Ready, set, write: Contestants aim to finish novel in a month


Novelists and writers of all ages dusted off their thinking caps at the start of November, as National Novel Writing Month began.

NaNoWriMo is a writing contest, challenging contestants to write a 50,000-word novel in the month of November. To accomplish this goal, writers must ideally produce 1,667 words each day.

The non-profit program began in 1999, founded by San Francisco writer and teacher Chris Baty and 20 of his friends. He thought it would be a fun challenge to write with the support of a group of people.

In his book No Plot? No Problem! Baty describes going to bars with his laptop and his friends and writing.

Last year, there were 175,002 participants, and 40,325 were successful.

NaNoWriMo encourages its participants to finish the challenge despite the difficulties. The program offers encouragement through community, conversation and connection.

Upon signing up for NaNoWriMo, a friendly message from staff welcomes the writer. Emails continue throughout the month with tips and inspiration on how to stay motivated and finish the challenge.

Users can set up a profile, add writing buddies, share plot ideas, and track word counts.

“I’ve done NaNoWriMo six times,” says fourth-year UTM student Nadia Svoboda “Even though I’ve always been a writer, the novels I have written in Novembers would not exist without it (the program).”

Svoboda explains that she first attempted NaNoWriMo in 2009 when a friend suggested she try.

“It was the first time I had openly discussed my writing, and shared ideas and inspiration with people all over the world.”

As well as personal emails through a messaging system, the website also offers a deep history of forums that includes everything from writing prompts, event details, and tips and inspiration.

Inspiration can also be found from the yearly pep talks contributed by successful authors. Lemony Snicket and John Green are among the dozens of pep talks on the NaNoWriMo website.

“I heard about NaNoWriMo from my English teacher. She was trying to find something that I would enjoy doing,” said banker and writer Lindsay McKenzie.“I loved the idea of challenging myself.”

McKenzie explained that a lot of the time she would end up with writing she did not like so she enjoyed the challenge and dedication.

At the end of the month, writers are successful if their word count is updated to 50,000 by Nov. 29 at 11:59 p.m. The reward includes a free print copy of your manuscript, as well as several discounts on writing software.

The novels are published through Fast Pencil, and writers have the opportunity to sell their novels on Amazon.

One of the biggest challenges of NaNoWriMo is staying motivated, even when you feel out of ideas. To help stay inspired, NaNoWriMo offers coaches who can be consulted via Twitter, as well as hosting write-in events.

“I have attended a few write-ins and they are fun and inspiring,” Svoboda said. “I hosted my own on Friday and it went really well. It was interesting taking the role as host this year and it was rewarding to see how inspiring these events can be.”

Writing events can be hosted by anyone, but they are sometimes organized by a NaNoWriMo regional municipal liaison.

“I first volunteered a little over three years ago in preparation for 2012,” said Hamilton municipal liaison Chris Kelworth. “There’s something about the creative energy of NaNoWriMo that pushes me so effectively. Even though it’s sometimes been challenging, I have never had a serious crisis reaching 50,000.”

Kelworth explained that as well as moderating online forums and planning writing parties and events, he also encouraged fundraising for the NaNoWriMo non-profit head office.

NaNoWriMo is a strictly donation-run organization, and offers several free creative programs. Its online store also sells posters, mugs and clothing.