By Chelsea Bennett, Reference Department
NaNoWriMo: a silly word with quite an impact. It’s short for National Novel Writing Month. That’s exactly what it sounds like: on November 1, thousands of writers across the globe – representing all skill levels and genres – embark upon the task of writing a 50,000-word novel by the end of the month. It’s a worldwide network of strangers working towards a common, yet deeply individual, goal.
Maybe that idea stirs the coals of a latent creative passion in your soul. Perhaps November isn’t the month for you to start, but you’d like to know what writing resources are available. Whatever your situation, your library can help you achieve your writing goals.
First, a few words on National Novel Writing Month. 2017 marks the 18th year of this “fun, seat-of-your-pants approach to creative writing.” Their mission statement says, “National Novel Writing Month believes in the transformational power of creativity. We provide the structure, community, and encouragement to help people find their voices, achieve creative goals, and build new worlds—on and off the page.” A little accountability goes a long way when it comes to starting, and completing, your novel. It can be as private a process as you like, but knowing that you have a daily word count to achieve might be just the impetus you need. Learn more, and sign up, at www.nanowrimo.org.
Before You Start
Writers are avid readers. So read! Read everything you can by your favorite authors. Figure out why you find them so irresistible. Is it the setting, the characters, the humor, the dialogue? Is it the fantastical atmosphere, the well-researched facts, the philosophizing?
Go deep, and branch out. Ask teachers, friends, and librarians which authors they enjoy, and why. Do Google searches for “books like [insert your favorite here].” Check out genre collections on Goodreads.com. Scour lists of literary prizewinners, and bestsellers. Spend an afternoon at your library, and pick something intriguing that’s outside of your preferred genre.
There’s a world of great writing out there, but don’t let the options overwhelm you. Above all, read for curiosity’s sake and for pleasure. In doing so, you will internalize the subtleties that distinguish compelling writing from something you don’t aspire to.
Resources for Writers
Once you have a sense of the writer you’d like to be, where do you start? Again, the library is your great friend here. Below, I’ll list of some of the books we have on our shelves, dealing with the art and craft of writing. They cover everything from the finer points of vocabulary and grammar, to genre writing specifics, to publishing tips, to the collected wisdom of respected writers – and everything in between!
Explore these vast offerings for yourself by visiting the non-fiction department, and browsing the shelves starting at call number 808. You’ll find valuable advice, no matter your objective.
Helpful Library Books
- Baty, Chris (founder of NaNoWriMo). No Plot? No Problem!: a low-stress, high-velocity guide to writing a novel in 30 days.
- Campbell, Joseph. The Hero with a Thousand Faces.
- Card, Orson Scott. How to Write Science Fiction and Fantasy.
- Clark, Roy Peter. Help! For Writers: 210 solutions to the problems every writer faces.
- Cohen, Kerry. The Truth of Memoir: how to write about yourself and others with honesty, emotion, and integrity.
- Edwards, Jane. Travel Writing in Fiction and Fact.
- Field, Syd. Screenplay: the foundations of screenwriting.
- Gioia, Diana, and R. S. Gwynn, editors. The Art of the Short Story: 52 great authors, their best short fiction, and their insights on writing.
- Gutkind, Lee. The Art of Creative Nonfiction: writing and selling the literature of reality.
- Hanley, Victoria. Wild Ink: how to write fiction for young adults.
- Johnson, Charles. The Way of the Writer: reflections on the art and craft of storytelling.
- King, Stephen. On Writing: a memoir of the craft.
- Lerner, Betsy. The Forest for the Trees: an editor’s advice to writers.
- Percy, Benjamin. Thrill Me: essays on fiction.
(With thanks to my writer friend, Joshua Cook. His top recommendations are underlined.)
Starting to Write
Do you feel equipped to start writing yet? Great! What are you going to write about? Your personal observations and experiences are all you need to get started. Inspiration for all styles of writing will crop up in the most ordinary or unexpected places. For example, writersdigest.com says George Orwell “watched as a young boy steered a massive cart horse along a narrow path, and … was struck by an unusual thought: What if animals realized their own strength?” That idle thought grew into his novel, Animal Farm.
Creative inspiration works in surprising ways. Be open to new ways of viewing your daily life.
Start writing, keep writing, and don’t give up. Some days might feel like a slog: as the saying goes, “Crawl, but don’t quit.” It’s easier to maintain momentum than to keep stopping and restarting!
Everyone can benefit from an outside opinion. Check in with a loved one every now and then to see if what you’re writing is coherent and relatable.
Find a friend who enjoys proofreading and editing, and see if they can help you towards the finish line. (Note: proofreading and editing are essential services. Be prepared to offer some kind of compensation, even if your friend is not a professional.)
Eventually, you’ll have a finished work you’re happy with. Now to decide what to do with it! If you want to self-publish, the library is once again at your service.
On Williamson County Public Library’s homepage, under eLibrary, there’s a link called “SELF-e for Authors.” SELF-e, provided by Library Journal, “is a discovery platform designed to expose your ebook(s) to more readers via public libraries locally and nationwide.” Find out more at http://self-e.libraryjournal.com/author-faqs/.
You’ll also find “Pressbooks Self-Publishing” under eLibrary. It’s a great formatting tool to get your book ready for digital and physical publishing. Both of these services are available to you, free, with your WCPL library card number.
We hope you feel empowered to start writing, knowing that your library is here to help you along the way! Enjoy NaNoWriMo. Maybe we’ll see your finished work in our collection someday soon.
- National Novel Writing Month, www.nanowrimo.org
- George Orwell anecdote, www.writersdigest.com/whats-new/the-ideas-that-inspired-the-hobbit-animal-farm-8-other-famous-books
- Williamson County Public Library eLibrary page, http://lib.williamson-tn.org/e_library
NaNoWriMo. It’s pronounced exactly how it looks – weird. So, what is it? Aspiring writers, fasten your pen caps; this just might be the nudge you need to finish the novel you haven’t even started yet.
What is it?
NaNoWriMo stands for “National Novel Writing Month”. That’s right, MONTH. Participants have 30 days to begin and complete a novel of at least 50,000 words. Writing starts November 1st and ends at 11:59 PM on November 30th.
Wait, why? Some history…
It began in the summer of 1999 when a group of 20-somethings got together for the month of July to write novels. They had no concrete motives, or real experience for that matter. They simply wanted to do something with their time that was different from what everyone else was doing, and so they wrote novels. A quote from one of the founders explains why people across the nation are now dedicating their Novembers to this unique way of writing:
“We had taken the cloistered, agonized novel-writing process and transformed it into something that was half literary marathon and half block party.
We called it noveling. And after the noveling ended on August 1, my sense of what was possible for myself, and those around me, was forever changed. If my friends and I could write passable novels in a month, I knew, anyone could do it.”
Should I Participate?
The short answer is, YES.
Anyone who has ever thought about writing a novel is encouraged to do so, novices and novelists alike. And even if you don’t reach the goal of 50,000 words, you’ll have at least jumpstarted your writing project!
The official NaNoWriMo website allows anyone older than 13 to participate. Teens ages 13 to 17 can participate in their Young Writers Program. (Click here for their website).
How does it work?
These steps will get you started. For detailed info, we’ve provided the official NaNoWriMo website below:
- Go to http://nanowrimo.org/ and create your profile.
- Find an organization near you that will be hosting NaNoWriMo events (yes, Williamson County Library is one of them!). Writing alongside other NaNoWriMo authors gives you inspiration and an uninterrupted timeslot to crank out those beautiful words! Also, there could be free coffee.
- Start writing your novel! Writing officially begins on November 1st, but if you have something you’ve already outlined or started to write, there are no rules against continuing your work.
And after I write my novel?
As of November 20th participants can paste their novel to the official NaNoWriMo website. You’ll have the satisfaction of knowing you completed your 50,000 words and you may win some prizes along the way! The NaNoWriMo Non-Profit organization also supports the process of revision and publishing.
Previous writers have gone on to publish their novels themselves or traditionally. Famous NaNoWriMo novels include: Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen, The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern, Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell, Wool by Hugh Howey, The Darwin Elevator by Jason M. Hough, and Cinder, Scarlet, and Cress by Marissa Meyer.
Even if you don’t produce an instant bestseller, you’ll still have written your very own novel in one month!
So sign up, start writing, and don’t forget to join us at the Williamson County Library for our local NaNoWriMo events!