Fledgling novelists take on the "NaNoWriMo" writing challenge
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Few who commit are able to reach the finish line of 50,000 words in a mere thirty days. National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) kicked off on the first of November and is now two weeks into the challenge. NaNoWriMo is a nonprofit foundation that now includes Camp NaNoWriMo, Come Write In, and the Young Writers Program. During NaNoWriMo, which begins on the first day of November and runs through Nov. 30 at 11:59pm, writers around the world are invited to join the online community to log their progress and encourage and collaborate with one another.
Perhaps it’s the daunting 50,000 word count or the desire to finally compose the story idea that’s been rattling around for some time that attracts participants both internationally and on Westmont’s campus. According to a recent free response survey of Westmont students, 17.1% of those who responded have participated in NaNoWriMo before. However, only 4.3% are participating this November. Unfortunately, yet understandably, of those participating, 75% marked that they were “so far behind in their novel progress, they’d lost all hope.”
Westmont students who’ve participated in NaNoWriMo were motivated by creative writing classes, the challenge of the deadline, and a chance to invest in creative expression. However, in the midst of the semester’s close, participating students have found themselves struggling to juggle extra writing in addition to classwork. Regardless, one survey respondent stated that “[NaNoWriMo] is one of the most amazing and morale-boosting experiences a writer can have.”
Westmont student Emily Peterson reflected on the importance and impact of the program, stating that “NaNoWriMo isn't just about you and your novel; it's a community experience. It's so much fun to compete with your fellow Wrimos, to bounce ideas off of them, and strive together towards NaNo victory. Even if you don't make 50,000 words by the end of November, you're still doing awesome just by taking on the challenge that creative writing can be—especially under the time-crunch of NaNo.”
NaNoWriMo began in 1999 and evolved into the online nonprofit in 2005. Last year, according to the official NaNoWriMo site, 384,126 individuals participated, including the 71,229 students and educators in the Young Writers Program. While similar to NaNoWriMo, the Young Writers Program encourages young participants to set their own word count goal to write in thirty days. The program also allows for educators to register their classes to enter NaNoWriMo together.
Both the Young Writers Program and NaNoWriMo provide a community both online and in person to compete and encourage one another. Writers can update their daily word counts online and enroll in their regional area to interact with other participating writers. The Come Write In program, as according to NaNoWriMo’s official site, “connects libraries, bookstores, and other neighborhood spaces with their local NaNoWriMo participants (or Wrimos) to build vibrant writing communities.” In 2016, 1,168 libraries, bookstores, and community centers welcomed Wrimos with the Come Write In program.
After writers complete their novel or reach their word count, NaNoWriMo also supports the revision and publishing process through the “Now What?” months of January and February. Countless NaNoWriMo novels have been published and transformed into best sellers. Some examples include Sara Gruen’s Water for Elephants, Erin Morgenstern’s The Night Circus, and Hugh Howey’s Wool. Though challenging under the pressure of time to attain a large word count, NaNoWriMo establishes a community to overcome obstacles, accomplish goals, and support the hopes of eventually publishing the final product.