NaNoWriMo teaches students novel writing

National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) is a program geared towards writers in which authors of all kinds come together and try to write a novel in the month of November. Some students at WHS have decided to take on this ambitious challenge despite schoolwork and the pandemic. 

“My goal is to write 50,000 words in a span of one month,” sophomore Milo Sheets said.

The goal is standard to the program and is typically set for you. Most in the program chose to go along with this route; however, some chose a more customized option.

“I’ve got to write every day of the month,” freshman Claire Blackwood said.

Her goal is a little different from most others; however, the program works to help participants work on the consistency of writing as well. While both of these two students’ goals are different, the program has helped and taught them more about writing.

“It definitely improved how I write and how I come about situations within a story or how I continue on to the next chapter,” sophomore Julianne Lough said. “I’ve learned that one thing can lead to another and once I get into that momentum, it slowly, gradually becomes natural.”

Lough now feels as if she is an even better writer as NaNoWriMo allowed her to learn more about determination and figuring out how to continue the story when she feels stuck. Other students have also felt that the program improved their writing skills.

“I’d say that I’ve gotten better at dialogue and character development, such as backstory,” Blackwood said. “I’ve also written a lot more.”

Experience and practice helps to add to the students’ skills, allowing them to improve and excel as writing. For those first starting NaNoWriMo, there is a lot to learn from the program, including perseverance. 

“After about a week or two you realize how much work goes into it and you’re going to start to falter and you’re going to start thinking things like, ‘Oh okay, so I’ll just skip this word count for today and I’ll just write double tomorrow,’ but you will never write double tomorrow and you will always get behind, and it’s really frustrating,” Sheets said. “So even if you just want to quit and go take a nap, get in your words and I promise it’ll pay off in the end.”

While the writers are doing this as a hobby, it can still be hard to continue writing for such a large goal, especially as there are many other distractions for them. Luckily, NaNoWriMo has a few simple, yet fun things built into its program to encourage writers. 

“The fun badges give you motivation,” Blackwood said. “They’re a little silly but getting them gives you a burst of motivation to get to the next one.”

The badges include milestones from writing every day (such as five days in a row), getting milestones for word counts (such as 10,000 words) and even self-awarded badges gained from methods that the novelists use while writing. Additionally, the program encourages interacting with other writers in live events, which have been largely canceled due to COVID, as well as virtual ones.

“The funnest thing would probably be having write-offs with my friend since she’s doing it, too. We both share our documents with our novels to each other, and then we’ll just be typing to each other like, ‘Hey, do you want to write for 15 minutes or from 7 [o’clock] to 8?’,” Sheets said. “Then we separate our words and have a race with who can write the most words in that amount of time.”

This type of friendly competition encourages writers and allows for connections to be made between participants as they continue writing. Some connections can even lead to more extreme support, such as in Lough’s case.

“I’m going to do it in December again with my friend because she wasn’t able to do it in November and I want to be able to support her, so I’m going to do it again,” Lough said.

While NaNoWriMo’s program centers around November, Lough is willing to re-do the program in order to support fellow writers. She also has accomplished other impressive goals during her three years within the program.

“I know last year and the year before I got 55,000 [words] instead of just 50,000, so it always feels good to overachieve,” Lough said. “I’ve probably written more words this month than I’ve been counting.”

Along with those achievements, she also had achieved 50,000 word goal in her first year within the program, an accomplishment that not many gain. However, trying to complete the program is an accomplishment in itself.

“I have done it [NaNoWriMo] once in the past—in 2018,” Sheets said. “I did not finish it, but I did attempt it, and I’m proud of myself for that.”

Despite their past accomplishments and attempts, the students are all currently on track to complete their goal. While NaNoWriMo is coming to an end, they feel it is important to continue writing despite the difficulties that arise and push through.

“If you have a stopping point, just throw in a disaster. This is the rough draft and you can always refine it later,” Lough said. “It’s always easier to edit a full page than a blank one.”