National Novel Writing Month

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November is not just a great time to raise some money for a good cause by growing an impressive moustache: November also introduces a time for aspiring writers to chase their dreams by putting pen to paper for an entire thirty days as part of National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo).

Established in 1999 by a group of Americans in San Francisco, NaNoWriMo had seen over 200,000 participants take part in the event by 2010. The Facebook page for NaNoWriMo describes the event as “a fun, seat-of-your-pants approach to novel writing… [it] is a novel-writing program for everyone who has thought fleetingly about writing a novel but has been scared away by the time and effort involved”.

NaNoWriMo also boasts of a string of successful writers, who, after participating in the event, found their work being published, such as Erin Morgenstern, whose novel ‘The Night Circus’ smashed its way through the book charts this summer.

Just because this event started in America does not mean that Lancastrians and the United Kingdom in general are not able to get involved. NaNoWriMo has spread across the globe, and in the interests of creating a warm, friendly community, the programme appoints Municipal Liaison officers, who volunteer their time and support to encourage the people of their region to get together and take part.

For students, this could be the best time to seize an opportunity like this and begin writing their first novel in their very limited free time. Gareth Holt, a graduate of Lancaster University, spoke to SCAN, saying: “It wasn’t until my time at uni that I actually began to think of myself as a ‘writer’”. Furthermore, one aspiring writer on the Lancaster forum for the project emphasised that “if you can find the perfect balance between your work and your writing, undertaking NaNoWriMo at university is one of the best times to discover what you’re really all about”.

The Lancaster Creative Writing Programme, which encourages young writers to get involved with different literacy pursuits, advertised the event earlier on in the year and it seems many Lancastrians are dusting off their keyboards, temporarily setting aside their seminar work and embracing the so-called “Great Frantic Novel”.

George Green, a Creative Writing lecturer at Lancaster University, described NaNoWriMo as a “good thing”. He claimed, “In particular… it has the virtue of setting hard but realistic targets with a measurable and useful outcome”; by asking participants to write 1500 words a day with the goal of reaching 50,000 by the end of the month, the project breaks up the novel-writing process into bite-sized chunks. As Green says, “A lot of people’s problem is that they have unrealistic expectations about how much work it takes to write a novel”. He also sang the praises of NaNoWriMo’s support system, and the Municipal Liaison officer for the Manchester area, Kelly Oldham, added that “the support networks and life-long friendships… often spring up from these writing groups… it’s a wonderful thing for a writer to feel less solitary when they do need a gentle push in the right direction”.

Overall, Green says that he “would commend it to anyone in the early stages of writing a novel”.

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