National Novel Writing Month challenges young creatives

Every November, young writers are challenged with a daunting task—to write 50,000 words in one month. The challenge is organized by National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), a non-profit determined to get every writer to showcase their ideas to the world.

Participants are challenged to write 50,000 words of their project—be it a novel, screen-play, poem, short stories, or essays—during the month of November. Winners earn discounts on writer-friendly deals from the sponsors of NaNoWriMo, as well as the bragging rights of having written 50,000 words in 30 days.

Sinead Huffman, a fourth-year English major at the University of Ottawa, has participated in NaNoWriMo every year since grade 12, winning four out of her five years.

“A bunch of people get together and just write,” she said. “Being around that many productive people, it makes it easier to be productive yourself.”

NaNoWriMo is notable for getting writers out and active with others in their field. The organization has Municipal Liaisons who organize a variety of live events for writers to build connections.

A kick-off party usher in the beginning of NaNoWriMo. They also organize what’s called a “write-in,” where contestants gather to write together. For those who can’t be there in person, NaNoWriMo hosts virtual write-in live-streams on their YouTube channel. Additionally, there is an all-day, all-night write-in, for the more daring kind, though the dates for this year have yet to be announced. Finally, to end the month, there is a “Thank God it’s over party!”

For Huffman, NaNoWriMo got her into the habit of writing everyday.

“It helps you to get in the habit of writing every day, because that’s the key, right,” Huffman said. “If you write 500 words a day for a year, you’ve got a novel but it’s just that keeping going is where a lot of people will run into trouble.”

NaNoWriMo is full of incredible resources to help aspiring writers. Their forums range from connecting with others and finding your inspiration, to how to improve your technique and edit. These give a sense of community to up and coming writers, whether online or in person.

The pressure to write both a novel and do schoolwork can seem intimidating, but Huffman said there are ways to get around that.

“Last year I had to count a couple of my essays as part of my word count for NaNo to be able to meet the goal and get all my essays done at the same time,” Huffman said. “If you need to do a school project, you can count that towards your word goal.”

Huffman’s favourite thing about NaNoWriMo is the community she formed with writing friends.

“It’s just so much fun to know people and to talk to people who are doing the same thing. They’re all interested in writing and they all have the same goal as you.”

In essence, NaNoWriMo is an opportunity to write and allow it to be imperfect. Huffman says NaNoWriMo helped her become a better writer, by letting go of her perfectionism. The purpose of NaNoWriMo is to get a “Draft Zero,” just getting the words on the page.

Aspiring writers can visit NaNoWriMo’s website for more information and to register.