Write Now

October 4, 2019
WORD COUNT Students use NaNoWriMo’s website to track how many words they’ve written.
KELLY SULLIVAN

Want to know something special about Olivia Bean, Trivia Queen, by Donna Gephart? The book’s first draft was written inside of 30 days, during National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo).

NaNoWriMo is a writing challenge that takes place each year in November. Writers around the world take part. Their goal? To write a 50,000-word novel in a month. Kids can participate, too, through NaNoWriMo’s Young Writers Program. The concept is the same, but kids can set a shorter word count.

Marya Brennan, who runs the Young Writers Program, says about 100,000 young people and educators from the program join the challenge each year. “In school, you read books, you do a lot of consuming,” she told TIME for Kids. NaNoWriMo gives kids an opportunity to create. And they get to do it on their own terms, without parents or teachers telling them what to write.

Sophia Eftychiou, 14, participated in NaNoWriMo in 2017. “I have always had stories on my mind, ever since I could string two thoughts together,” she told TFK. “NaNoWriMo, for me, was an open opportunity to channel those stories onto paper.”

To the Finish Line

STORIES MATTER Students at Alameda High School, in California, celebrate after participating in NaNoWriMo.

KELLY SULLIVAN

NaNoWriMo began in 1999. That’s when founder Chris Baty woke up one day with the desire to write a novel. He had friends who also wanted to write novels, so for one month, they challenged one another to reach their goal.

Grant Faulkner, NaNoWriMo’s executive director, told TFK that the program “is a way to learn writing by having fun.” In the end, he says, it’s not about creating a perfect novel. It’s about telling your story.

According to Sophia, NaNoWriMo helps writers overcome their fears. “What I realized along the way is that it’s okay to not quite make it, or to feel afraid,” she says. “It’s getting your unique story out in a beautiful, messy flurry of words that counts.”

The NaNoWriMo team has written a guidebook to help kids do just that. It’s called Brave the Page, and it includes novel-writing advice. There are quotes from authors, some of whom have completed the NaNoWriMo challenge. Faulkner says the team hopes the book will help young writers “be more successful in their writing, both during NaNoWriMo and beyond.”