Some students might think writing a full-length novel in a lifetime is an unattainable goal, but students participating in National Novel Writing Month hope to accomplish writing a novel in the month of November alone.
National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo as it is affectionately called by its participants, is an organization that aims to spur people of all ages to realize their dreams of writing a novel by encouraging participants to write 50,000 words in a month.
NaNoWriMo offers everyone the inspiration, motivation and support they need to unlock their creative potential.
The organization has different programs available, including one aimed at young writers and those that provide resources needed to accomplish any writing project.
NaNoWriMo has garnered the support of many well-known authors and has helped launch the writing careers of some participants.
Last year NaNoWriMo included more than 310,000 participants. This year more than 400,000 writers are expected to participate.
Some writers at Northwestern are participating in the event.
Allison Mulder has been participating annually for more than eight years.
“I started NaNo when I was 11 years old,” Mulder said. “My mom and I would bet each other a huge bar of chocolate each year for whoever reached 50,000 words first, or at least made it the closest.”
Mulder credits the program as a huge factor in helping to develop her writing skills. One of the main things the program strives to develop within writers is the ability to sit down, write and force oneself to complete a draft.
“It’s good for building up the skills to keep going and stick with a project,” Mulder said.
The creators of NaNoWriMo realized that one of the biggest struggles aspiring writers face is being able to accept the fact that a first draft won’t look perfect, but it must be finished regardless.
“At some point you need to finish something, so that you can learn how to finish something,” Mulder said.
NaNoWriMo focuses on giving participants the support they need to complete their goals.
One of the ways they accomplish this is by establishing a strong sense of community among writers, participants and mentors. Whether it be weekly pep talks written by published authors or motivation from a friend who is competing with you, NaNoWriMo is far from a solitary adventure.
“If you can find other writers who are doing NaNo, you can engage in Word Wars or Word Sprints, which helps build that aspect of community within NaNoWriMo,” Mulder said. “So many people are involved with NaNo now that you can find many people online to talk to or even just to have sympathize with you.”
Word Wars and Word Sprints are writing challenges where participants write as fast as they can for a predetermined length of time and try to write more words than the other person.
Mulder has even been able to find other writers here at Northwestern to collaborate with. One of these students, Carrie Bouwman, is a writing and rhetoric major who is participating in NaNoWriMo for the first time.
Bouwman sees NaNo as a way to let herself experiment with new ideas, as well as a way to bond with her aunt who is also participating this year. Terry Odera, a public relations major, is another student participating this November.
Although Odera is excited to participate, she won’t deny how difficult it is.
“You’re trying to create a first draft, and you have to keep your mind open and stop agonizing over little things like word choice,” Odera said.
Many different benefits come from taking part in NaNoWriMo, no matter what a writer’s goals are. It can help writers develop basic writing skills, discipline and motivation to act on creative impulses or even bridge the gap to publishing a first piece.
Mulder is not drafting a new novel this year. Instead, she is revising an older draft she hopes to take to the publication stage.
“If you go into NaNo thinking, ‘Oh I’m going to have a publishable novel by the end of the month,’ you’re probably going to be disappointed,” Mulder said.
However, NaNoWriMo has helped kick-start many well-known books, such as “Water for Elephants” and “The Night Circus.” Anyone is welcome to participate, whether a writer intends for their story to end up on bookshelves everywhere, or just to be saved in their Word Documents.
If you are interested in finding out more, visit nanowrimo.org or contact Allison Mulder.