them to make more safe spaces for creative writing and its wide-reaching impacts.


When I was seven, I wrote a short story about a girl named September who had to babysit a fairy’s wings for a week. It was published in the local paper for a contest.

When I was eight, I was picked to go to a young author’s conference at a local university.Between the ages of nine and thirteen, I participated in children’s drama and local theatre, wrote plays (none of which were performed), and screen plays (none of which were finished).

When I was fourteen I discovered fanfiction. Fanfiction taught me how to build worlds, build narratives, build character, build a fan base, and build confidence in my ability to tell engaging stories. At last count I had written over 15000 pages of fanfiction. I would still be writing it if I had time.

When I was eighteen I went to university for theatre. That was also the year I started my first novel. (Because if I could write 500 page fanfics, I sure as heck wasn’t going to be intimidated by a novel!)

When I was nineteen I wrote a screenplay that won an honorable mention in an international competition.

When I was twenty a friend dared me to do this thing called National Novel Writing Month with her. We both won. That MS was a lot of fun and will never again see the light of day.

When I was twenty one, I did NaNo again. I won again. That manuscript was later subsumed into a novel.

When I was twenty two, I did NaNo and won.. That manuscript was later subsumed into a novel.

When I was twenty three, I tried to write both NaNo and a Bachelor’s Thesis at the same time. I failed NaNo, but graduated with honors.

When I was twenty four, I moved to Japan and finished my first novel, wrote a comic book series, wrote lots more fanfic, and was told for the first time that perhaps I ought to think about starting to polish up old manuscripts to submit to publishers and agents.  For NaNo that year I decided to write something sale-able and came up with the novella (Back).

When I was twenty five I spent a year revising my first novel before realizing that it was beautiful and unwieldy and I resigned it to my trunk. I sold (Back). I did NaNo and started what would eventually become Triptych.

When I was twenty six I returned to Canada and tried to write a Master’s Thesis and NaNo at the same time again. I failed NaNo again, but passed with the record highest marks in my program at the time. When people asked me how I had written my thesis in one month I laughed and said, “If I can win NaNoWriMo five out of seven years together, I can write a thesis!”

When I was twenty seven I was offered a full ride for a PhD and turned it down. I decided that I wanted to get a novel published before I turned thirty. I did NaNo and wrote a story called The Dark Side of the Glass.  After thirty-six rejections from both agents and editors, I sold Triptych.

When I was twenty eight, I did NaNo and wrote The Skylark’s Song.

When I was twenty-nine, Triptych debuted. It was nominated for seven awards and won two. The success of Triptych and the promise of The Skylark’s Song book landed me an agent. I sold The Dark Side of the Glass. I began a novel for NaNo called The Maddening Science, but got too ill to continue. (Spontaneous organ death is FUN, yo.) I turned it into a short story and sold it.

When I was thirty, I wrote The Untold Tales of Turn, a novel celebrating novels, and writing, and those of us who need books in our lives. NaNoWriMo is mentioned in the book. My agent is currently shopping it, and next week The Skylark’s Song goes out to publishers for consideration.

At thirty-one (almost), I am a successful, professionally published author who has won accolades and earns an income on her work, and who has just celebrated a decade of participating in NaNoWriMo.

But far more importantly than that, I am also a confident, well-read, articulate young woman who finishes what she starts, and has learned the value of compassion and touching the hearts and souls of those around her. I have learned to put myself in other people’s shoes, to consider different viewpoints, to research before I judge, to accept critique and criticism gracefully and with an engaged ear, to take pride in my accomplishments and to pick myself up and try again when I fail, to realize that haters are just gonna hate but that doesn’t mean I shouldn’t always give the entirety of myself to my prose or shy away from the difficult discussions and topics, to stand up for myself and those who are denied the right to speak for themselves, to take responsibility for and try to help improve the world and the people on her with every word I set down, and to hold close those friends and family who value my work as an extension of myself.

And this is the value of writing. This is why writing matters.


Find out more about the Office of Letters and Light’s Stories Matter fundraising drive here.

(Also, thank you, Office of Letters and Light!)


For more posts on the business and craft of writing, search my Words for Writers tag.

JM FreyWords for Writers: The Value of Writing