NaNoWriMo Who?

By Will Keffler

National Novel Writing Month [NaNoWriMo] is a worldwide event that fosters the support of various schools, libraries and bookstores for writers to write a 50,000 word novel all in the month of November. The nonprofit organization is run through its website at but relies on volunteers in communities to run local chapters that motivate writers to complete the challenging task.

With nearly 450,000 participants this year, Grant Faulkner, its executive director, said that even though the program can seem daunting to many, it continues to gain followers willing to take the challenge.

“Too many people think they’re not a ‘creative type,’ but to be human is to be a ‘creative type,’” Faulkner said. “NaNoWriMo teaches you to believe that your story matters, to trust the gambols of your imagination and make the blank page a launching pad to explore new universes. That’s important, because when we create, we cultivate meaning.”

In Youngstown, the Writing Center in Maag Library on the campus of Youngstown State University is one of the sponsored hubs. Students and community members gather in conjunction with a YSU creative writing workshop on Fridays at 2 p.m. to propel each other to make it to the end goal of 50,000 words.

Angela Messenger, the director of the Writing Center in Maag Library, said that she had noticed much more outreach for NaNoWriMo than in years past. She was pleased to see people attempting the project and working diligently on their passions of writing.

“Since I took over this position I wanted to have a better connection between the Writing Center and creative writers on campus,” Messenger said. “I didn’t want people to view the Writing Center as a remedial service but rather a hub for all types of writing. When I heard about NaNoWriMo, I knew we had to get on board.”

Worldwide, less than 10 percent of writers who attempt the program come out with a rough draft at the end of 30 days. For Amanda Miller, a graduate assistant at YSU and leader of the creative writing workshop, the task isn’t always within reach, but the experience gained from the workshop makes all the effort worth it.

“The end goal is to have a complete first draft of a novel from start to finish,” Miller said. “I’ve tried it every year since 2010, but I’ve never actually finished all 50,000 words in one month. However, I encourage everyone to do it, because it will open up their eyes to researching, concept forming and sitting down and being disciplined to write every single day for 30 days no matter what.”

Bridgid Cassin, a graduate assistant at YSU, said she had tried the program many times, and it’s not always conducive, but because of the creative people she has met and the atmosphere it fosters, she will keep attempting year after year.

“Communication and collaboration are a valuable part of the writing process, whether you’re writing an academic paper or a creative piece,” Cassin said. “Even if you’re not getting a whole novel done, you’re learning about the process. You’re working through ideas and finding out what works and what doesn’t, so it makes you a stronger writer. It’s a challenge, but you have to make sure you’re having fun with it.”