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NaNoWriMo and the College Student

Valued Contributor
Valued Contributor
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With ten days left in November, there are likely many Wrimos scrambling to bring their NaNoWrimo submissions to a conclusion. If that sentence sounded like utter gibberish, here is a translation: November marks National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), an annual creative writing project. Between November 1 and November 30, participants (dubbed Wrimos) across the United States attempt to complete and submit a 50,000 word novel or the first 50,000 words of a longer work.  Some NaNoWriMo projects have even gone on to achieve commercial publishing success; notable examples include Sarah Gruen's Water for Elephants, Erin Morgenstern’s The Night Circus, and Rainbow Rowell’s Fangirl.   

      The NaNoWriMo website allows participants to track their word count and writing progress, and earn participation and writing badges for reaching certain milestones. The website and Twitter account also provides tips for dealing with writer’s block, information about regional writing meetings, and online support forums where published authors share words of wisdom and encouragement. To “win” the contest, Wrimos must simply complete and submit either a 50,000 word novel or the first 50,000 words of a longer work  by 11:59 PM on November 30. To achieve this, however, requires preparation, discipline, and time management as writers should plan to complete 1,667 words a day in order to reach the November deadline. And while the purpose of the NaNoWriMo contest is to encourage those who have wished to write a novel but never found the time to do so, it is also a useful tool for teaching time management and the writing process. As such, NaNoWriMo could be a particularly beneficial experience for college students, even though academic obligations may prevent many from completing the required word count by the November deadline.


  Most college essays are considerably less than 50,000 words, but NaNoWriMo provides a general writing experience that students can learn techniques from. Similar to plotting a novel, students in the prewriting phase will need to plan out their papers and complete necessary research prior to writing. During this phase, students should take into consideration their word count and how much writing they will need to accomplish per day in order to meet that goal. Students who attempt the NaNoWriMo challenge will gain experience in committing their time to write, tracking their progress, and consulting NaNoWriMo resources for advice on navigating writer’s block and other challenges. Students can transfer this experience to their own academic writing when the time comes for them to manage their schedules to complete assignments, create their own goals to meet assigned word counts, and seek out writing resources for assistance.

      NaNoWriMo builds motivation into its competition with a daily goal of words written. The contest is not so much concerned with proper spelling, grammar, and editing for clarity, as it is with fulfilling the word count. Such a concept may be difficult for some writers to accept; I often find myself relating to Anne Bradstreet when it comes to my own writing. But the intention is to encourage the free flow of thought and writing without the hindrance of lower order writing concerns. Students may find this experience of freewriting helpful when dealing with the pre-revision stage of writing. NaNoWriMo provides an experience in the motivation, commitment, and planning it takes to be a writer, attitudes and skills applicable to success in college and beyond. So whether you aspire to pen the next Great American Novel or complete a history essay, consider participating in NaNoWriMo for an introduction to the fun and frenzied writing experience.

Happy Writing!

Banner image source: Where The Writers Go To Write (Poetry, Stories, Contests, and more!),