NaNoWriMo: Say that three times fast.
For more than 10 years, November has been associated with this acronym, which aspiring writers find both daunting and validating—it’s National Novel Writing Month.
During this month, writers are challenged to write 50,000 words of an original novel before Nov. 30.
The total word count breaks down to approximately 1,667 words per day, or three pages of single-spaced typing without extensive dialogue.
For Portland State students like Jim “Pong” Kelsheimer, writing for NaNoWriMo in addition to regular schoolwork adds up to hours and hours of daily writing.
“I’m approaching it like a thesis class,” Kelsheimer said. “I set very specific deadlines and word counts. I write between four and eight hours every day, but spread it out.”
Kelsheimer, who has a bachelor’s degree in German, is also taking 12 credits this term.
These classes, he said, have fed his action-adventure story, in which different thinkers of the 20th century such as Mao Zedong and Sigmund Freud appear in cameos that address or contribute to the story’s conflict.
Kelsheimer also said that participating in the novel-writing month has made him more aware of the time he spends on his other writing assignments.
Tessara Dudley, a sophomore double-majoring in Black Studies and communications, described this year’s NaNoWriMo work as being more difficult than what she experienced in previous years, when she had a functioning laptop that allowed her to escape the tedium of writing for hours in the same location.
She described using instant messaging on Skype for this year’s NaNoWriMo, both to gain inspiration for her novel through word prompts and word sprints and to make the experience a bit more fun.
“It’s great to have a community,” Dudley said. “I don’t do writing groups much, but I connected with other NaNo writers in Portland this year…through meeting up or writing at each other’s houses.”
Dudley said she was a little nervous about being able to catch up with the word count over the holiday weekend because she had both an essay and a presentation to complete.
Dan DeWeese, a writer and an instructor in the PSU Department of English, is enthusiastic about the opportunity NaNoWriMo presents to aspiring authors.
“The idea of a National Novel Writing Month is a way of saying, ‘Hey, try that. Be obsessed with something for a month,’” he said.
DeWeese, whose most recent book, Disorder, was published in October, emphasized the importance of rewriting in novel writing. But he believes the guidelines NaNoWriMo provides are a great starting place.
“NaNoWriMo gives people a specific time period and a specific deadline in which to generate those pages,” he said.
“Even if you decide to spend a year—or 10 years—revising what you wrote, the first step is having the pages in the first place.”
Kelsheimer, who did not participate in any forums other than the NaNoWriMo Portland Facebook group, said that the word count graph on the NaNoWriMo website was a helpful way to gauge his progress.
At the end of the month, Kelsheimer said, “I will have a good-sized manuscript that I need to step away from for a while, [then] come back and take the time to make the manuscript something I would actually feel proud about showing people.”
After November, Dudley intends to polish her novel, an urban fantasy, and get into the habit of writing on a more regular basis, something she feels certain will continue after NaNoWriMo.
“We were talking about making sure that this carries over into the rest of the year,” Dudley said. “I made good connections.”