Reflections of NoNoWriMo

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Kristen Harris

Every November, thousands of people all across the globe set a mutual goal: to write a 50,000 word novel in a month. Since 2014, I have been one of those people.

NanNoWriMo stands for National Novel Writing Month. I first completed NaNoWriMo my senior year of high school. Ironically, the manuscript I wrote then was the sequel to the story I’m working on this year. It’s a Young Adult novel I began writing when I was 16. Now, I’m on the eighth draft. 

Starting is as simple as creating a profile on nanowrimo.org. In September, you can “announce” your novel, which allows you to insert a summary of your planned project. All November long, users gather in the forums to bounce ideas off one another and to support each other. 

Like many people, I didn’t think I’d be able to write 50,000 words in a month the first time I tried. However, because I had a few free periods, finding time to write wasn’t too difficult in high school. In fact, according to the site’s author stats, I wrote almost 7,000 words in one day that year. 

The real challenge came in 2015, when I decided to try NaNoWriMo again as a freshman in college. Setting my main project aside, I came up with a completely new idea. When cramming scenes between classes become too stressful, I developed the habit of staying up later to write.

Because I’d moved out of my tiny hometown, I was able to get involved with the local NaNoWriMo community. Lakeland Area NaNo hosts Write-Ins around Polk County. As a local NaNoWriMo Municipal Liaison, Michelle Baiocco Schlorb also invites local writers who can’t otherwise make it to events to participate in virtual write-ins. 

“The Lakeland Area NaNo group is growing,” Schlorb said. “We have some amazing authors, and I think with growing out region boundaries we can grow our group to be even better.”

You can find upcoming events under the regions tab on the NaNoWriMo website or on the Lakeland Area NaNo Facebook page. Thegroup welcomes new members, including college students. 

“They are the glue that can connect the adults to the young writers,” Schlorb said. “With more students involved, we can continue to grow.”

While I barely finished on time in 2015, my most successful NaNoWriMo project was the one I wrote last November. After taking 2016 off from novel writing, I spent most of 2017 developing an outline for my NaNoWriMo project. The little box filled with index cards became the sixth draft of the novel I dreamed of publishing. Last November, I woke up an hour early every morning to write. I carried my outline and my laptop to every class, squeezing in sentences every spare moment I had. 

When November ended, I kept writing, and when the manuscript was finished, I kept editing. In March, I submitted my manuscript to several literary agents. Though I only received rejections, the process helped me discover that I want to work in the book publishing industry. Now, I am doing an internship with the Florida Authors & Publishers Association. 

As for my novel, it’s still a work in progress. Though having my manuscript rejected was difficult, I used it as an opportunity to re-examine the story and find what wasn’t working. Leaving my outline in its box, I made a looser plot summary to help guide this draft in a different direction. 

For writers, NaNoWriMo is a great opportunity to sharpen your skills and try something new. In fact, it can be an important stepping stone for many.  Schlorb, for example, is publishing her first novel with numerous projects on the horizon.

“I think that NaNoWriMo can benefit anyone who has the passion and the desire to try,” she said.

So far, I’m right on track with NaNoWriMo as well. While some writers may find the strict deadline too stressful, I’ve found that the pressure motivates me. Personally, I think that everyone should try NaNoWriMo at least once, whether you consider yourself a creative writer or not. When you finish 50,000 words in thirty days, you likely won’t stress about deadlines ever again. 

If nothing else, research shows that creativity without a purpose, or “play,” as Stuart Brown, MD, calls it, is vital to living a life of joy. In her book “The Power of Vulnerability,” researcher Brené Brown discusses the importance of creative play.  According to Brown, unused creativity can lead to stress, anxiety, and judgment. In order to solve this issue, she suggests setting aside time to do something creative that’s just for yourself every day.

A project such as NaNoWriMo can fulfill your need to be creative. It doesn’t even have to be a novel. You can write a screenplay or a book of poetry. 

Writing a novel in thirty days is just one way to fulfill your innate need for creativity.  

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