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Always wanted to write a novel? National Novel Writing Month is your chance to start

Emily Dawson, a sophomore global studies major, works on an assignment on her computer in the Undergraduate Library on Wednesday, Oct. 9th, 2019.

During the month of November, writers of all ages and experience levels will take on the challenge of National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) — to write 50,000 words in 30 days. 

NaNoWriMo is a national nonprofit that provides resources for writers, lets them monitor their progress and connects them with other writers in their region. The Chapel Hill region of NaNoWriMo encompasses all of Orange and Chatham counties. 

Maia James, a librarian at Chapel Hill Public Library, works with NaNoWriMo to organize events for writers in the region during November. 

James will be hosting “write ins” at the library, where writers can come together and bounce ideas off each other, give advice and provide support. The write ins will be held on the first four Saturdays in November. 

A NaNoWriMo kick-off party was hosted at the library on Oct. 26 to give writers a chance to meet each other and start forming connections. James said they had people from high school-age all the way up to retirement attend. 

James will also be participating in NaNoWriMo. She is working on a novel, tentatively titled “The Librarian’s Guide to the Apocalypse.” 

“I really advocate a lot for NaNoWriMo because it does help to push you to ignore that inner editor and just get that first draft out, which is the first step to creating something awesome,” James said. 

James said she knows of several people who have published novels they worked on during NaNoWriMo. One of those is Katie Rose Guest Pryal, a local author whose books are available at the Chapel Hill Public Library. 

Pryal said she likes NaNoWriMo because it creates discipline and accountability for writers. She said she goes into NaNoWriMo with part of her story already written and then uses the discipline of NaNoWriMo to get the bulk of it done. 

There are many ways to approach meeting the 50,000-word goal, and NaNoWriMo can help calculate how long a writer should dedicate to writing each day in order to meet that goal. 

Daniel Aldridge, a UNC junior, said he plans to take full advantage of his free time. 

Aldridge said he had heard of NaNoWriMo before, but decided to participate for the first time this year on a whim. 

Aldridge has already started preparing by planning and outlining the fantasy novel he wants to write. He said his focus during NaNoWriMo will be to get words on the page. 

Aldridge said he’s nervous about attempting NaNoWriMo while being a student, but he’s going to try his hardest. He said he knows he’ll have to sacrifice time spent playing video games or going out with friends, but he’s ready to make that sacrifice. 

“This being my first time, I am going to try my hardest to accomplish it, but I know that I might fail,” Aldridge said. “I’ve already accepted that, and honestly, even if I do, I would have been much more productive than I would have otherwise.” 

The shared environment of the write ins is motivating and creates a sense of accountability, Aldridge said. He said his friends and his younger sister will also be keeping him accountable. 

He calculated that 50,000 words in 30 days equals to about 1,666 words every day, and that is his writing goal. 

Elisabeth Delafield, a local NaNoWriMo participant, planned her writing by the hour rather than the word. She said last year she spent about four hours writing on Saturday and Sunday and 45 minutes to an hour every weekday. 

Delafield also said she found time by cutting out time spent watching TV or scrolling through social media. 

Delafield is working with James to provide events for writers who live further out and can’t make it to the Chapel Hill events. She will be hosting write in events every Wednesday of the month at The Root Cellar in Pittsboro. She said she was thankful for the support she received from these events last year and wants to provide that for other writers this year. 

“That support and then hearing that other people are focusing and are dedicating an hour a day because they’re not watching TV at night, because they're not on social media during their lunch break — it is really inspiring, and you want to sort of keep up with your team and with groups and the other people you’re talking to,” Delafield said.  

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This is Delafield’s second year participating in NaNoWriMo. Last year, she worked on a historical fiction novel that she is now trying to get published. She’ll be working on the sequel during this NaNoWriMo. 

However, it’s not all about getting published, Delafield said. 

“What I tell people is that writing a novel, completing something like that, not many people do that in a lifetime," Delafield said. "It’s actually a huge accomplishment just to do it and to tell our story is really rewarding."