Seventeen years ago, November was dubbed “National Novel Writing Month” by a group of writers hoping to inspire a new generation to take to pen and paper. They reasoned that if one could dedicate 30 days to writing 50,000 words, he or she could effectively complete a novel in a month’s time. Since then, National Novel Writing Month, better known now by its acronym, NaNoWriMo, has inspired thousands to tell their tales. This year, the program anticipates the greatest amount of participation since the initiative’s founding.
Tasked with writing around 1,666 words a day to meet their goal, participants push their craft to its limits to test themselves and the worth of the stories they’re exhibiting. Each day, users are asked to log their current word count exactly as it’s found in their word processor. At the end of the month, users have to prove this word count by copying and pasting the entirety of their text into a word scrambler on the site that automatically takes inventory of their work.
If they manage to finish the daunting feat, they “win” NaNoWriMo, earning various prizes like new writing software and potential connections to editors — both of which can be invaluable to aspiring authors.
But some find fault in the program’s premise. In a 2009 video on his YouTube channel, renowned author John Green vocalized his reservations with the plan.
“As a rule, no great book can be written in a month,” Green said, despite also noting the program’s triumphs. “Whether you’re writing for fun or as your job, writing requires discipline, and it takes a lot of discipline to write 50,000 words in 30 days.”
But many people find worth in the program’s parameters. One such person is David Cowart, a professor in the College of Arts and Sciences at USC,who thinks the amount of practice the initiative harvests alone is worth the while.
“Anything that gets them putting words on a page is beneficial to young writers,” Cowart said. “Part of the great problem of any writing task is getting underway, is getting at it.”
Therefore, under a regimented system such as NaNoWriMo, which compels people to just sit down and hash an idea out, part of the “great problem” is sought to be overcome. Cowart urges people to just get the ideas themselves out onto paper and to worry about such stylistic measures later.
As stated before, the movement has incited a lot of support this year in particular. As of Nov. 16, writers in the city of Columbia alone have collectively written over two million words, all the while sponsoring several workshops and engaging activities to increase the program’s headway.
So, what occurs after they are through? What takes place on Dec. 1? Cowart had but one word to answer this question: “Revision, revision, revision and more revision.”