50,000 words by Nov. 30
Posted November 10, 2010 at 11:32 pm in Lifestyle
In a world where communication is confined to 140-character blurbs, a group at USC has challenged students to indulge in â30 days and nights of literary abandon.â
Running through November, National Novel Writing Month encourages participants to break through their conventional snippets of thought and produce a 50,000-word novel from scratch â and USC students are taking part.
On campus, students and faculty are coming together for the writing challenge. USCâs NaNoWriMo (as the event is commonly abbreviated) group meets weekly, offering feedback to members and holding workshops to help each member get better and work toward his or her final word count.
Each participant discovered their passion for NaNoWriMo in a different way.
âI found out about NaNo when someone in my high school choir class came up to me and asked me to do it with her,â said Jamie Williams, a sophomore majoring in electrical engineering .
Perhaps the most compelling quality about this endeavor is its ability to bring people together. The organizers of USCâs NaNoWriMo club hold several community activities throughout the month to let members bounce ideas off each other and to help members face the daunting task of creating a novel together.
The clubâs Facebook group serves as a forum for writers to express their feats and frustrations, but the group also holds âwrite-insâ around campus where members can come together and work on their novels in a group setting. The next write-in is scheduled for Friday at 1:30 p.m. in Leavey Library Room 3Z.
âThe spirit of comradeship around NaNoWriMo is a great help in getting over writerâs block,â said Joseph Peters, a graduate student studying professional writing.
To âwinâ NaNoWriMo, writers must upload 50,000 words to the website by midnight on Nov. 30. Winners are awarded a winnerâs certificate, web badge and an official entry to the Winnerâs Page, yet each newly minted novelist takes away his or her own unique prize from the challenge.
âNaNoWriMo is about pushing my limits and learning more about who I am and what I can do,â Williams said.
Those behind NaNoWriMo know how daunting the challenge can be for writers, especially first-timers.
âMy first experience with NaNoWriMo was terrifying,â said Karthik Kumar Rao, a junior majoring in electrical engineering.
To help alleviate these fears, the Office of Letters and Light, the nonprofit organization behind NaNoWriMo, has set up its own built-in support system for participants. There are pep talks online from renowned authors such as Lemony Snicket and Mercedes Lackey, as well as USCâs own Aimee Bender, author and professor of creative writing.
âNot getting bored of my own story and/or character is one of the main struggles I have had with novel writing,â Bender said.
In her main tip to the writers in the challenge, she recommended, âGo where the writing goes.â
There is even a pep talk archive featuring advice from previous years, including more mainstream authors such as Meg Cabot.
Previous USC participants have their own advice for their peers.
âDonât worry about it being a classic piece of inspiration,â Rao said.
Aside from helping writers hone their skills and motivating them to write, NaNoWriMo has other, more practical benefits as well.
âI walked out at the end of the month with incredible time management skills and a typing speed that allowed me to plow through assignments in no time,â Rao said about his first attempt at completing the challenge.
This is the eventâs 12th successive year. The organization behind it, the Office of Letters and Light, started with 21 people in the San Francisco Bay Area and has since blossomed over the years, reaching writers across the world. Anyone interested in participating can simply sign up online at the eventâs website, www.nanowrimo.org.
There, they can upload word-count updates and excerpts for others to read. Participation is not limited in any way: This is a rare event that attracts everyone from electrical engineering majors to unemployed auto mechanics.
âThe reason I participate in NaNoWriMo is that itâs a great way to express creativity, meet new people, be completely insane for a month,â Williams said. âEveryone always talks about writing a book, but how many people can say they actually have?â
Because of the emphasis placed on completing the novel, many writers said they find themselves sacrificing quality for quantity.
âIt doesnât have to be good â it has to be 50,000 words,â Rao said.
Williams echoed Raoâs views on the challenge.
âThe first year, I didnât know what I was getting into,â she said. âI took it too seriously at first and tried to pick a suitably dramatic plot, which I got bored of really quickly and I only made it to around 35,000 words.â
Thanks to the culture built around National Novel Writing Month, participants have a strong network to turn to for support. They can understand each other and share in each otherâs joy when the challenge is over. In fact, there is a NaNoWriMo âThank God Itâs Over Partyâ scheduled for the end of November.
Although the stories might vary, and the writers might live across the globe, one thing is clear: Itâs time to write.