Volunteers for National Novel Writing Month are striving to keep the same sense of community through virtual means.
Started in 1999, National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo, is an annual event held all over the world to challenge participants to write at least 50,000 words of a novel. It was started to push aspiring novelists to write now instead of waiting for “one day.” Over the decades, the event has grown to include over 455,000 writers. This year, the event will occur virtually through platforms like Discord and will continue to offer the support system needed to encourage writers to prevail.
Program coordinator for the University Writing Center Florence Davies said the event's focus is getting words on the page.
“This is what most writers struggle with, no matter their skill or experience level,” Davies said. “In a typical year, the University Writing Center and the English department would partner with the B/CS volunteers and writers and host write-ins on campus. This year, however, write-ins will be solely virtual.”
The task of organizing these virtual write-ins falls on municipal liaisons like Bryan-College Station software engineer Summer Wilson. Wilson said there are approximately 670 regions worldwide with municipal liaisons, or MLs, who are volunteering to help bolster their region’s spirits and hold events.
“To participate in NaNoWriMo, folks sign up through the website and join the region for their area,” Wilson said. “Not all regions have MLs, but it can still help to connect with other writers in your area as all regions do have official forums within the broader NaNo forums. Once they are registered, the participants, nicknamed WriMos, set up a project on the site to track their words.”
On Nov. 1, participants began writing and will continue until Nov. 30. Wilson said participants are encouraged to write daily, with 1,667 words a day needed to hit the goal, but of course, people can write however it suits them.
“For the ‘by the book’ version of NaNo, participants should work on a new work, to avoid dealing with any mental baggage [that] an unfinished project may have,” Wilson said. “It should be fiction, and should be novel-length. However, people can and do write multiple short stories, work on existing projects, write non-fiction, screenplays, etc. We lovingly call them ‘rebels’ and they are just as welcome as those doing the traditional NaNo style are.”
With COVID-19, Wilson said everything will be virtual, but the group is still holding the same events, just via Discord.
“We had a great kick-off party on Oct. 31 that ran until 1 a.m., with authors I.Q. Malcolm and J.R. Handley joining us to do Q&A style discussions with the folks who attended,” Wilson said. “We hold three write-ins each week on Discord. Many folks join in with audio and video, others join in just listening and text chatting as desired.”
Ten-time participant and nine-time winner Kelsie Suter, Class of 2015, said the most critical thing to remember during NaNoWriMo is to persevere and ignore self-doubt.
“The writing process is not always clear and straightforward; nothing I have ever written has gone according to plan,” Suter said. “Flexibility is key because the stories can often be living creatures and take on minds of their own.”
Suter said the writing process is anything but glamorous, filled with proverbial blood, sweat and tears.
“Each day of NaNoWriMo is one more battle to win in order to succeed in the 50,000-word war,” Suter said. “At the end of the month, though, it is beyond worth it. I wouldn't be doing it for the tenth year if it wasn’t.”