By the time you read this, we’ll have entered the final week of National Novel Writing Month—or for the shortcut artists out there, NaNoWriMo. What started 14 years ago as a way to get people writing has grown to a mammoth event, with over 300,000 participants registered this year alone. The goal of NaNoWriMo is to have people write a 50,000-word novel within the month of November and submit it before midnight on November 30 to a word count validator on the official NaNoWriMo website. To sum it up, everybody goes out, buys a caffeine-IV, and tries to write a novel in 30 days.
Maybe this is the first you’re hearing about the month-long writing fiesta. Maybe you’re already past the 40,000-word mark and can see the word count finish line in sight. I’ve been hesitant to write about NaNoWriMo up until this point because of how undecided I am about the event. I’ve never undertaken such an enormous project and I was unsure if I could issue judgment on something I’m more than likely incapable of doing myself. But what kind of a writer would I be if I wasn’t overly critical of everything?
Don’t get me wrong; I think the idea behind NaNoWriMo is a fantastic one and I think everyone, regardless of their occupation, hobbies, or skill level, should write more. But the failure rate of NaNoWriMo is staggering, with less than 20 per cent of writers reaching the minimum word count back in 2009. Even on its own, shooting out 1,666 words a day for a whole month sounds exhausting, but paired with a regular work and/or school schedule, the time commitment could become too much. I’m sure people participating in NaNoWriMo have already thought about these challenges, but I just wanted to emphasize the undertaking.
I’ve read enough about NaNoWriMo that I don’t feel like I can add much to the argument either in support or against the movement. What spurred my decision to join the conversation though was an idea to provide suggestions for what people could dedicate their time and words to. Instead of taking part in NaNoWriMo, I suggest you funnel your creative juices into something more manageable and possibly even something you’ll actually enjoy.
A large part of our readership is composed of post-secondary students, so is it too obvious to suggest enrolling in a creative writing class? Douglas College has plenty to choose from, with introduction courses on writing poetry, plays, fiction, children’s literature, and more. Some of my favourite classes and instructors came from the creative writing department, so you can use that as a reference. Take a break from your usual academic niche and pursue something that’s likely a bit more creative. If you’re a stickler for prerequisites, sometimes creative writing courses can substitute for English classes on your transcripts—but make sure you check with an academic advisor before you use my Lettitor as a registration guide.
A less formal approach to more writing would be to simply take the time to brainstorm, either by yourself or preferably with some friends. I have a penchant for coming up with ridiculous ideas for sitcoms and movie plots that realistically have no chance of ever making their way onto an actual screen, but it’s enjoyable to sit around with friends and spitball pitches. Round up two of your favourite, most creative people and six of your favourite, most delicious beer and see what you can come up with. You don’t have to commit to pursuing any of the ideas, and you never know when brilliance might strike (hint: it’s around the three-beer deep mark).
My last suggestion for people looking to increase their writing is to get involved with yours truly, the Other Press. Douglas doesn’t have a journalism program so the majority of our contributors are people who just like to write or want to get involved with a group on campus. It’s a fantastic place to start developing writing skills and the amount of time you put into the paper is entirely dependent on how much you want to take on. We even pay contributors $50 for every five issues they write for—an offer you’ll never hear from NaNoWriMo.
Whether it’s completing a novel in under a month, enrolling in a poetry class at Douglas, or reviewing your new favourite album for the Other Press, I encourage everyone reading this to allot more time in their lives for writing. It’s one of the most useful skills to have, you’ll meet some creative people doing it, and you’ll get to experience the satisfaction that comes with writing something awesome.
And feel encouraged to continue doing all of this after November 30 has come and gone.
So it goes,