BY ASHLEY KOWITZ
For most writers, both new and old, November is known as National Novel Writing Month or NaNoWriMo as it’s better known. During November people are to write 50,000 words.
The challenge started in 1999 as an accident by the founder, Chris Baty. Baty is a teacher at Stanford University and the author of both No Plot? No Problem! and Ready. Set. Novel! He started NaNoWriMo with a group of 21 friends and it grew to become a force of 300,000 writers from more than 90 countries around the world.
Kevin Walsh, a business student at St. Lawrence College in Ontario and author of The Way of All Flesh, said as a student he finds it very difficult to maintain his writing during the school year and NaNoWriMo helps him keep up with it.
“Every time the end of October nears, I can’t help but think that I could use the following month to catch up on my writing even though time is tight. That’s when you have to bust out those notebooks and write whenever you get the chance,” Walsh said.
The NaNoWriMo.org forums have all sort of information for writers. They are able to use the forums to discuss the woes of trying to write 50,000 words in just 30 days or boast about the ease in which they are increasing their word count. But there are also places to post soundtracks or request someone to make a cover for your novel.
Writing is a very solitary hobby. However, NaNoWriMo gives authors a chance to interact with each other, but not just online. The forums have set-up a place for regions all over the world to plan meet-ups and write-ins. They are a fun way to get people involved with other writers, to have word wars that help increase word count and get writers out of their offices and bedrooms. In Kitchener-Waterloo write-ins are held at cafés around the city, such as The Princess Café, Starbucks and Misty Mountain Café.
“They’re really great for getting word count done, since there’s almost always a word war going on and that really makes you hustle. It is also nice to talk to people about the stress of writing a novel and get their opinions,” said Katherine Witzel, a Kitchener resident who has been participating in NaNoWriMo since 2009.
There have been over 250 NaNoWriMo novels published by traditional publishers as opposed to the self-publishing route. One of those novels was Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen, which went on to become a film starring Robert Pattinson and Reese Witherspoon. Other NaNoWriMo novels published by traditional means are Erin Morgenstern’s Night Circus and Rainbow Rowell’s Fangirl.
“Publishing, in cold reality, is a battleground with a lot of competition, but NaNoWriMo is like boot camp where you can develop a bond with your fellow writers,” Walsh said.
But not everyone writes for the purpose of publishing. Some people, like Witzel, write just for the joy of it.
“My favourite part is Dec. 1 when I can say I finished the 50,000 words,” Witzel said.
At the end of the month, authors are encouraged to verify their 50,000 words through the website. If they have succeeded in reaching the goal they are rewarded with gifts from the sponsors. Some of this year’s prizes include 50 per cent off writing software from Scrivener and Storyist as well as self-publishing services, such as CreateSpace and Kobo Write Life, offering free copies of your novel in either print or e-book form.
The 50,000-word goal in just 30 days can be a lot with life always getting in the way, but participants show that it’s possible. There are weekly “pep talks” sent by email to participants encouraging them and giving helpful tips from published authors such as James Patterson and Rainbow Rowell. On top of that, NaNoWriMo.org reminds participants each time they update their word count that it takes only 1,667 words a day to reach the goal on time.
“There is always time to write. Write while you eat. Give up TV. Keep a pocket notebook. Give up some sleep. No matter what, there is always time for writing,” Walsh said.