Student Life

Students attempt to write novels in one month as part of National Novel Writing Month

She had two days left to complete her 50,000-word novel for November’s National Novel Writing Month.

Writing the last 20,000 words the last two days of the month, then-high school junior Dana Johnson said she doesn’t look back at the attempt she gave at writing such a long and involved piece of work.

NaNoWriMo is the world’s largest writing event where participants pledge to write 50,000 words in a month, completing their novel by Nov. 30.

Johnson, a junior from Concord, is not competing in this year’s contest but said she learned a few things about herself and her writing style.

“I think it can teach you a little bit of discipline as a writer,” she said. “I don’t think I would have done creative writing after writing academic essays without the contest.”

Johnson is currently in a creative writing class and writes short stories and poetry in her free time. She even started working on a novel of her own, of which she said she might never finish.

She said the contest helped her learn that everything she writes will need revising, no matter how good she thinks it is.

“The contest is a springboard,” Johnson said. “If you’re really serious about writing, you know you can do better.”

People who enter the contest can brainstorm any ideas before the Nov. 1 starting date but cannot start writing their novel before that date, she said.

“I brainstormed for maybe a week beforehand,” she said.

The contest does not offer any prizes for winners except for a printable certificate of completion, according to NaNoWriMo’s website.

“If you go and read the website, it says you’re not going to have anything worth publishing,” she said.

Assistant Professor of English Language and Literature Darrin Doyle, who has written two novels, one of which was reviewed by the New York Times, said writing a novel is a very involved project.

“It’s usually a long, very drawn-out process in which you kind of live with the characters and the story for, sometimes, years,” Doyle said.

He has had a few students in the past who have completed the novel-writing experience, and he said he encourages his students to get their ideas down on paper before doing anything else.

“It kind of forces people to get something down on the page and not even worry about the quality so much as the quantity,” he said.

He has written two novels: 2009′s “Revenge of the Teacher’s Pet: A Love Story” and 2010′s “The Girl Who Ate Kalamazoo.”

“I was pretty fast in writing the first draft,” he said about his first novel. “I think I cranked it out in five or six months.”

Doyle has had two former students give the contest a shot, one failing and the other completing the project.

The value in the contest is the amount of practice people get in writing by doing it, he said.

“You can’t get better unless you keep doing it,” he said. “Even if you never look at it again, just the act of doing it is valuable.”

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