November 9, 2015
For some, November is a quieter time, serving as a precursor to a busy holiday season. For others, Nov. 1 brings a time of escalating creativity with the start of National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo).
This annual monthlong event encourages participants to work toward writing a 50,000-word novel by month’s end. That breaks down to nearly 1,700 words a day, every day in November. It’s a challenge, yes, but one that many writers have enthusiastically embraced.
Ongoing since 1999, NaNoWriMo began in the San Francisco Bay Area with just 21 writers. By 2013, there were 310,000 adult novelists and 89,500 young writers participating, according to the 501(c)(3) nonprofit, as well as events and activities nationwide.
At SNHU, creative writing students and alumni are involved in the 17th annual NaNoWriMo. Margaret McNellis, who graduated in 2015 with her online Master of Arts in English & Creative Writing, has been involved with NaNoWriMo since 2008, missing just one year in 2013. She managed to write 50,000 words or more each November with the exception of 2009, when she spent two weeks traveling abroad.
“In 2008, I just made it under the wire by writing 13,000 words on November 30,” said McNellis. “I started late that year because I did not hear about the program to start at the beginning of the month.”
This year’s goal includes finishing her ongoing novel, “Out of the Sea,” which is currently at 13,000 words. As of this past spring, McNellis had written 30,000 words, but then decided to change the format to that of an epistolary novel.
“My goal is to finish my draft so that I can publish in 2016,” she said. “I plan to write 2,000 words a day.” Her story is set in the late 1830s, when her main character takes to the sea as a cooper aboard the vessel upon which his father died. According to McNellis, when a ghost appears asking for revenge, her character must choose between vengeance, justice and mercy.
With short fiction previously published in SNHU’s The Penmen Review and other literary publications, McNellis plans to continue writing and publishing short fiction, novels and articles.
First-timer Lauren Wood hopes to write a novel during NaNoWriMo and eventually turn it into a screenplay. While she knows it’s quite the challenge – perhaps even more formidable than she originally thought – she’s up for it.
“I just plan to be diligent and write every day,” said Wood, who is earning her online master’s in English & creative writing with a concentration in screenwriting. Her novel is a romantic comedy. She hopes to write a bestselling novel one day and sell a screenplay into production. Thus far, she’s published one short graphic novel.
Online bachelor’s in creative writing & English student Courtney Richards is a veteran NaNoWriMo participant with five years of participation to her credit. In 2009 – her first year – she won, meaning she hit the 50,000-word mark. While she didn’t participate in 2014, she’s confident that this year will once again end in a victory. She has a new strategy to help her complete her goal.
“I’m going to handwrite my novel,” Richards said. “I’ve always had better success when I do this. There’s something about pen and paper that makes it easier to write.” Her premise for this year’s event is a comedy-oriented novel that includes role-playing and non-player characters embroiled in adventure. Richards’ personal goals include more writing, with the hope of becoming a successful novelist. She also enjoys editing and is considering advancing her education in a program related to publishing.
SNHU alumna Sylvia Stein’s first experience with NaNoWriMo began in 2012, but she found she didn’t quite have the discipline she needed to accomplish her goal. It didn’t stop her from trying again in 2013.
“Being at SNHU prepared me for NaNoWriMo in 2013, so that November I completed my first draft to my now-published work, ‘Chasing Clarity,’ which came out this year,” said Stein. In 2014, she worked on a thriller that will publish next year.
While 2012 proved tough for completion of her work, Stein’s proven game plan for success includes setting up a timeline with notes and doing her best to set aside three hours each day to write. This year’s novel focuses on a singer, and how she plans to reach her personal goals, in spite of obstacles.
Beyond NaNoWriMo, Stein – who graduated with her master’s in English & Creative Writing this past May – plans to continue her freelance writing career and work in editing.
Learn more about SNHU’s online bachelor’s and master’s in creative writing programs and how they can help give you the tools to make the most of NaNoWriMo.
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