50,000 words, 30 days, 1 student.
The night is wearing on. There are only a few more hours before the deadline, and you’ve got about a thousand words to go, with no idea of what you’re going to fill that space with. The adrenaline is pumping: you’ve already drunk a full pot of coffee, your mind is racing, and you’ve got a burning desire to give up and spend the rest of the night on Facebook.
And you’re doing this for fun.
Welcome to National Novel Writing Month.
National Novel Writing Month— stylized as NaNoWriMo—is a month of coffee, insanity, and a lot of words. The goal is to write an entire novel, 50,000 words, 1667 per day, during the month of November: the equivalent to writing an essay a day. In a press release, Grant Faulkner, executive director of NaNoWriMo, calls it the “the writing world’s version of a marathon.” The work must be original and unstarted on the first day of November. Participants win if they complete their novel by midnight November 30th and submit their depenword count to the NaNoWriMo site. No prizes are awarded and no publication deals are offered. The only take-away is the completed novel.
Like a marathon, the true motivation is the satisfaction of having accomplished something great. The novel may be a disaster of plotlines and plagiarism, but the sheer volume of words produced is something to brag about as December finally arrives. Write a novel? Yeah, I’ve done that.
Trinity Western University students know that November is a month-long ordeal of due dates and despair that Christmas break will never arrive. Surely, no student in their right mind would attempt it. Fortunately, university students are crazy, and appear to never need sleep. TWU has a number of students who have attempted it, myself included. It’s overwhelming. You feel despair. You give up, then decide you can do it anyway. And even if, like myself, you end up with six thousand words at the end of the month due to your course load, the experience of even trying is worthwhile. You learn that sleep actually is necessary, and that editing is for the second draft.
It’s insanity, yes. But nothing compares to the feeling of sitting down to begin rewriting the novel you never thought you’d write.