By LILY TRAN
National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) is an event that should be added to every bucket list: participants aim to write 50,000 or more words in a single month.
Last year 431,626 participants worldwide achieved their goal and wrote novels.
“NaNoWriMo gives you a reason to just get [a story] down,” creative writing and theater teacher Cassie Champeau said. “It doesn’t matter if it makes sense, it doesn’t matter if it’s spelled right, it doesn’t matter if it’s grammatically correct. Just get it down.”
The creative writing class participated in NaNoWriMo this year through the Young Writer’s Program, a NaNoWriMo-based program that allows educators to create classrooms for students under 18. The Young Writer’s Program allows individuals to set their own goals that may or may not reach the required 50,000 words on the official website.
“I gave them a minimum of 5,000 words for the class and then beyond that, they got to just choose,” Champeau said. Among the 18 students in the class, most word-count goals ranged from 5,000 to 25,000 words.
However, juniors Christian Portin and Brittney Joya set a 100,000 word goal. Their ambitious goals earned them the nicknames “the Beast” and “Beast Jr.,” respectively. Though neither student completed that goal, both ended with over 50,000 words.
“Even though I didn’t finish, I’m just happy I got this far,” Portin said.
Students had complete freedom in choosing a topic and direction for their stories. The genres of the students’ novels ranged from contemporary fiction to sci-fi fantasy to dystopian.
“For some reason, when you give students class time to create and they get to drive the car and get to say what they want to write, they do it and they don’t even think that they are sitting there working because this is them creating what they want to create,” Champeau said.
Students were given several days each week in November to write, tracking their progress throughout the month. Grading was based on participation and if they completed their word-count.
Still, like most classwork, setting aside time to write proved challenging.
“Finding the time to write, especially with sports and school, was the hardest part,” Joya said.
And writing, of course, was the most important part of this event.
“It teaches [writers] to just sort of relax and enjoy their writing instead of always feeling like they have to get another page down,” Champeau said.
“I liked that I didn’t have to worry about fixing the story and plot holes,” Portin said. “[NaNoWriMo] really helped me to get my story done.”
To motivate students, Champeau provided prizes for each milestone reached. Students who reached 50 percent of their goal earned stickers; those who reached 75 percent of their goal received buttons and students who completed 100 percent of their goal received a certificate of completion.
Encouragement is especially needed when writers meet their worst enemy: writer’s block. Writer’s block varies from person to person and can last hours, days, or weeks.
“When I get stuck on a part of my story, I’ll watch movies or read books and grab ideas from them,” sophomore Caitlin Fink said.
During this event, writers developed important life skills such as perseverance, determination and confidence.
“[NaNoWriMo] really showed me how much I could push myself,” Fink said. “It shows that I can get things done if I push myself forward and do it instead of procrastinating.”
Even seasoned writers attribute their published works to the impetus they acquired during NaNoWriMo.
“More than 250 novels originally drafted during NaNoWriMo have been published,” LA Times writer Michael Schaub said. Best-selling stories like “Fangirl” by Rainbow Rowell, “The Night Circus” by Erin Morgenstern, “The Lunar Chronicles,” by Marissa Meyer, and “Water for Elephants,” by Sara Gruen were all originally written during the month of November for NaNoWriMo.
Perhaps one of the most important lessons for writers — one for life — is the importance of meeting deadlines.
“You may not be writing for the deadline, but all jobs, everything has a deadline,” Champeau said. “This event certainly puts the pressure on how you meet a deadline and also how you can be creative and be yourself within that deadline.”