November is coming to a close and with it so is National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). The non-profit organization, which encourages writers to complete a 50,000 word novel by the end of November, only has six days left before it ends for the year.
At this point in the month, writers on track with the 50,000 word goal should be at 40,000 words.
“The 50,000 words isn’t the most important thing, though. The important thing is that you are setting a goal and you are working towards it,” said Mazie Bishop, one of the Municipal Liaisons for NaNoWriMo in the Niagara region and three time NaNoWriMo winner.
This comes as good news to many participants — affectionately referred to as WriMos — who are currently feeling the stress of reaching the Nov. 30 deadline.
“I found that when people hear about the goal of 50,000 words, it is really intimidating to them so they don’t even try,” said Bishop. “But once you break it down, it’s just math. The goals are daily, not monthly. If you focus on your daily word count, it gets much easier. Some people even set their goals at 30,000 because they are in school full-time. Don’t let it intimidate you. Just try it out and if you don’t win in your first year, that’s alright. It gets easier as it goes. It’s all about getting into the habit of writing.”
Despite the heavy workload, the participants in the Niagara community have enjoyed spending time together as they work through the month of writing. Planning socials, having friendly competitions and even starting the Niagara Writers Guild are just a few of the ways that the WriMos of Niagara have made an effort to turn this lofty challenge into something more community oriented.
“I think that we are a fairly tight-knit community,” said Bishop. “That’s why we started the guild last year after NaNoWriMo, so we could see each other more outside of November.”
With the creation of the Niagara Writers Guild has also come the development of fresh new challenges and activities for the writers in the region so that they can continually challenge themselves and get to know each other better.
“The guild is planning to treat every other month similarly to NaNoWriMo,” said Bishop. “Starting with JaNoWriMo and onward every other month from there, each time doing the same challenge. We’re currently working on creating a Writing Free School in December. We also want to start teaching workshops and start a Micro-Fiction Zine to sell at Fine Grind Cafe as a donate-what-you-can for the guild. Hopefully we can raise enough money from the Zine to publish an anthology for the guild.”
Bishop added, “It’s really hard to write Micro-fiction. It’s basically a story written in 100 words or less which is actually very stressful to write. It’s all about creativity and punctuation. Since they are really short, they can be really mysterious which makes them good for writing thrillers, similar to the six word horror stories you can see online. So this mini-zine should be available from the Fine Grind counter top in December.”
The NaNoWriMo Niagara group also keeps a busy schedule throughout the month, planning numerous events to help WriMos reach their desired word counts. The primary meetups for the WriMo community are the regular Write-In events held at Fine Grind Cafe in St. Catharines. Bishop described the average Write-In as, “a different group of people show[ing] up at the NaNoWriMo events each time. For the ones held in the evening during the week though, it is usually Brock or Niagara students, but there isn’t a strict demographic. We get all kinds of writers participating with us. We don’t discriminate; all writers are welcome.”
The Write-In events are held almost every other day during November and usually feature a set of challenges called Word Sprints in which WriMos spend 15 to 30 minutes completely focussed on writing. The goal is that at the end of the sprint, the writers will have reached close to 1000 words, which they check by comparing their word counts to each other at the end.
“In such a comfortable environment it is easy to get talking or get distracted by Facebook,” said Bishop. “When we start that timer, everyone zones in on their novel and writes. At the end, we compare word counts, which gets competitive, and I also like to give out candy to those who participate in the sprint as encouragement.”
The Niagara WriMos have another game to make writing competitive and fun. At one of the events that they hold called The Night of Writing Dangerously, the writers compete in what they call, “Word Wars”.
“The Night of Writing Dangerously is an open to closing time event at Fine Grind Cafe with different writing contests going on to help people keep writing,” said Bishop. “[Word Wars] are set up like a tournament where you compete against one another persona and you have a set time frame to write the most words out of the two of you as you can. If you have more words at the end than your opponent, then you move onto the next round and face another person. They can get really competitive and really fast. There were people writing 1,000 words in 20 minutes when we did it this year.”
Since the month is almost done, there are only a few more of the Write-in events left to attend before Nov. 30. However, there are also two more events before the end of the month for the participants. First, they are hosting their last FiveKFriday at Fine Grind on Nov. 27, which (as you might have guessed) is when participants attempt to write 5000 words in a single night. It’s an excellent way to push their word counts one more time. Finally, the Thank God It’s Over Party will be held at Fine Grind on Nov. 30. It will be a celebration of the word counts accomplished by participants as well as their sheer determination throughout the month. It is a huge undertaking and definitely deserves celebrating.
Those who feel that it’s too late for them to get involved in this year’s NaNoWriMo are not to worry. The Writer’s Guild will continue hosting events throughout the year including their every other month writing challenges to keep up the writing spirit all year round. Also, those resigned to waiting for next year’s NaNoWriMo can wait actively by taking advantage of the many NaNoWriMo preparation workshops held online and in the region. The workshops in October are specifically designed to help get ready for November’s heavy writing season which can be invaluable to those attempting to write more swiftly.
For more information check out the Niagara Region’s NaNoWriMo page online at nanowrimo.org/regions/canada-ontario-niagara