Students take on a novel writing challenge

Some students at the University of King's College are participating in National Novel Writing Month

Photo: rahego, Flickr.

With the weight of end-of-term papers and exams upon them, some students at the University of King's College are taking on an added writing challenge.

November is National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo, an internet-based novel writing project, which began in 2001. During November, writers are challenged to pen or type 50,000 words by Nov. 30.

Reaching that kind of word count is a daunting task on its own, but with papers, presentations and final exams, it's even more strenuous for university students.

Writers and Wordsmiths

The King's Wordsmiths Society is a group of writers that meets regularly to support fellow students through their novel writing.

King's student Shoshana Deutsh is president of the Wordsmiths Society, and she has also taken on the NaNoWriMo challenge.

Deutsh made her first attempt at NaNoWriMo last year, but school deadlines became the priority. This year, she has set a goal for herself of 30,000 words by the end of November. She is already 24,000 words in.

Her goal for the end of April is to have an entire first draft of a novel completed.

She says the society keeps her NaNoWriMo writing going.

"If I commit to doing meetings and commit to the Wordsmiths, then I'm committing myself to it," says Deutsh. "Even if I don't finish 50,000 words, I still have to get somewhere."

A published novel

At the end of NaNoWriMo, ideally participants have a completed draft for a novel. Stephanie Domet, host of CBC Radio One's Mainstreet, achieved that goal when she completed the first draft of what would become her novel, Homing, published a few years later by Invisible Publishing.

Domet took on the novel writing challenge in 2003. She was working with CBC Radio's One's Definitely Not the Opera, and pitched the idea of her taking part in NaNoWriMo and reporting on it each week on the show. The team loved her idea, and picked it up for the program.

"It was massively stressful," she said. "I procrastinated mightily. I did most of my writing in the final weekend of the month." She wrote 30,000 words in that last weekend, and says she would not recommend doing that.

Domet says university students with piles of assignments who are trying to hit the 50,000 word count should not worry too much about the quality of their writing right now.

"You're jamming it out super fast. You should not expect it to be good," she said.

"Just get to the end, take a little break, get some sleep... and then in a couple of months you should come back and look at it, if you want to do something with it."

Nearing the goal

Even in the thick of end-of-term assignments, student writers such as King's student Ross Chiasson still manage to make impressive strides. In the middle of November, he was already nearing 40,000 words.

"It's been quite a rush trying to hit that word count, especially with all the school work," Chiasson said.

He says he would have to write 2,000 words a day for the rest of the month to make it to the word mark, and although finding the time to write is sometimes difficult, he says it's worth it.

"If you enjoy writing at all, it doesn't matter if you don't make it to the 50,000 word mark," he said. "Just the fact that you tried to commit yourself to that 2,000 word a day format is incredibly satisfying."

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