BY HOLLY FISHER
Staff Writer, UAS Whalesong
‘Tis once again the season for NaNoWriMo! November is National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), a fun, annual, internet-based challenge to get both aspiring and accomplished writers stretching their creative muscles. With a welcoming community and fun goal, NaNoWriMo encourages everyone to take a swing at writing “The Book” that’s been sitting on their bucket list.
To make things short and sweet, the participants of NaNoWriMo tackle writing a 50,000 word novel before December 1. Though it sounds daunting at first, it is an immensely rewarding exercise in creativity and inspiration. It offers the chance to explore story ideas, let go of obscuring perfectionism, and shake off the limitations that keep a story’s true potential hidden. Many authors love, and annually return for the camaraderie and encouragement sewn together by a blend of enthusiasm, determination, and deadline. In the NaNoWriMo community, everyone has their own secret for meeting the word count, be it old proven methods or brand new tricks. On the road to 50,000 words by the 11/30/16, 11:59 p.m. mark, experimentation is encouraged. Part of NaNoWriMo’s appeal is the chance to develop a personal writing method. Some authors enjoy writing in groups, while others like the solitary novelist life. On the road to 50,000 words, there is no wrong way to go. What matters is that you try.
Launched in 1999, NaNoWriMo has been bringing the world of novel writing to the masses for seventeen years. It offers structure and direction to an intimidatingly amorphous process that few want to tackle on their own. The challenge creates a sense of accountability, and the program offers the chance to connect with novelists of all skill levels. Writers have a solid framework to operate in that keeps them from drifting off task. Writing is done on private devices rather than on the website, though there are options to share your work in forums or as ‘excerpts’ on your account page. Some start sharing on the first day, but many authors wait until the last week or so. The website tracks progress as the author updates their word count as they go. The website also offers chances to connect with others regionally, or on an international scale. Interactive maps show how many writers are in each area and what a region’s combined word count is. The main site offers prep ideas, writing exercises, and pep talks to keep the participants charging forward. NaNoWriMo’s main goal is to encourage writers to start getting words on paper. The first page is often the block that many would-be storytellers stumble over.
If you want to join the fun, the place to go at UAS is the Writing Center. On November 15 and 22 there will be Write-Ins between 4:30 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. where participants can work together and share the experience. If you can’t make it to the Writing Center on those dates, the W.R.I.T.E. club meets every Friday from 6 to 7 p.m. They are big NaNoWriMo enthusiasts and invite anyone who needs a hand with their novel. Off-campus, the Valley Library will also be getting into the spirit of things and hosting Write-ins on Nov. 12 and 26 between noon and 6 p.m., and on the 19 between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m.
I asked several writers for tips on completing the challenge and received similar advice across the board. Plan what you want to do, but don’t become too attached—stories will evolve beyond your original plan. If you find advice and critique helpful, check out the site’s forums. A common NaNoWriMo saying is “write in November, edit in January”—Do not obsess over editing in November. If your style of writing is “slow and steady”, avoid telling yourself you can slack off, and then catch up with a last-minute writing binge. Likewise, if you write like the wind and have 50,000 well before the deadline, keep going!
Many writers have gone on to publish their novels! Sometimes NaNoWriMo publishing success is a one-time great event, while for others it has jump started full writing careers. Successful novelists join NaNoWriMo regularly, either to participate themselves, or to share advice and experiences. Their inside-knowledge helps many writers open their own doors to a world of wonder and imagination. The goal of NaNoWriMo is to encourage growth, development, and community through shared creativity. Based on these core values it continues to encourage and inspire new storytellers every year, bringing their innovative ideas to life for all the world to enjoy.