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By B. Scott Mohr
Referred to as difficult by even some seasoned writers, NaNoWriMo – short for National Novel Writing Month – challenges people to write 50,000 words of a new novel this month.
And because the endeavor can be daunting, a host of workshops and Internet sites offer encouragement to writers.
A kickoff for the creative writing project, which is designed for teenagers and young adults, was Saturday at Southport Library, where seven-year NaNo veteran Jessica Brockmole discussed strategies for approaching writing, navigating the ups and downs of the project and tips to push past the wall of writers block.
Upcoming workshops at 4 p.m. Friday, 5:30 p.m. Wednesdays, Nov. 12 and 19, and 3 p.m. Friday, Nov. 21, will feature youthful authors Julie Young, Saundra Mitchell, T. Michael Martin and Julia Karr, whose debut novel, “XVI,” started as a NaNo project.
The program’s goal is to get people writing and keep them motivated throughout the month.
“It’s not too late to get started ... it will just be a little harder,” said Michelle Frost, head of the library’s teen advisory board. “Sure, it’s a challenge, especially for writers who want to edit and organize their work as they go along. But we are more concerned about just getting the words down. They can be edited later. After the month is over, you can breathe a sigh of relief.
“Even if writers don’t meet the goal of 50,000 words, they will still have a good head start on a novel. And they will have gained knowledge of what their writing abilities are,” said Frost, who said they initiated the program because they want to build teens’ interest in the library.
The project should serve as a good experiment to see what kind of writing community the Southside has, Frost said. She expects that NaNo will be offered again next year, except it will probably be open to anyone 13 or older. And as a lead-up to it, the library will offer several writing workshops.
Perry Meridian sophomore Erica Irish, who serves on the teen board, played a key role in bringing the NaNo program to the library. Although she isn’t writing a novel, she is penning a play called “Housebound Punks,” which is loosely based on her and her younger sister, Kaitlyn, who attends Perry Meridian 6th Grade Academy.
“I’ve almost got one act done,” she boasted. “It will probably be a three-act play, This is a far cry from what I usually write, which is dark poetry,” said Irish, who writes poetry as a coping mechanism. “The play is a little out of my comfort zone.”
While the program was launched in 1999 with less than two dozen participants, more than 200,000 writers took part in 2010, when an estimated 2.8 billion words were penned, according to statistics compiled by organizers.
Roughly 100 NaNo novels have been published via traditional companies since 2006. Many more have been published by smaller presses or self-published. Some notable titles include “Water for Elephants,” by Sara Gruen; “The Night Circus,” by Erin Morgenstern; “Persistence of Memory,” by Amelia Atwater-Rhodes; and “Fangirl,” by Rainbow Rowell.
Novels can be on any theme, in any genre of fiction and in any language. If writers adhere to the project’s motto of completion instead of perfection, they might find the challenge a little less intimidating.