by Emily Powers
Chris Baty created national Novel Writing Month in the summer of 1999, and is celebrated the entire month of November. The challenge came about by jokingly making a near impossible deadline for writing a novel in a month’s time. Baty and twenty-one writers participated in the original challenge and were successful.
When interviewed, Baty said, “I’d seen writers pull off miraculous feats when given impossible deadlines. To help make the whole thing less scary, we all got together after work and on weekends to write. That camaraderie, coupled with the stupid deadline, gave all of us the high commitment and low expectations that turn out to be a godsend when you’re writing a first draft of a novel.”
In the years since, the challenge has grown leaps and bounds. In 2014, an estimated three hundred, twenty five thousand participated in the challenge. Since this is a growing phenomenon, more programs have opened up to encourage writers to construct their own first drafts of novels.
Grant Faulkner (National Novel Writing Month executive director) said, “National Novel Writing Month is a wonderful opportunity for people to dive into their imaginations and do one of the most crucial things in life: create.” Faulkner works with roughly one thousand volunteers who facilitate writing events for aspiring authors and for all those who wish to learn and create.
The liaisons understand the work and pressure on students and adults who have life outside of writing, but they give great advice on goal setting and follow through. For example, Chelsea Brown, who was recently a college student, has participated in NNWM and knows the pressuring demands of school, work and wanting to write. She sets a word goal (for each novel) at fifty thousand words for the month of November. Brown states that pacing yourself and having a strict schedule for writing will make this goal achievable. In other words, writing about sixteen hundred words per day, which averages to about four double spaced pages, will allow a writer to reach the fifty thousand word goal by then end of the month. An easy way to keep track of progress and words written is on the NaNoWriMo website.
Even though the creative writing process may be done solitary and in front of the computer, the liaisons, like Chelsea Brown, facilitate places and events to collaborate and workshop.
Brown states, “NaNo is about more than just getting the words on the page, it’s about linking writers together, about creating a community.”
In addition to the goals, the purpose of this celebration of writing is to be creative, enjoy your imagination and spread it on paper. “Brown’s advice to potential novelists is simple: “Just write. Don’t edit. Don’t let your mind make you feel like what you’ve written isn’t good. Just write it. You can go back and edit later. But you have to get it down on paper first. You can edit what isn’t good, but you can’t edit what isn’t there.”
Check out your local university or college libraries to see upcoming events. Connect with other writers on the NaNoWriMo website, and let your creative side shine!