For many, November means cooler weather, changing leaves and Thanksgiving—but for writers all over the country, it is time for National Novel Writing Month, known by those familiar as NaNoWriMo.
Bridgewater resident Bill Patterson, who takes part in the program, said he first heard about it in 2006. He had begun writing a novel three years before, he said, and had put together about 12 chapters before putting it aside.
But a single blog post changed his mind.
“I saw a blog post in late November about someone who was in the last week of writing their novel,” he said. “The idea of a measurable challenge appealed to me, 50,000 words in 30 days.”
“At the end of October in 2007, I remembered the challenge from the year prior, and enrolled,” he added.
The major goal of the NaNoWriMo challenge is to write a total of 50,000 words. It began originally in July 1999, according to the website, in San Francisco, when a group of 21 people decided to set it up as an incentive for writing.
The program began more officially the year after, with regulations of having to start from scratch, and results having to be e-mailed to headquarters by midnight Pacific Time at the end of the month so the words can be counted. Participants pledge to write the 50,000 words.
And from there, the program grew and grew, with more than 200,000 participants in 2010 alone.
Communities host write-ins, according to a release from the company, and, while there are no judges or prizes, the event is about encouraging creativity.
“The 50,000-word challenge has a wonderful way of opening up your imagination and unleashing creativity,” said Chris Baty, NaNoWriMo founder and executive director, in the release. “When you write for quantity instead of quality, you end up getting both.”
Patterson said the win rate for the challenge is about 20 percent.
“Still, many people come back year after year, determined to get that win,” he said. “Most writers have stories that they’ve been trying to write for years. NaNo gives them permission to set other distractions aside to complete their works.”
“We do all we can to encourage people to get to the finish line,” he added.
In addition, Patterson said, NaNoWriMo sometimes gives people confidence to complete a novel, edit it and even try for commercial publication of the piece.
Patterson said there are about 2,100 people in the Central Jersey region alone participating in the program, and possibly several dozen Bridgewater residents taking part.
As for Patterson himself, this is his fourth year participating in the program, and his first as a municipal liaison, serving as a volunteer in the Central Jersey region to encourage people to take part in the program, and giving them encouragement to accomplish their goals.
Because of being in the program, Patterson said, he has written more than a quarter million words in four novels, two novellas and a dozen short stories.
And, Patterson said, he has a story being published in “JournalStone” in December.
“For me, NaNo has encouraged me to write in quantity, dream big and help others do the same,” he said. “NaNo resources have hooked me up with agents, other writers and authors who are shepherding my nascent career as an author.”