For the last 16 years, National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), a nonprofit organization created with the goal of spreading the joy of writing, has inspired budding writers and experienced novelists alike to take on the challenge of completing at least 50,000 words of a novel over the 30 days of November. NaNoWriMo’s thriving online community provides a platform for authors to communicate with one another, to keep track of their novel’s progress and to read about the novels of their peers. Last year, over 300,000 novelists from 616 affiliated chapters worldwide completed the challenge, and the organization’s founders expect over 400,000 participants to turn in their finished novels at the end of the month this year.
Mercer sophomore Kaydren Orcutt, a chemistry and Spanish double major, has participated in NaNoWriMo and its summer equivalent Camp NaNoWriMo several times throughout the last few years, producing two novels and beginning another three along the way. “To write a novel in a month is difficult not necessarily because of time but because of inspiration,” said Orcutt. “No amount is too much. I’ve written 20,000 words in two days before. I’ve also gotten through an entire NaNoWriMo with barely 10,000 words for the month. It is difficult to find the inspiration… and schedule in time for writing.” Nevertheless, Orcutt believes that the benefits of participating in NaNoWriMo outweigh the obstacles. “While it is extraordinarily difficult to complete NaNoWrimo, every bit of writing is worth something,” said Orcutt. “NaNoWrimo provides a way for me to interact with other writers, get feedback and be held accountable to my goals… If I don’t make it, then there is no great loss because I have tried and at least gotten something.”
Writing a novel in one month is no easy task, but Orcutt is constantly encouraged by NaNoWriMo’s online community and weekly “pep talks” sent out by established authors. “Already, Scott Westerfield and Tamora Pierce have sent out talks,” said Orcutt. “These were the authors that I grew up reading.” In fact, many famous novelists drafted best-selling books during NaNoWriMo, including Sara Gruen (“Water for Elephants”) and Eric Morgenstern (“The Night Circus.”) Orcutt is writing her current novel with a spirit of experimentation. “I am currently trying my hand at new writing styles,” said Orcutt, “In this novel, I am blending aspects of stream of consciousness, first person and flashbacks as a plot device.”
Although Orcutt has two completed novels under her belt, she is most grateful for the experience that NaNoWriMo provides. “The most rewarding part of doing NaNoWrimo is the ability to do something I love and be validated in that love,” said Orcutt. “Will I publish my books? Maybe. Probably not. But the point of writing is not to publish. The point of writing is to say what needs to be said, to write down what thoughts have been burning in your brain and in your soul. My reward for participation is not the product, but the process.”
If you would like to learn more about National Novel Writing Month, visit NaNoWriMo’s web headquarters at www.nanowrimo.org.