Novel writing in November

Each year, thousands of participants worldwide devote the month of November to National Novel Writing Month

Jennifer Croome, ArtSci ’13, has been participating in National Novel Writing Month for four years, and is this year’s Municipal Liaison for the Kingston region.
Jennifer Croome, ArtSci ’13, has been participating in National Novel Writing Month for four years, and is this year’s Municipal Liaison for the Kingston region.

At a time when most students would do anything to lighten their workload and give themselves a break from writing, Jennifer Croome, ArtSci ’13, has taken a pledge to write 50,000 words in 30 days.

Croome is a participant in National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), a program that has grown from 21 participants in 1999 to over 165,000 participants last year. Participants aim to write 50,000 words, or roughly 175 pages, during the month of November.

According to the NaNoWriMo website, more than 30,000 of the participants in 2009 made it to the 50,000 word mark.

Croome is a four-time participant and this year’s municipal liaison for the Kingston area.

She said she’s always made it to 50,000 words, but it took her awhile to solidify her approach.

“My first year I signed up three days beforehand and I had no idea what to expect and I just did it through sheer determination,” she said. “My second and third years … I knew how I wrote best. I need an outline and a definite plan to follow.”

Croome said the challenge is difficult but not impossible to juggle with school work.

“You have to have very good time management [skills], but basically I’ve been lucky this year. So far I haven’t had too many assignments piling up,” she said. “Last year I had an assignment and I would literally write a hundred words of my story, answer a question, do another hundred words, answer another question.”

The program may see highly ambitious, but Croome said she thinks the strict deadline is an incentive to actually follow through with writing projects.

“Having a deadline helps because I really need that to be motivated,” she said. “Before this I had never really finished a long story before, so that’s a confidence boost.” NaNoWriMo Community Liaison Nancy Smith told the Journal via email there are currently 197,110 people signed up for this year’s event and they are hoping to reach 200,000. A wide demographic of people participate in the program, she added.

“There are 50,000 kids signed up for our Young Writer’s Program, and the age range for NaNo participants is anywhere from 13-103,” she said, adding that participants hail from 520 regions. “People come from all over the world to participate in NaNoWriMo. We have regions all over the world, from Australia to India to Mexico and all over the United States.”

Smith said she hopes writers gain a sense of accomplishment from their participation in NaNoWriMo.

“We hope that participants finish the month knowing that they’ve accomplished something great. That novel they’ve always wanted to write has been written,” she said. “We hope this encourages them to think about all the other things they would be able to accomplish. After all, if you’ve written 50,000 words in a month, what else might you be able to do? NaNoWriMo is great for aspiring writers because it gets that first draft in your hand.”

While successful participants do receive a certificate for their efforts, the real draw of the program is personal satisfaction. Croome said they receive a free copy of their manuscript they receive as an additional bonus.

“A company in the States, CreateSpace, offers a free proof copy of your book if you finish,” she said. “I did that last year and it turns out pretty cool.”

Croome’s past stories have covered a range of styles, and she tries to pursue a new genre each year, with past works falling under the genres of science fiction, comedy and mainstream fiction.

“This year I’m attempting literary fiction,” she said. “We’ll see how that turns out.” Croome said her job as municipal liaison is to organize events and act as the contact person between the approximately 280 Kingston participants and the California-based Office of Letters and Light, the non-profit organization that coordinates NaNoWriMo.

“I organized the kick-off event and the weekly write-ins and the ‘Thank God It’s Over’ party at the end,” she said.

Croome said the kick-off event, which was held Nov. 1 at the public library, and the first weekly write-in at the Sleepless goat on Nov. 8, showed evidence of the diversity of participants.

“We have quite a big range, anywhere from [age] 17 or 18 up to 63,” she said. “It’s hard to explain but it’s a really amazing feeling to be sitting there with 15 or 16 other people who are all doing the same thing ...You can say to someone at the write in, ‘oh, I hit 20,000 words,’ and they know what that represents.”

Croome said she thinks the program is ultimately a positive way to force prospective writers to test their skills. “I think it’s a really good way for people who maybe haven’t even written before to try writing, because it’s not about quality, it’s just about doing,” she said. “Even if you don’t hit 50,000 words, even if you only hit 100 words, that’s 100 words more than you had before.

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