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National Novel Writing Month inspires young authors

By Drake Tinsley

National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) is a good excuse for many aspiring writers to unleash their creativity onto a page, or 200 in this case. NaNoWriMo was started in 1999 by a group of 21 people in the Bay Area. According to its website, Chris Baty, one of the founders of NaNoWriMo, said , “we wanted to write novels for the same dumb reasons twenty-somethings start bands. Because we wanted to make noise.”

Make noise they did, because 17 years later, the month of November is a special time for writers around the world. Back in 1999, Baty and his group of friends could never have expected their little writing project to reach its way all the way around the world and touch the minds and hearts of people everywhere.

Numbers for NaNoWriMo participants continue to climb year after year. According to the NaNoWriMo website, last year’s participation shows numbers totaled almost half a million. With approximately 16% of last year’s participants being students or educators, it is not too hard to see just how the event has managed its infectious spread. NaNoWriMo has mainly traveled via word-of-mouth, person-to-person.

As schooling systems around the world work to improve and educate the children of the future, NaNoWriMo gives them a vehicle with which to improve creativity and writing skills for them. In this way, many believe that NaNoWriMo has worked to improve people’s lives.

At AHS, students in the creative writing class were assigned to write 12,000 words minimum for a story on the NaNoWriMo website.

Lisa Piazza, the creative writing teacher, took this month as an opportunity to encourage her students to write. Piazza says, “I always wanted to do [NaNoWriMo]. I thought it would be good with a class devoted to writing.” According to her, the assignment was “totally self-driven,” and “if I did this project again, I’d try to identify the kids who need more help.” Piazza has imbued a strong love of writing within all her students.

Freshman Robert Jensen, a student in the class, said “the national writing month project is amazing,” emphasizing that “it strives you to go towards [writing a novel] because you can set a word goal.” Jensen said he found “you can do this, you just need to put your time into it.”

When asked if he would still participate in NaNoWriMo outside of the class, Jensen gave a hesitant “maybe,” but noted that he “might not have discovered it,” if it weren’t for the class. Jensen says the class made him think that “[NaNoWriMo] is really cool. [The class] made me feel I should participate on my own time.”

Senior Niles Telmo, another student in the class, says that “[NaNoWriMo] is a great exercise for all writers.” When asked how they heard about NaNoWriMo, Telmo responded that, “I first heard about NaNoWriMo when I was very young and it was on the internet. A lot of my internet friends recommended it to me because I wrote a lot.”

Telmo says that the difficulty of NaNoWriMo “really depends. You set a word count. Once you get the hang of it, you can really expand on your story. You just have to keep writing all the way through, then edit.”

Both Jensen and Telmo say that NaNoWriMo is a great thing for the younger generation as it allows for free expression of creativity. That said, NaNoWriMo is open to all ages. The content is not restricted in any way, and writers do not compete ⎼ it is simply there for people to be encouraged to write.

Giving people the ability to unleash their creativity was the vision of Baty and his friends back in 1999. They decided that the world needed a structured way to allow people to be able to find and make use of their creativity.

Novels are not the only way to be able to participate in NaNoWriMo. The name itself is rather misleading. Participants can write poetry, or music, or nearly anything else that is classified as “writing.”

The NaNoWriMo website advertises that they do not require that the writing project that the participant submit be a novel. They write on their site that “We just want you to be excited about writing.” They even have another site, Camp NaNoWriMo, that is specifically for open-ended projects.

The NaNoWriMo Frequently Asked Questions(FAQ) page says “Camp NaNoWriMo is specifically designed for open-ended writing, including scripts, poems, and more,” about Camp NaNoWriMo. The ability to write items other than novels is likely a saving grace for those who feel threatened by the huge weight of attempting to write 50,000 words.

The word count is large, but it is so much smaller in number of pages. The 50,000 words equates to 200 pages for a normal-sized novel, but that shouldn’t scare people away from the prospect of writing. Piazza says that her whole class of 28 people managed to write a total of a whopping 190,649 words.

AHS Journalism
The Oak Leaf, a product of the journalism class, is a vehicle of student expression and a public forum for the Alameda High School community.