The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

Aspiring novelists at UI dedicate themselves to the November writing challenge

NaNoWriMo is an annual November novel-writing challenge that encourages participants to develop consistent writing habits while working on their projects.
Anthony Vazquez
Writers from around Iowa City work on the short stories and novels at the Iowa City Public Library, in Iowa City on Wednesday, Nov. 2, 2016. The Iowa City Public Library will be hosting meetings to for writers to celebrate National Novel Writing Month.

Writing a novel is hard work. The act of creating a full-fledged and developed story requires time, effort, and dedication. It can be easy for many writers to become discouraged, especially if they take on the challenge of creating a world all alone.

The annual National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) that takes place every November challenges writers to break their writer’s block. The kick? 50,000 words in 30 days.

Though a lofty goal, when someone enters the NaNoWriMo challenge, they are not entering alone.

In 2022, 413,295 people participated worldwide through the organization’s website. Tens of thousands of these participants identified as young writers. The participation of so many people empowers writers — nicknamed “Wrimos” by the site — to feel a sense of community while climbing the word count.

University of Iowa first-year student Ella Crosby decided to take on NaNoWriMo for the first time this year. So far, she said she is enjoying the extra motivation.

Crosby is approaching the 50,000-word goal differently than the typical one-storyline approach most participants take. Instead of focusing on one specific story, she is trying to write about all the ideas in her head.

As an English and creative writing and theater arts double major, Crosby believes that NaNoWriMo will be helpful to the work she creates for school because it forces her to practice with at least a few hundred words each day.

“I felt that this year, [the challenge] was actually manageable,” Crosby said. “I’m out of high school now, and the writing environment at [the UI] is really cool. It made me feel like I could actually get it done.”

The UI has been instrumental in helping Crosby turn her ideas into stories, she said. A ten-page story she workshopped in a fiction writing course is now the focal point of her NaNoWriMo goals.

Though nearing the end of the fall semester — the busiest time of the year for most students — communities within the UI are still working to promote the popular challenge.

UI English Society Co-President Amritha Selvarajaguru hosted the English Society Write-in on Nov. 1, an annual event hosted during the first week of November that provides a space for undergraduates to dedicate a few hours to working on their NaNoWriMo goals.

This is Selvarajaguru’s fourth time attempting NaNoWriMo. Her first attempt was a middle school passion project, on which she claimed she “failed spectacularly.”

However, in Nov. 2021-22, she successfully reached the 50,000-word mark. Now, she aims for a third straight success in 2023.

“My advice would be to not worry about quality, just focus on quantity,” Selvarajaguru said. “It’s better to have something that you can cut out, rather than to have nothing on the page at all.”

While the English Society will likely not have any more NaNoWriMo-focused events for this year, it will continue to provide resources for aspiring writers. Events are held on Wednesdays throughout the year, and new writing prompts and challenge events will be hosted at some point in December.

Though Iowa Writers’ Workshop resident Ben Mason has never attempted the annual writing challenge, his experiences writing novels for years on end have lent him knowledge in the trade.

His biggest piece of advice for aspiring novelists is to find a group of like-minded people who encourage comfort when sharing work, something he has found helpful while in the workshop.

“Writing a novel is hard and is a process, and I think [NaNoWriMo] is great for getting a first draft done,” Mason said. “The biggest thing that blocks a lot of people is the fear of not writing well.”

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About the Contributor
Riley Dunn
Riley Dunn, Arts Reporter
Riley Dunn is a first-year student at the University of Iowa majoring in English and Creative Writing and Journalism and Mass Communications. Prior to her time at the DI, Riley interned for Swimming World Magazine.