By Jennifer Ives
November always seems to be a busy and productive month, as fall ends and the holiday season starts. Filled with midterms and classes ramping up, it’s a wonder if any student can find the time to breathe let alone pick up a hobby. But this month, almost half a million people around the world will attempt to write an entire original novel, 50,000 words, in just thirty days.
The National Novel Writing Month Challenge was started just eleven years ago by founder Cris Baty and twenty of his friends in California.
It quickly ballooned into an multinational event complete with online forums, corporate sponsors providing discounts to participants and winners. It was officially incorporated as a nonprofit with additional projects aimed at young writers and summer sessions for those unable to participate in the winter session.
The event encourages writers to push through awkward first drafts, and then spend the rest of the next month or year editing, rather than wasting time editing as they go. And the method seems to work, with best selling novels like “Water For Elephants” by Sara Gruen, “The Night Circus” by Erin Morgenstern, and “Cinder”, “Scarlet,” and “Cress” all by Melissa Meyer, making their start as NaNoWriMo projects.
The concept is simple. Write an original work of fiction, at least 50,000 words long, in thirty days. Clocking in at 1,667 words a day, the challenge is doable, but quickly becomes a marathon as word counts jump if you miss just a few days of writing and must race to catch up.
The online website allows you to enter and track the day to day progress of your novel, as well as connect with friends and encourage them to up their word counts. Forums are filled with helpful and happy experts offering help with the oddest of questions around the clock, and colorful electronic badges that encourage you to hit certain word counts and faithfully update your word count for a certain number of days in a row.
The National Novel Writing Month Challenge, or NaNoWriMo as it is more often referred to, also offered in person meetups for local writers to meet and cheer each other on, arranged and overseen by regional municipal liaisons who organize and promote local events throughout the month for free, with absolutely no compensation for their tireless efforts to contribute to the community.
Meetings are often held in accommodating coffee shops and libraries, with Boston’s write-ins at the Boston Public Library which is so popular that Liaisons require you to register online ahead of time to make sure they can comply with fire codes for capacity seating.
Throughout the month writers can also sign up to receive tiny cartoons called NaNoToons from nanotoons.wordpress.com, that has, in past years been promoted directly on the official website. Errol Elum, Kari Maaren, and Victoria Anisman-Reine collaborate to produce the daily comic about a host of imaginary characters struggling to make new friends and complete their novels before the end of the month.
To encourage and inspire writers, frequent PepTalks are sent out through the websites intermail system, all written by popular and successful authors and directors. Past years have included PepTalks by Joss Whedon, Neil Gaiman, Lemony Snicket, John Green, and Lois Lowry among dozens more. PepTalkers discuss their own struggled with writer’s block, tips for creating new characters and plot twists, and share personal stories about the beginnings of their own careers.
You can sign up for NaNoWriMo at nanowrimo.org and if you can’t participate this month you can join the Camp NaNoWriMo summer sessions in June and July.