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Davis, California

Monday, March 4, 2024

50,000 words in 30 days


First-year students take on NaNoWriMo challenge

Thousands of wordsmiths all over the world, from published authors to aspiring writers, hope to one day realize their dreams of writing a novel. While some achieve this goal, others never find the right time or opportunity to do so. For those determined to see their creative ideas come to life, NaNoWriMo is the perfect place to begin.

National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) challenges all of its participants to complete a 50,000-word novel throughout the month of November. To complete the challenge, one must write approximately 1,600 words a day. Last year, the nonprofit organization had nearly 450,000 participants and over 40,000 successful completions.

At UC Davis, a group of ambitious first-year students are taking on the NaNoWriMo challenge in a seminar taught by biological sciences professor Ian Korf. The class focuses on strategic writing techniques and exercises to help achieve the goal of 50,000 words. The students are participating as members of the Yolo County NaNoWriMo community, which is overseen by municipal liaisons Elisabeth Kauffman and Rose Butler. Kauffman, a freelance editor, has participated in NaNoWriMo every year since 2010.

“I think that NaNoWriMo is perfect for aspiring writers. You immerse yourself in your story for 30 days. You live it and you breathe it,” Kauffman said. “If you do not hit your 50,000 word count, then that’s okay. The whole point is to just have written words at all.”

NaNoWriMo began in 1999 in the San Francisco Bay Area when a group of friends decided to take on the daunting challenge of writing a novel in 30 days. Since then, it has grown into a worldwide phenomenon. Even some best-selling novels, including Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen and Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell, began as NaNoWriMo novels.

“The community is so supportive. People who participate in NaNoWriMo are not interested in snobby awards or recognition. They are only interested in how creative you are, and helping you find that creativity along the way,” Kauffman said.

On the NaNoWriMo website, participants have the opportunity to connect with other writers in their own communities and across the world. Through this community, writers gain support and inspiration from one another while focusing on their own creative journeys. Fellow writers encourage and push participants to meet their deadlines and complete the challenge.

“I don’t actually think NaNoWriMo is so much about writing as it is about time management and meeting deadlines,” Korf said. “If anyone could come away from their freshman year with any important skill, [that skill] would be time management.”

Korf is a published author and has completed NaNoWriMo himself multiple times in past years. For many of his students, this is their first time taking on the endeavor of writing a full novel.

“For me, the main goal is to hit the word count, but I also want to finish my story,” said Tristan Atkinson, a first-year theatre and dance major.

Atkinson is a member of Professor Korf’s seminar and is participating in NaNoWriMo for the first time.

“I’ve never written anything this long before, so I think I am going to have the most fun filling the parts in between the major plot points,” Atkinson said.  

Those interested in participating in NaNoWriMo can find more information at nanowrimo.org.


Written by: Sydney Odman –– arts@theaggie.org  


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