National Novel Writing Month Challenge

As November arrived, so did the beginning of National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). A month-long challenge, participants push themselves to reach the goal of writing 50,000 words in a month, which is essentially 1,667 words, or six to seven pages, per day. The deadline to validate the word count on your novel is 11:59 p.m. on Nov. 30.

To kick off NaNoWriMo, the Lawrence Creative Writing Club (CWC) went on a weekend retreat to Bjorklunden. CWC cheered each other by keeping one another updated on their personal daily progress and earning badges for meeting certain goals. Although this seems like a daunting task, there is nothing more rewarding than being able to meet the daily goal with the support of good friends. More importantly, it is a great way to stretch your imagination and creativity.

Sophomore Kellyn Gagner, seniors Jessica Hoyer and Rachel York, freshmen Haley Stevens and Britt Beermann shared what they were going to write about and how they planned to stay motivated. York is currently writing about the 250 people you meet in a small liberal arts school. Gagner is working on a Western novel about a mother and her daughter interacting within a community. Hoyer is creating a separate world with all sorts of races and magic systems. Stevens is working on novel which is at the moment complicated. Beermann is writing a spin-off story from her first novel about time-traveling twins.

David McGlynn, Associate Professor of English, said, “I’ve been working on a novel for the past four years,” so for him NaNoWriMo will be like every other month. “I’ll work every day and hope to make progress. The tortoise always beats the hare if allowed enough time.”

McGlynn has been working on two earlier novel projects that ended up, in his first book, “The End of the Straight and Narrow.” “One of those novels is a long story—really, a novella—that I condensed down to fit in the story collection,” McGlynn shared about his process. “The second novel project I ended up breaking into linked stories, which comprise the book’s second half.”

The CWC believes the best way to stay motivated are guilt, hot chocolate and making small daily goals. “I think taking on big, scary projects is a good thing in life.” McGlynn mused about the NaNoWriMo challenge, “Who are we if we do not risk? But I think it’s important to keep in mind that a novel written during NaNoWriMo is a start, a rough first draft and not a finished project. The idea is to try to tell a long story without feeling burdened or inhibited. To just tell the story and worry about the contradictions and mistakes later. It is good to go for it, but also to recognize that there will be more work to do later.”

The real work comes later, during the many stages of revision, according to McGlynn. “My best advice: write scenes, not information,” said the Creative Writing professor. “Do not tell readers what a character thinks or feels: show the character talking, acting and interacting with others. Describe the world. More will be revealed through the physical, scenic details than through exposition.”

The writing processes vary among each individual, but the most popular processes include word sprints (which is writing whatever comes to mind), outlining and going through previous journals and just typing words on a page and reworking it later. McGlynn believes that the NaNoWriMo goal is very doable no matter which writing process you choose. “A lot of people make it to 50,000 words in a month, but it takes hard work and a consistent, disciplined schedule,” said McGlynn. “You have to stick to the schedule like glue. Write at the same time every day, and for the same amount of time,”

To support one another to reach their goals, CWC asks members about their progress, and snap if they do reach their individual goals such as reaching a certain word limit or earning a badge. “You don’t have to meet the entire goal as long as you try and as long as you write,” said Stevens and York.
NaNoWriMo is a great way to motivate yourself to start writing a novel. Even if you do not reach the word limit by the end of the month, you have still accomplished more writing than you would have otherwise. Plus you did it in the company of fellow writers and good friends.