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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    “November booked with novel writing, networking”


    Thirty days. 50,000 words. Challenge accepted.

    Every year, an organization called the Office of Letters and Light, whose mission is to “”believe in ambitious acts of the imagination,”” hosts its National Novel Writing Month contest. This web-based challenge asks writers from all across the country to write a 50,000-word novel between Nov. 1 and Nov. 30, and is commonly called NaNoWriMo.

    It sounds crazy, but the number of participants in the contest has been rising steadily since its first appearance in 1999. Last year, nearly 170,000 people accepted the challenge. Since it’s all online, National Novel Writing Month is easy to join. Participants create a online profile about themselves and their novel. There is an automated word-validator on the site that allows writers to chart their progress by inputting their word count as the month goes by. Anyone who reaches 50,000 words before the Nov. 30 deadline is a winner. Besides receiving a snazzy certificate, writers are also offered a free proof copy of their novel through a self-publishing website.

    Participants in National Novel Writing Month also affiliate themselves with a region. This allows them to gain access to forums where they can talk with other writers, discuss ideas and pick up some tips and tricks along the way. And the advice isn’t from just anywhere. National Novel Writing Month is a well-known event among the writing and publishing community. Many published authors take part in the contest alongside everybody else, and some of these authors even send out emails or create videos as pep talks for participants.

    In this way, National Novel Writing Month takes the solitary art of creating a novel and makes it into a social event for amateur writers and professional authors alike. And the camaraderie goes even further than that. When participants choose their region, they get connected to local events happening in their area. National Novel Writing Month has countless volunteers who work as “”municipal liaisons.”” These coordinators plan times for participants to meet up at places like coffee houses and book stores to work on their novels together. They also plan celebratory get-togethers for the beginning and end of the contest.

    National Novel Writing Month in Tucson

    Wildlife had the opportunity to speak with Xander Felton, the Tucson municipal liaison, about the contest and the events that he planned for this year. Here’s what he had to say:

    Why should people participate in National Novel Writing Month?

    I feel that people should participate because everyone, doesn’t matter who they are or what they do, has thought about writing a novel one day. This dream goes unrealized for most of their lives, either because they don’t think they can do it or they just never think to. NaNoWriMo is for the what we call the “”One Day Writers”” (meaning one day they want to write a novel), to finally set aside some time and write that idea they’ve had sitting in the back of their minds for years.

    What kind of events are happening in Tucson this November?

    Every year we have a kickoff party where participants gather to meet each other and talk about their upcoming novels. On Halloween, we gather at the IHOP on Oracle (Road) and Limberlost (Road) around 11 p.m. and wait anxiously for midnight so that we can get a jumpstart on our novels. Then in December we have a “”thank God it’s over”” party where we celebrate our novels, complete or incomplete. We’re even thinking about having an all-night write-a-thon. More details can be found on the Tucson Region on the forums of, or they can email me at

    How does attending official events further the experience?

    I find that attending the events builds solidarity and camaraderie. Mostly, writing is a solitary event. You’re sitting in your room, no loud noises, staring intently at a blank screen, willing your paper to write itself. When you go to the events, you’re in a room or cafe with fellow writers who are doing the same thing you are. You can gain tips and experiences from veteran participants or just hang out and bask in the glow of inspiration. And you gain friends from this experience.

    National Novel Writing Monthat the UA

    It may seem overwhelming to enter the contest in the middle of the semester. But so far, the National Novel Writing Month forums have logged participants from 102 universities, including the UA. It’s a lot of work to do, but if you divide the word count evenly, you’ll be writing about 1667 words per day.

    Xander Felton was a student at the UA when he participated in his first National Novel Writing Month.

    “”I started doing NaNo my junior year at the University of Arizona (2004). When I complained to a friend about the amount of papers I had to do, he mocked me and told me that he would be writing more than me because of NaNoWriMo,”” Felton said. “”I looked it up and I said, ‘I can do that!’ Despite the mountain of papers, I did it.””

    Since then, Felton has won National Novel Writing Month every year — with a grand total of six successes.

    Likewise, creative writing student Matt Ciarvella has participated in National Novel Writing Month twice, and has also entered the contest this year.

    “”NaNoWriMo has always been a wonderful and positive experience,”” Ciarvella said. “”At first, it seemed overwhelming to write so much so quickly, and during the busiest time of the semester.””  “”But the experience of pulling it off, the feeling that you get when you hit that 50k milestone, is absolutely worth all the hardship.””

    National Novel Writing Month success stories

    This November marks the start of new writing projects for everybody involved. But here are the novels that Felton and Ciarvella have created during National Novel Writing Months of the past.

    Xander Felton

    Tucson municipal liaison and UA alumnus

    Username: ThorinLight

    Novel: “”The Quest for the Shiny Thing””

    Genre: Fantasy

    Final word count: 75,000

    “”It was a spoof of the fantasy quest novels where a farm boy is destined to go on a quest looking for the ‘Shiny Object’ that does Insert-Shiny-Purpose-Here, and keep it away from Insert-Bad-Person-Here.””

    Matt Ciarvella

    UA creative writing student

    Username: MCiarvella

    Novel: “”The Fallen””

    Genre: Supernatural

    Final word Count: 115,000

    “”I hit the 50,000 word count during NaNoWriMo, but the story wasn’t finished yet, so I’ve kept working on it since then. It has since evolved into this 115,000-word behemoth. It’s a modern supernatural story based on a fallen angel who escapes from hell and ends up triggering the apocalypse ahead of schedule in order to throw both heaven and hell off her trail. I’m actually hoping I’ll be able to publish that one when I’m done.””

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