Writers take on 50,000 word challenge



This November is National Novel Writing Month, a movement that challenges writers to create a 50,000 word piece of fiction by midnight on November 30. 



The program was started in the San Francisco Bay Area, by “Chris Baty and 20 other over caffeinated yahoos in 1999,” as described on the program’s website. 



In 2009, “NaNoWriMo” had approximately 170,000 participants and over 30,000 winners. The participant count has grown every year at a sharp rate, and is now known and participated in on a national and international scale.  



Participants upload their work onto nanowrimo.org, where a word counting program verifies that they have written at least 50,000 words. The word count is recorded, but the content of the novel is not. Once a participant has submitted their piece, and it meets the minimum, they are a winner.


Although they do joke about it on their website, NaNoWriMo does not offer a cash prize.  Upon completing the project, winners’ names are added to their “Winner’s Page,” which function as a NaNoWriMo Hall of Fame, the website says. Winners are also presented with a web badge and a completion certificate. 



The creators of the competition describe that the real prize is that each winner now has a original piece that is at least 50,000 words in length.  


NaNoWriMo is met with enthusiasm amongst many students at St. John’s. Rubbaya Hoque, a senior and employee of the Writing Center, encouraged those that take on the challenge.



“I would say ‘go for it’, for anyone,” she said. “If you do 2,000 words a night, you can definitely do it in a month.”  



Stacey Ruiz, a sophomore and English major at St. John’s, approved of the program. “It teaches writers to work on a schedule,” said Ruiz.



Chris Leary, the Associate Director of the Writing Center at St. John’s Staten Island Campus, gave NaNoWriMo a positive review. 



“I think the idea is a really good one, which is to have writers write a lot and not worry too much if the novel is perfect or marketable,” said Leary. 



Tamika Bethelmie, an employee of News Corporation, completed well over the required limit of words for NaNoWriMo in 2008. Her advice to participants is to “Get class work out of the way first, stay motivated, don’t give up, and remove your backspace button, if possible.” 



Stephanie Deliso, a junior at St. John’s, completed the project in 2009.  Deliso said she felt such a great feeling of accomplishment upon crossing the 50,000 word finish line. 


“In one way, reaching the marker was like having a burden lifted off my shoulders since it meant I could stop writing if I wanted to and in another way, it was this emboldening accomplishment that encouraged me to keep writing anyway,” she said.



Her advice to participants was, “don’t over think it. Just write.”



Many students agreed that the accomplishment of completing NaNoWriMo was as good as a prize itself.