By Helena Hunt, Staff Writer
Every student is a writer. Each term paper, essay and exam contributes to carpal tunnel syndrome and everyday hand cramps. But some students choose to write, not just their research papers and daily assignments, but entire short stories, poems and novels.
November is National Novel Writing Month. Participants in NaNoWriMo pledge to write 50,000 words, about 200 pages, in a single month. Some may write less, some more, but the entire month is just intended to get writers writing, and to create habits that will last beyond the month of November.
Despite the daunting goal of 50,000 words—equivalent in length to about 25 research papers—many have managed to write their novels while maintaining their schoolwork. Spring senior Allie Drain has participated intermittently in NaNoWriMo for the last five years.
“For me personally, NaNoWriMo is a good way to motivate yourself to write every day. As someone who wants to be an author, it’s nice to have a month specifically devoted to writing and having a word count to work towards,” Drain said. “I personally use my essays in my November word count, just because November is so busy. It’s a good way to practice time management as well.”
Last year, Drain worked on a novel that imagines a future version of North and South Korea where the armistice agreement keeping the peace between the two countries has failed. She hasn’t yet finished the novel—despite completing 50,000 words—but NaNoWriMo got her motivated to begin, and, more importantly, continue, the project.
NaNoWriMo also creates a community for writers that often work in solitude. In each city a Municipal Liaison is appointed to create community-wide events and bring fellow writers into contact with one another. After participating in NaNoWriMo as a writer, Marshall senior Kyle Sanders is spending this year as one of Waco’s liaisons.
“We coordinate local events for the national organization. We do a lot of community-building, where we have events where writers can come and work on their novels,” Sanders said. “Writing by yourself can be very lonely, and sometimes something makes sense in your head but not when someone else sees it. It’s an audience that is going through the same process as you.”
Every Sunday, the Waco NaNoWriMo writers have a write-in from 1 to 4:30 p.m at the Waco Central Library. Sanders and his co-ML also host other events like a Rant Night midway through the month and a Thank God It’s Over party in December.
However, the Waco NaNoWriMo community doesn’t just meet during November. Meetings and events are held year-round, and during April and July more flexible workshops are held to motivate writers to keep working.
The month is valuable in large part because it instills in writers, and young writers in particular, the sense that writing must be a routine, Drain said. Professor Arna Hemenway, who teaches creative writing in the English department, agreed that the month is most valuable because it can create writing routines for students.
Hemenway encourages students to look at their work not only as a word count or a potential publication, however.
“Try and understand that it’s the act of writing that’s important and that’s rewarding. I think a lot of people get caught up in, you know, ‘Can I get this published? Who’s going to read it?'” Hemenway said. “But, you know, I’ve been on a book tour, I’ve published books, but really the only fun part of it, the only part of it that’s super fulfilling, is getting up each day and writing.”
To become true writers, Hemenway encourages students to keep working on their projects even after the month of November, and to make National Novel Writing Month something closer to National Novel Writing Year.