A Novel Undertaking

group of locals try cranking out a novel in 30 days

Aryn Widule, photos by Andrea Paulseth

If I asked you what a NaNoWriMo was, what would your answer be? An endangered species? A new drink? Would you wonder how I could speak in lower case and capital letters? Turns out it stands for ‘National Novel Writing Month,’ this amazingly ambitious idea to get a bunch of people together and see if they can each write a 50,000-word novel in a month. An estimated 100,000 people in 80 countries take part in this novel (Ha!) undertaking, and it just so happens we have a local group of our own.

I spoke with Robert, Graeme, and Aimee from the local group about what exactly this process is all about. The work is done on an individual basis, but having a local group provides great support, ideas, and a social atmosphere as the authors go about their noble endeavors.

Robert explained to me that the community aspect is really key to not only success, but to enjoyment of the process. He likened the local get-togethers to bowling – everyone plays their game and competes, but you’re there to see friends. You can be really serious, if you want. You can write to win, or try to get more words out in a night than the people you are with, but everyone agreed that the contest does more for personal satisfaction than anything else: it is writing for the sake of writing.

Graeme told me he was having a great time because he had this idea bopping around in his head for years, and he was never able to do anything with it. Because of NaNo, he’s been able to not only get it out, but expand on it, explore it and see exactly where it goes. His excitement was palpable.

Aimee explained that NaNo became a time when she got to write just for fun. She wasn’t writing for school, or for friends. Even though it is technically a global writing contest, there was nary a hint of competitive anxiety in the room.