Based in the United States, National Novel Writing Month is a fairly large-scale global writing event that began in 1999 when freelance writer Chris Baty launched a creative writing event in San Francisco Bay in July of that year.
Twenty-one participants entered the event. The event was moved to November, and to make the most of this “miserable” month, the writer invited a friend to design an official website welcoming challengers from all over the world to take part in the competition: a 50,000-word English novel challenge to be completed in 30 days in November. Participants need to complete 1,667 words per day.
By 2022, more than 413,295 people have participated, including 85,000 students and educators in the Young Writers Programme. The rapid growth of the programme is testament to the passion people have for writing and the number of outstanding novels that have gone on to become authors with prestigious publishers in the challenge.
The event has not only nurtured a number of new writers, but has also made many people’s writing dreams come true. For one month, participants were encouraged to write a story outline, update their progress on the official website at regular intervals, and read the words of encouragement from other participants, so that they would not be alone in their writing.
I have also heard about the problem of procrastination on the part of writers, and some of them even failed to finish their novels even after years of delay. It seems that the perfectionism of writers is similar to that of artists!
To finish a 50,000-word English novel in one month is not an easy challenge. Does it always produce good writing? Not necessarily, but it can be a way to break the shackles of procrastination, and it can also be a way to get the motivation back to write by making the material into a better novel!
This platform, with many enthusiastic participants, has also recorded the stories of many writers who have become writers as a result of this programme. Even writers who are already writers are looking forward to a breakthrough in their writing by participating in this fast-paced writing programme.
One of the most inspiring stories is that of author Maia Kobabe, which I have abbreviated below:
Long before Kobabe was asked to write anything as a child, she wanted to be a writer. Her childhood was steeped in storybooks, and her parents took me to the local library every week, where she checked out piles and pairs of fantasy novels.
She would pick up any book with elves, swords, castles or spaceships on the cover. Her idols were the authors and illustrators of these magical worlds. So she began to wonder about writers: Who are they? What were their lives like? She began to pay more attention to authors’ prefaces and was surprised to find that my favourite authors often mentioned each other.
This made her realise that they all knew each other and were friends with each other. So she thought, she’ll publish a fantasy novel, and she’ll have a chance to get to know them. So for the many times she participated in this National Creative Writing Month, she wrote fantasy novels. But none of these novels mentioned other major issues in her life: gender, identity.
When she found out that my fantasy novels could not be published, she was quite distressed. However, she changed her direction, and she became more articulate about the big issues in my life, and the feeling of being stuck and unsure of what to do next disappeared. All it took was perseverance and bravery to follow that path.
Eventually she became a writer and met other writers and became friends with them. Although they were not her idols as a teenager, they shared the same themes and issues she explored in her work.
She advises young writers to focus not just on pouring out words, but more on setting out
“What message, hope, fear, question, or truth are you trying to communicate to the world through your writing?
I promise that clearly articulating your themes will help you tell your story and find the friends and writers who will become your community.”
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◢ Elva Lai enjoys creating art, reading, travelling, hiking and making a cup of coffee in the morning. She received her education in Singapore, the United States, Germany and Hong Kong.
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