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Aspiring novelists attempt to write 50,000 words in one month

 Photo by Tina Wallace

If you are overwhelmed by midterms and assignments and looming finals are threatening to make your neurons implode, then this might just be the perfect time to write a novel. It’s a crazy thought, but it’s not impossible.

Jessica Boulay, a third-year commerce student with a specialization in accounting, has been participating in National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) for the past nine years—and winning them all, to boot.

Arts_Nanowrimo_TinaWallace“It is a perfect excuse to leave your sanity for a little while,” Boulay says.

Every November, NaNoWriMo, a non-profit organization that focuses on encouraging literacy and writing, gives aspiring novelists the task of writing 50,000 words in 30 days in any fictional genre. Now in its 15th year, NaNoWriMo projects the participation of more than half a million writers from every corner of the world, including Antarctica.

To encourage participants, volunteers known as Municipal Liaisons or MLs organize write-ins in coffee shops, public libraries and schools. These events are open to all writers and help writers with the progress of their novels using games, writing tutorials, motivational speakers, and what Boulay calls “various levels of shenanigans.”

This year, NaNoWriMo has expanded to offer write-in programs and free resources to universities, coffee shops, pizzerias, bars, and any other venue willing to host the events. The University of Ottawa will be offering a few write-ins of its own to inspire students, the first of which will be held  Nov. 1 in the Arts building.

It is safe to say this is no easy assignment and adding another thing on the infinite list of things to do before winter finals is a fool’s mission at best, but participants like Boulay feel it’s well worth it and many published authors would agree.

Author Erin Morgenstern first wrote her novel The Night Circus as a NaNoWriMo entry, which has made it to The New York Times Best Seller list. Sara Gruen’s NaNoWriMo novel Water for Elephants was adapted into a motion picture in 2011.

On Oct. 25, the Fox and Feather on Elgin Street will host a NaNoWriMo kick-off party to meet the supporters and fellow writers in the race for 50,000 words.

Aspiring novelists can sign up at


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