Students take month-long novel writing challenge

Paige Graves
Staff writer

Jordie Oetken/The News

Write 50,000 words in one month. That is the challenge of National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), and it is one not everyone will take. Producing a novel before the clock strikes midnight on Nov. 30 can be a writer’s worst nightmare, but Nicole Tuberty has stepped up to the challenge – and not for the first time.

Tuberty, junior from St. Louis, Mo., is a creative writing major and has been participating in NaNoWriMo since 2006. Tuberty said it’s a good way to get a first draft of a novel going, and that an entire community of writers come together from around the world to offer encouragement. Though there is not a prize for the self-driven challenge, participants receive a certificate if they finish in time.

“I first heard about NaNoWriMo when I was a freshman in high school,” Tuberty said. “I tried it in 2006 and failed miserably because I had no idea what I was getting myself into. For some reason I decided I would try again in 2007, and I got a really great story written, and I’ve participated and ‘won’ every year since then. I can’t even imagine what it would be like to have a November that didn’t include this crazy challenge.”

Tuberty has already surpassed 20,000 words for the month. Normally drawing from her own experiences, Tuberty said this time around she is being forced to use her imagination more because she has not had the experiences her characters are having.

“My novel this year is the sequel to the novel I wrote last year, which has been a big help because I’m already familiar with the characters and settings,” Tuberty said. “The novel is called ‘Crash and Burn,’ and it’s the story of a 22-year-old girl named Tamra who lives in a fictional country run by a dictator, and she’s working as the dictator’s assistant. She finds herself in a lot of situations throughout the novel where she has to choose between her loyalty to her country and her loyalty to herself, and she’s learning that choices have consequences. Eventually those choices will lead to her being forced to question everything she’s been taught her entire life.”

NaNoWriMo started in July 1999 with just 21 participants, but by the 2010 event more than 200,000 people participated. It was moved to November in 2001 to take advantage of typically ‘miserable’ weather.

The website,, gives a history of the event, a countdown clock once the month begins and a forum for writers to discuss ideas and struggles with other participants.

“The experience of NaNoWriMo is a lot more than writing a novel,” Tuberty said. “That’s a big part of it, but there are also forums on the NaNoWriMo website where you can interact with people writing a novel in a month all over the world, anywhere from Sweden to South Africa. Cities and regions all over the world also have their own forums where you can talk to people who live near you. Each region has write-ins, where participants all meet somewhere and just sit down and work on their novels together. I’ve met some of my best friends by going to write-ins.”

Tuberty motivates herself to finish her homework by taking writing breaks, and encourages everyone who wants to participate to rise to the challenge.

“I say just give it a shot,” Tuberty said. “You have nothing to lose. Even if you don’t get 50,000 words, each word you do write in November is one more than you had in October. Also, 50,000 words sounds intimidating to a lot of people, but if you do the math it’s only 1,667 words per day.”

However, not all students can make the time for the month-long project.

Amanda Delp, senior from Fenton, Mich., has participated in the event before, but not this year.

“It was pretty intense,” Delp said. “With the regular class load it was hard, but I’m glad I did it. This year I have too much going on and not enough time. I think it’s a good idea to participate whether you’re an English major or not though, because you definitely improve your writing and how you think. I liked my finished project, but I probably won’t participate again just for the lack of time.”

This month, though famous for the facial hair men refuse to shave for “No-Shave November,” is also a time for people to finally sit down and take a stab at that novel they have been promising themselves to write. As Tuberty believes, there is nothing to lose.

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