50,000 Words. One month.

November is a time to focus on community, especially among writers throughout the world all focused on the same goal.


photo by Jess Daninhirsch

Writers use National Novel Writing Month to get as many words into a draft as they can in a demanding challenge to compose an entire novel in a single month.

By Aris Pastor, North Allegheny Senior High School

While some may think of November as the month of Thanksgiving break or the days when the chilly air turns into frosty mornings, many writers see the month as a different time. National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo, is a nonprofit organization created in 1999 focused on creativity, writing fluency, and education. Even though the website holds “camps” for several months a year, the main event is held in November, where writers around the world participate in an ambitious challenge—writing 50,000 words in one month. 

“It’s a big commitment, and I think it’s easy to lose steam when you’re engaged in that sort of task,” Mrs. Janellen Lombardi, a GOAL teacher at NASH, said. “I kind of equate it to a boot camp where it’s just really intense in a really short period.” 

While Lombardi isn’t attempting the challenge, NASH junior, Kay Mi,  has participated annually for four years, having completed the challenge in November 2018. She is participating again this year, and despite the challenge of the word goal, she is determined to succeed. 

“I have to find ways to balance out my schedule with school work and my extracurricular activities,” Mi explained. “I try to write whenever I have the time, whether it’s in between classes or during breaks from homework or even at the late hours of the night—when inspiration strikes best for me. I can’t dedicate a huge chunk of my time toward NaNoWriMo, but I’m doing the best I can.” 

Even with an abundance of time and motivation, 50,000 words is still a formidable goal. Problems like plot holes, writer’s block, and tangled plot threads will all inevitably show up throughout the writing process.

“When I’ve done similar things, I might lose steam or lose inspiration halfway through,” Lombardi said. “Another challenge is that people don’t plan for obstacles, so if you plan for obstacles, you might be able to better handle them.”

My only duty is to a blank page, so the need for validation is no longer such a burden.”

— Kay Mi, NASH junior

While some people believe that the goal may be too ambitious for 30 days and that the product ends up half-baked and of decreased quality, NASH AP English Language and Composition teacher, Mr. Lance Rhinehart, believes otherwise. 

“You can go back and mine or harvest out of that [draft] the gold or the good fruit of those ideas. And I know it’s a creative writing technique to just write without thinking, to just write and write and write, and go back to see what’s happened,” Rhinehart said. “There’s a kind of muscle memory there where quantity and not quality is the focus, but sometimes quality comes out of the quantity without trying.”

A massive community exists around NaNoWriMo as well, from writing Discord servers to the website’s online forums to the event’s social media presence. Lombardi especially appreciates this, citing it as one of the major benefits of the event. 

“You are participating with other people, you’re encouraging others, you’re getting motivation and inspiration from them,” Lombardi said. “I think being involved in a community of writers is really important. I also think the accountability that group provides is essential.”

Mi thinks that NaNoWriMo holds other major benefits as well, such as the ability for it to force people to write without barriers. The event dictates that a person write 1,667 words a day, so it’s hard for self-doubt or perfectionism to stop the flow of work.

“These days in particular, I have this overwhelming obligation to myself to produce something good, which my brain defines as something worth reading for other people,” Mi commented. “But when I’m writing for NaNoWriMo, I’m writing for the simple sake of putting down words. My only duty is to a blank page, so the need for validation is no longer such a burden.”

Though it has been a week since the event has started, it is still possible to make an account and start the challenge late or plan for one of the camps in April or July. The nonprofit organization also accepts donations and has a shop for those willing to contribute. 

This story was originally published on The Uproar on November 10, 2021.