As October came to an end, we stashed away our Scream masks, binned our carved pumpkins, and ate the last of those delectable bone-shaped figolli. November instead looms before us, and for much of the male population this signifies the cultivation of their facial hair into a very fine moustache and beard in the tradition of MoVember. What many do not seem to be aware of is that November is also known as NaNoWriMo – National Novel Writing Month.
Stuttering to a start in 1999, NaNoWriMo is a movement founded by freelance writer Chris Baty, along with some 20 friends of his. From 1999 on, the popularity of event has steadily increased, and entire books have been written on how to write a novel in thirty days. The event’s adult-program requires its participants to aim at writing a 50,000 word novel in just thirty days. That means a participant must produce around 1,600 words a day – not something to laugh at.
Insite talked to 19 year old student Victoria Melita Zammit, who is taking part in NaNoWriMo for the first time this year: “I wanted to take part as it’s been an ambition for a while. I write regularly and quite often, but I’ve always wanted to do it under pressure, to see if I actually can do it,” she said. When asked if she always managed to write the recommended 1,600 words a day, she stated “I always manage to write less because working under pressure is really tough; it’s no joke, even if it is just for fun, but it’s a great way to give yourself practice and to get yourself into a creative process.”
Contrastingly, Daniel Cossai, an 18 year old who also entered for the first time this year claimed: “It’s the first time I’m writing something longer than 1000 or 1500 words. I thought it would get harder the further I write but it’s actually the other way round. The story and characters take a life of their own and once you have an outline, developing the story is not that hard. My plan is to write the novel in 25 days, so an average of 2000 words a day. That way I can take a break if needed throughout the month. Writing 2000 words a day is not very hard, but it takes several hours every day.”
Everyone seems to cope with the word-limit differently. In fact, those who are 17 and under are allowed to set their own word targets, as the standard 50,000 for the 18 and overs might initially seem daunting. As impossible at it may sound, the aim of NaNoWriMo is to inspire young writers to simply start writing, no matter if they actually make it to their 50,000 word count by the end. “The biggest thing separating people from their artistic ambitions is not a lack of talent. It’s the lack of a deadline. Give someone an enormous task, a supportive community, and a friendly-yet-firm due date, and miracles will happen”, claims Baty in his book No Plot? No Problem!: A Low-Stress, High-Velocity Guide to Writing a Novel in 30 Days.
The aim of the game is not quality, it is the creation of that first draft that will inevitably necessitate much more editing before it can come close to the finished product. In 2012, over 300,000 aspiring authors joined the fray, and this year an estimated 500,000 are currently furiously typing away at their computers, or scribbling away on their papers. NaNoWriMo has seen hundreds of books published, not to mention Sara Gruen’s best-selling Water for Elephants and Erin Morgenstern’s The Night Circus. It would be a mistake to underestimate what writers participating in the event are capable of, and with the huge growth of participants from year to year, who knows what is in stall for the future?
Another innovative and crucial aspect of this project is the extensive community support a participant has access to. Famous authors such as James Patterson are involved in this year’s ‘pep talks’ as they are called within the community, and in the past authors such as Eragon’s Christopher Paolini have also contributed to the website. Taking into consideration the stamina and perseverance a writer has to have to make it through the month, it is truly no wonder that they would need some words of encouragement every now and then.
An off-shoot of NaNoWriMo is the Young Writers Programme. The YWP was created in 2004, when numerous teachers started writing in to inquire as to how they could bring Writing Month into their classrooms, and get their students involved in creative writing. In 2012, it was reported that around 2000 classrooms took part in the programme, and there were about 82,000 registered writers and educators. The YWP provides its teachers with downloadable lesson plans, and schools taking part receive stickers, buttons and posters to promote writing. Teachers find that their students are propelled by their own will to achieve and complete the task set in front of them, as it is purely something that only they have control over, and they can therefore allow their students the creative liberty a syllabus could not otherwise provide.
NaNoWriMo is not without its critics; professional editors are unimpressed with the quality of work that comes out of it, and of course here we could respond that quality is not the point of NaNoWriMo. But editors also claim that, on average, a novel has to be at least 80,000 words long, which is 30,000 words more than what participants produce. What they seem to be overlooking is that NaNoWriMo might be producing novels that are perhaps not so critically acclaimed, but it is producing more creatively liberated individuals who could go on to write critically acclaimed novels. So let your imagination run wild, and join the writing frenzy.