Students participating in NaNoWriMo show that its more than just a novel idea

As National Novel Writing Month has drawn to a close for this year, discussions on the The Student Room suggest that this pursuit of ‘literary abandon’ is not just a journey of creative development, but also an opportunity to demonstrate some valuable transferrable skills.

As men put down their razors in aid of November’s charity alter ego Movember, students picked up their virtual pens as part of the month’s literary incarnation, NaNoWriMo, or ‘National Novel Writing Month’.

The concept is described on the main website as ‘Thirty days of literary abandon’, and the idea is that participants undertake the challenge of writing a 50,000 word novel in the 30 day period of November.

On The Student Room, members have set up their own NaNoWriMo thread to share their support, successes, and setbacks in their attempts to make the word count without neglecting their other duties or deadlines. TSR members include NaNoWriMo veterans, first-timers, and those who tried in previous years but never made it to the finishing line.

I did it successfully in 2007 and 2008… took a break for 2009… in 2010 I never could get into the spirit of it… this year I have an excellent plot…’

Two threads started in mid-September and new participants were recruited who had never heard about it before. One of the two threads continued throughout October with those who had signed up now discussing potential plot ideas:

it’s great encouragement being able to talk to others about writers block, pressure, wanting to give up etc.’

I think no matter what the story adding a zombie or two and perhaps a giant squid would liven it up.

The Write Stuff

Although the deadline for meeting the word count is pre-determined, for many their enjoyment is drawn from the process itself. Moreover, the experience allows for the practical application of key skills that employers in recent months have claimed are absent in the country’s young workforce.

It is also a potentially productive use of time during the quest for employment and participants demonstrate motivation and self-determination in voluntarily undertaking the challenge and then striving to reach their 50,000th word.

I’m doing NaNoWriMo this year to pass the time while I’m unemployed. As a result, I’m not having too much trouble with the word count…’

‘I want to do it again… but I have a job this year so I’m not sure if I’ll have the time.’

Time management and Prioritisation

Those studying and or with family commitments are still dedicated to their art and are timetabling their writing time around their other commitments:

‘…Im itching to get on with this story and the only chance I get to do it is when the kids are in bed…’

‘…at the start uni work kinda was killing my NaNo. Then I set myself a target of writing 10k in one weekend.’

‘I’m lucky that atm don’t have too much uni work (did it all in advance so I could get on with NaNo this month)’

Research skills

‘I am enjoying mine, but it’s set in the late 1800s, so I’m having to verify a lot of historical facts…’

I did have a lot of fun writing a dueling scene yesterday, although I spent an hour writing 600 words because I had to do so much research on fencing.’

Teamwork: offering support and constructive criticism

‘oh good god, definitely start again!’

‘I like your idea… A nice original twist on the typical ‘boy meets girl’ scenario.’

‘YAY not far to go now at all! WRITE WRITE WRITE and win so you can get a pretty purple bar!’

The finishing line?

As the deadline finally passed, participants reflected on their experience over the last 30 days. For those who completed it or ‘won’, and those who didn’t, the general consensus was positive:

47730 words…Not bad going I guess – I am impressed that I managed to get so close when I’ve had so much college stuff to do. Even more determined to win next year now!

‘…there’s no way I’ll get 25k in 3 days. But on the upside, I have fallen in love with novel and I’ll keep writing it for fun…’

For those that made the full transition from would-be storywriter into novelist aficionado, the challenge may be over for this year but the writing is not:

‘Well do my december exams, then I’m gonna proofread what I’ve written, iron out any plot issues, and write the last 30 odd thousand words of the book. Then hopefully get an agent and get published…’

One post also referred to the website lulu.com, which allows individuals to self-publish their books and distribute them through Amazon.

So, for some participants the 30th November may be the end of the story for this year, but for others its just another chapter in a lifelong literary adventure and for them  ‘…the story itself wont be anywhere near finished.’