NaNoWriMo can take over your life

Special NaNoWriMo memorabilia like stickers and key chains are awarded to "word sprint" winners at events all around Phoenix. (Photo by Zach Heltzel) Special NaNoWriMo memorabilia like stickers and key chains are awarded to "word sprint" winners at events all around Phoenix. (Photo by Zach Heltzel)

It is a common sentiment that everybody has at least one novel within themselves, clawing to get from their brain and onto either a ream of paper or whatever fancy doohickey Amazon just released.

While it may not be particularly well-written or fit for publishing, the process of telling a story on a large scale and seeing it through to the end is as intense as it is rewarding. Writing a novel is a difficult, trying experience, but one that brings about significant growth and teaches authors about themselves.

Novel writing takes monolithic self-control and persistent motivation; it is difficult to start and nearly impossible to plow through the inevitable plateaus found on the 50th, 100th or even 200th page. It takes seasoned novelists months, if not years, to properly crack a story, but for a rookie, the length of time between conception and actualization may be too much.

The solution? Write a novel in 30 days, no exceptions, no excuses. This is the premise of National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo for short. This movement has consumed the lives of millions of writers around the globe since kicking off Nov. 1.

NaNoWriMo posits a simple goal: start the month of November with an idea for a novel and write at least 50,000 words by the time December rolls around. To make this sound less intimidating, the NaNoWriMo website offers an intuitive word counting tool that tracks your progress and tells you how many words per day you need to finish on time. Assuming you maintain a uniform and steady pace, that is just 1,667 words per day.

That seemingly small number is deceptive, as any NaNoWriMo participant can tell you. There are days it can seem impossible to write, whether it be that the responsibilities of life get in the way or good old-fashioned writer's block rears its ugly head. Luckily, there are a number of ways around this.

There is no NaNoWriMo without the community that has coalesced around it. In every major metropolitan city around the globe, groups of people meet up online and in person to offer support, give tips and participate in events such as write-ins, where people meet up to write together, and word sprints, where they compete to get the most words down on the page in a short period of time.

The local chapter, PhoeNoWriMo, is a coalition of more than 1,000 writers spread across the area, hosting events every day as far apart as Surprise in the West Valley and Mesa in the East Valley. Given the large student population around ASU, many of these events are held near campus, so landlocked participants need not worry about being left out of the nurturing NaNo community.

Now that November is almost halfway over, it may seem like the window of opportunity to get involved with this equally beautiful and terrifying month of creative exploration has closed. Have no fear, dear reader! As of this writing, you would need to produce 2,777 words a day to be on track to become a full-fledged novelist. The time will fly by before you even know it.

The next write-in near campus will be at the Starbucks on 420 S. Mill Avenue on Tuesday from 7–9 p.m. To learn more about NaNoWriMo or to sign up for this year's event, click here.


Pitch the reporter your novel ideas at or follow him on Twitter @zachheltzel.

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