Tuesday, October 26, 2010

NaNoWriMo: It’s The Most Wonderful Time of the Year!

by Douglas Grudzina
The Office of Letters and Light is pleased to announce …

… the twelfth annual …

… NaNoWriMo!

(You DID know that November was National Novel Writing Month, right?—get it … NaNoWriMo?)

Anyone can enter. Everyone can play. The goal is to write a novel—175 pages or 50,000 words—between November 1 and November 30. The project’s slogan is, “Thirty days and nights of literary abandon!” and participants are instructed to write, write, and write some more, not sweat the “quality” (sort of like a month-long freewrite).

The rules are really very simple: novels can be on any theme, in any genre, and in any language. Format and structure are completely up to the author. Metafiction, post-modernist chaos, use of trademarked characters—anything goes. As the NaNoWriMo site says, “If you consider the book you’re writing a novel, we consider it a novel too.”

The competition starts on midnight November 1. From day 1, participants are allowed to update their word count and post excerpts of their opus for others to read. Completed novels can be uploaded to the NaNoWriMo site beginning November 25. All winners—those who have managed to write 50,000 words in the month (and there are rules excluding simply repeating the same word 50,000 times—receive a PDF certificate, a “web badge,” and inclusion on the site’s “Winners Page.”

We’re always looking for “authentic” opportunities for our students to write. This is ideal! If I were still in the classroom, I’d have every one of my students register and participate. Forget Dickens. Four weeks without vocabulary won’t hurt anyone.

It’s November! We’re going write a novel! (Oh yeah, I’d register too. We have to model appropriate behavior for our students, don’t we?

Here’s their official site with all the real information about registering, and participating in the forums, and all.

They even have a “Young Writers Program” especially for writers under the age of 17 and working alone or working in a K-12 classroom setting. It has a special feature that allows students to set their own total-word-goal for the month.

(Still, I think I’d like to challenge my high school students—especially my seniors—to meet the full 50,000 words. With middle-school or elementary-school kids, maybe I’d be a little more lenient—just a little.)

Remember that a “winner” is anyone who meets the 50,000-word minimum by 1 minute before midnight on December 1.

FYI, according to Wikipedia, 50,000 words is roughly the length of novels like The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Brave New World, and The Great Gatsby. (NaNoWriMo makes no claims that any of these was actually written as a NaNoWriMo entry.) To meet that minimum, participants write an average of a little more than 1,666 words a day.

November could be an awesome month in your English class, with your kids really excited about their work, sharing their ideas and progress with you and with each other, chatting with other writers in the NaNoWriMo site’s forums, and actually enjoying writing and writing and writing to meet a deadline.

As I said, if I were still in the classroom, I’d definitely do it.

You should check it out.

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