NaNoWriMo challenges writers--experienced and amateurs alike--to commit to penning 50,000 words over the course of November.
On 1 November, tens of thousands of writers commit to writing 50,000 words during National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo, for short). Delano caught up with two writers in Luxembourg as they start this year’s challenge.
“There is nothing to writing,” Ernest Hemingway once said. “All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.” But finding time to properly “bleed”--between work, family, and other commitments--can be a challenge.
The idea of Nanowrimo began, back in 1999, when a group of 21 met up in the San Francisco Bay area to take advantage of the bad weather and write. The goal was to just get words on paper--roughly 1,666 of them a day, to meet the goal of 50,000 words in a month--and edit later. Initiated by freelance writer Chris Baty, the challenge reached 140 people the following year, during which time 29 reached the final word count.
Since its conception, the official NaNoWriMo organisation now claims over 790,000 active writers in its international network, with more than 360,000 novels completed as a result of the initiative.
“50,000 words a month caught my fancy”
For Stephanie*, a 34-year-old Luxembourger, this year will be the tenth time she has participated in Nanowrimo (her seventh as the local chapter’s municipal leader)--and she’s successfully completed the challenge every time.
As she told Delano, she got involved thanks to friends writing roleplay posts, one of whom mentioned the challenge to her. “One thing lead to another, and I signed up for NaNoWriMo just a few days before November hit because the idea of writing 50,000 words in a month caught my fancy--crazy as it is--because the timeframe doesn’t leave you a lot of room to overthink things, so you basically just sit down and write, write, write.”
She has written in German but currently writes in English, the language she also most frequently reads, but she says publication isn’t the main driver for her. “It is more the writing itself that attracts me in this challenge. Of course, publication--if I can ever get to the point where I write a proper ending and am satisfied with what I’ve put on paper--would be fabulous. Maybe some day?”
She’s setting out on her 2019 challenge without a specific project in mind, adding that she’ll know more on 1 November. “I have a variation of introductory sentences that make themselves known every now and then but other than that and which one it is going to be in the end…Who knows?”
Joining Stephanie this year is her fellow municipal leader, Alexa*, a 34-year-old Luxembourger who works at the municipal library in Esch. Alexa, who says she has loved writing ever since she read “Little Women” in her youth, is currently kicking around two ideas and also writes in English. She says she has completed the November challenge five times in a row, starting in 2014, and likes NaNoWriMo because it “sort of forces you to just sit down and write”.
Like Stephanie, much of the appeal for Alexa is the challenge in and of itself. “I honestly never thought past the writing process because that is so much fun”, she says. “If at some point I feel comfortable with what I have written, I might look into publishing, but right now I only want to pour my soul onto the paper.”
How to get involved
Writers interested in the challenge can register on the official NaNoWriMo website, free of charge, and gain access to a wealth of resources, from a tool to keep track of daily word counts and overall progress, inspirational quotes and ideas to keep the creative juices flowing, and access to other writers through forums and more.
It’s also a place to meet up with local NaNoWriMo groups--including the Luxembourg-based group, which currently counts some 50 members (although not all will be active for this year’s challenge). The Luxembourg group regularly hosts online write-ins on Tuesdays and in-person write-ins on Saturdays. Stephanie explains that these allow writers to “not only write, though that is a large part of it of course, but we also chat about various things regarding our writing, all things bookish, or that have absolutely nothing to do with either whatsoever.” The group also tends to have some homemade baked goods and tea ready.
Anyone can join, and the municipal leaders are there to help motivate the group. “No one here will judge your writing, your typing skills, or your choice of genre,” Stephanie says. “We are all here to share our passion for writing, no matter what we write.”