National Novel Writing Month, it’s Happening Now!

By: Iona Newman

November is in full swing, and for writers across the country this means one thing: National Novel Writing Month.

If you are a writer or are friends with a writer, chances are that you have heard about National Novel Writing Month, aka NaNoWriMo, through panicked social media posts or a friend’s sudden radio silence. For those who have not heard of it, NaNoWriMo is a writing marathon during the month of November in which participants challenge themselves to write a complete 50,000 word draft of a novel. This means writing about 1,667 words every day in November.

The purpose of the challenge is to give writers permission to finish a first draft and help propel them further into the novel writing process. This can help writers at any level of experience, and can be particularly useful for students who may or may not have completed their first longer manuscript.

But students also know that November is the time of looming final projects and preparing for final exams. Whether or not you choose to participate in NaNoWriMo, below are three reminders for student writers going into November and the pressure this month brings.

1. Health is the top priority.

Mental and physical health should be the top priority regardless, but this is also a practical reminder for writers. Writing is a much harder task when you feel ready to collapse. Scheduling enough time to sleep is as important as scheduling time to study or write the day’s word count goal. Make sure to stay hydrated by drinking water, not just cup after cup of coffee, and to eat real food.

For college students, November is full of stressful school projects and preparing for the spring semester. Taking on a writing marathon at the same time will be hard work, but it should be enjoyable hard work. Make sure to take breaks when you need them. Putting a self-challenge writing project to the side is better than letting yourself burn out, believe me.

2. Take advantage of the opportunities and resources that are available.

The purpose of NaNoWriMo is to make time for your writing. Whether or not you participate, writers can use this spirit of dedication at any time of the year. Give yourself permission to skip the occasional social event to write 1,000 words instead. Use Netflix as a reward for when you finish something, not for procrastination. Carry a small notebook with you or write on your phone while on the bus or waiting in line. Schedule twenty minutes between study sessions or class periods to sketch out the day’s mini creative project. Developing these habits allows us to take ourselves seriously as writers. NaNoWriMo gives us permission to carve out time for our passion and let our first draft be imperfect.

What makes NaNoWriMo attractive is that there is a community of writers out in the world who are also visibly making time for creativity. Through the event’s official website, you can find local write-ins, online forums, social media posts, and pep-talks from established writers to support you. This support does not have to be limited to NaNoWriMo. Instead, NaNoWriMo can serve as a way to practice developing a support system for the rest of the year. Get in contact with local writing communities through social media or your university, follow writing blogs you find inspiring, and create a list of author role models. Store those writing relationships and resources for the long winter ahead.

3. Success is in the eye of the beholder.

As a NaNoWriMo participant, I have only won the 50,000 word challenge once. As a student, I am a great believer in personal successes. My goal for November may be very different from the goals of other NaNoWriMo participants in my area. Maybe I will write 15,000 words by November 30th . Maybe I will finish one short story during this month. For me, completing these goals will still be an accomplishment. 50,000 words is a worthy goal, but any extra words I write this month will be words I might not have written otherwise.

The world needs flash fiction, short stories, narrative essays, blog posts, and prose poems just as much as it needs 50,000 word novels. Get out there and try writing something new this November! Word count doesn’t have to hold you back.

And remember: there is always the camp session of NaNoWriMo in the summer.


Foreign Fame and Finals

vintageworldAn exciting announcement: After a recent meeting, our Business Manager, Kristen Pothast, informed the rest of the staff that some of our issues have been downloaded in six other countries.  If you’ve been published by 13th Floor Magazine, there have been people in Germany and Canada and the United Kingdom that have read your work.  So, that’s extremely cool.  It was one thing to want to bring literary and artistic talent to the University of Nebraska-Omaha’s campus, but to have gone so far beyond our city limits is something our staff members are proud of.

December has begun, and right now that only means one thing to most of you: finals.  They’re right around the corner, so be sure to keep pushing yourself to stay on top of your studying, project preparations, rewrites, and for some, senior capstone presentations.  The excitement of upcoming holidays and a three week break can easily be distracting when you have that “I just want to be done already” feeling.  Here are some helpful tips for those of you who are about to take your first college finals or those who need a reminder:

  • Get good sleep, eat right, and implement some exercise to help declutter your mind.
  • Make daily or weekly study schedules.
  • If you’re struggling with a particular unit or chapter, form a study group.
  • The Criss Library is a wonderful place.  Give it a look around.
  • Rewards are necessary.  Take well-deserved breaks after you’ve put in ample time studying.
  • Most importantly, have confidence in yourself and your ability to do well.

From all of us at 13th Floor, we’re rooting for you to get those grades.  And if you really feel stuck and just can’t seem to look at one more note card, during that study break you could give yourself a writing prompt or sketch an image that has been in your brain for a few days.  Those might just turn into pieces you’re fond of, and who knows, they might be submission worthy next semester.