Turning the Pages of National Novel Writing Month

By Frances Clause

Writing a novel in one month doesn’t sound like an easy task, but that is the goal of Youngstown State University students that participate in National Novel Writing Month throughout November.

NaNoWriMo is an internet-based creative writing project where participants attempt to write a 50,000-word manuscript by the end of the month. The project began in July 1999 with 21 participants and by the 2010 event, reached 200,000 people who collectively wrote over 2.8 billion words.

NaNoWriMo is also a nonprofit organization that relies on donations to pay for web-hosting services, pep talks, Come Write In resources and classroom kits to help people tell their stories.

Dom Fonce, a senior English major in charge of the creative writing workshops at Maag Library, said it is his first semester leading NaNoWriMo for YSU.

“NaNoWriMo is open to students, as well as the public and is super laid back,” he said. “People can just come in and write and if they need anything, I’m there to help.”

Photo by Frances Clause/The Jambar

The NaNoWriMo website provides participants with tips for writer’s block, information on where local participants meet and an online community for support. The writers focus on the length of a novel rather than the quality, encouraging them to finish a first draft they can later edit at their discretion.

“It doesn’t matter if it’s pretty, it doesn’t matter if it’s perfect — get the writing done,” Fonce said. “The most important part about NaNoWriMo is making writing a part of daily life and embedding it into who you are.”

Fonce said the creative writing workshops at Maag improve the writing abilities of novelists.

“I’m a believer that people get extremely better at writing through being critiqued,” he said. “In the workshops, people learn many tools, tricks and methods to pull their pieces together.”

McKayla Anne Rockwell, a senior English major, has accepted the challenge of NaNoWriMo and got back into the habit of writing every day.

“I write fantasy and take inspiration from real-life historical events and mythology,” she said. “50,000 words is the goal for most this month, but fantasy novels are more around 80,000 to 100,000. My goal is to get halfway there by the end of the month.”

Rockwell said there is always a possibility that NaNoWriMo writers can get their work published.

According to NaNoWriMo’s website, since 2006, hundreds of novels first drafted during NaNoWriMo have been published.

“A lot of publishing companies around this time of year actually ask for NaNoWriMo manuscripts,” she said. “Most of the companies are pretty small, but it gives writers somewhere to start.”

Angela Messenger, director of the YSU Writing Center, said she has been running the workshops with Rockwell and Fonce on Fridays for NaNoWriMo.

“Attendance fluctuates every week depending on what other events are going on, but we want every major to embrace their creative writing skills during the month,” she said. “NaNoWriMo can get trickier for students as finals approach.”

Messenger encourages NaNoWriMo writers to attend A Long Night Against Procrastination Nov. 29 from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. to work on their stories and study for finals.

Maag Library, YSU’s Student Government Association, the Writing Center and other academic services are partnering to host this event at Maag.