By Isa Mazzei

National Novel Writing Month, commonly referred to as Nanowrimo begins tonight at midnight. For those of you that don’t know, Nanowrimo is a creative writing project that encourages people to complete a 50,000 word (approximately 175 page) novel in only 30 days, a feat far more difficult than it sounds. Contestants must enter the competition without any outlines, plot plans, or character descriptions, and have to write an average of 1,667 words a day to finish on time. Editing is highly discouraged, as the point of Nanowrimo is to jump-start creativity. As the website states, “Make no mistake: You will be writing a lot of crap. And that’s a good thing. By forcing yourself to write so intensely, you are giving yourself permission to make mistakes. To forgo the endless tweaking and editing and just create. To build without tearing down.”  Participants can upload their novels to Nanowrimo’s website, and anyone that uploads 50,000 words by 11:59:59 PM on November 30 local time is declared a winner, with a downloadable certificate, banners, and certainly pride to prove it.

Having participated twice, and won once, I can say with certainty that Nanowrimo makes one of Berkeley’s dreariest months my favorite. Coming out of November with a 50,000 word novel (albeit a rambling, wordy, and sometimes nonsensical novel) is a truly wonderful experience. Not only does Nanowrimo jump start my creative process, I write so many words so often that all I can think about are my characters, plot twists, and how I should take care of that event I foreshadowed in chapter 3 that I then forgot about for two weeks? And if I should run out of ideas and find myself endlessly describing landscapes for four pages, Nanowrimo message boards offer a fun array of ideas to spice up my  novel, from adding an alien invasion to the famous “travelling shovel of death” in which participants are encouraged to kill off a character with a shovel. Since people all over the world participate, local Nanowrimo meet-ups are common, where novelists meet up, share ideas, and write away the night.

People can write any sort of novel they want, in any language. As Nanowrimo’s website explains, “If you believe you’re writing a novel, we believe you’re writing a novel too.” Last year, over 200,000 people took part in Nanowrimo, with over 2,872,682,109 words written. So, spread the creativity, brew up some coffee, and get ready to embark on one of the most fun, challenging months of the year! I highly recommend it.

– Isa Mazzei