November 21, 2016
As the clock hit midnight November 1, a group of Bradley students fired up their laptops and began typing the first words to their latest book projects. The students grabbed coffee, plugged in headphones and embraced the challenge of National Novel Writing Month.
The month, dubbed NaNoWriMo for short, pushes authors to balance coursework and life with the task of writing a 50,000-word novel in 30 days. That tabulates to a pace of 1,667 words written each day. When finished, the documents are 100-150 pages long in typical word processing programs.
“It’s awesome because we pick projects we’re passionate about and try to finish it,” said NaNoWriMo club member Zack Dixon ‘17, a creative writing major from Richton Park, Illinois. “I take an idea, run with it and hope it works out. It’s a difficult month, but it’s worth the effort.”
The month brings together a diverse collection of academic interests. For writers like Dixon and fellow creative writing major Nikki Duran ’18, of Westmont, Illinois, the month is another outlet to pursue their passions. For Amy Naffziger ’17, a manufacturing engineering technology major from Sterling, Illinois, and electrical engineering major Shannon O’Brien ’18, of Elgin, Illinois, NaNoWriMo is an opportunity to show their creative sides outside the classroom.
“The joy is being able to take the fantasy worlds I imagine and put them on paper in a way that makes sense,” Naffziger said. “I love showing my work to people for feedback hoping they want to keep reading my project.”
Writers consider November the “brain dump” stage of the writing process. Most writers have spent previous summers or fall months thinking about plotlines and character development. Ideas come together in rough draft form during November. Once November’s stress passes, writers spend the next months revising and rewriting until their tales are complete.
“I have millions of ideas I want to work out since I want to write books for a living,” Duran said. “November helps me focus on one idea and get it done.”
People who complete the writing challenge receive vouchers to publish final works through the NaNoWriMo national organization.
NaNoWriMo participants find creative methods to manage the homework-writing balance. Some write as much as they can in one setting, while others write throughout the day as inspiration strikes. Writers may bribe themselves with Starbucks rewards for reaching goals along the way. ITunes playlists become sources for inspiration, calming nerves or energy as needed.
The writers also rely on each other. Weekly club meetings are times to relax, encourage each other and offer helpful feedback. Occasional informal writing sessions throughout the month also provide encouragement and accountability.
Students may ultimately fall short of the 50,000-word target because of homework and life events; however, they appreciate the dedication required to churn out as much content as possible in a short time.
“It’s inspiring to watch someone do something they’re passionate about, and that makes me want to work hard,” O’Brien said. “I enjoy the company of other writers so much that I wouldn’t have a chance at finishing the task if I didn’t have everyone else doing it with me.”