One story, one month


photo by Peyton Sutch

Creative writing students working on their novel. They spent the month of November in the media center and computer labs to work.

For one month straight, creative writing students did not do lessons, worksheets or tests, they did nothing but write for the entire month.

As part of the national organization, National Novel Writing Month or NaNoWriMo, more than 40 students under the guidance of English teacher Lindsey Jackson spent the month of November typing away, forming characters, putting paragraphs on the page and crafting an intricate storyline. The goal of the program was to complete a 50,000 word novel in a month, and while few students reached that final goal, the experience was crucial in helping them become better, more motivated writers.

“It was an excellent segway from the braided stories we had been working on and a fun way to get students taking the abstract of plot twists, character development, climax etc, in a concrete way since NaNoWriMo really helps guide and prompt that process,” Jackson said.

Over the course of the month, students spent all of their class time in the media center, where they were given time to let their creativity flow and their hands type. They were aided by a prep workbook they had filled out before they began, including extensive information about their characters and plot. As the story continued, many students found themselves straining to meet the 1,667 word-a-day goal set by the NaNoWriMo website.

“I think it’s important to realize that there is a significant amount of hard work that goes along with a creative endeavor, especially one that is long-term,” Jackson said.

All the same, Jackson found it necessary to revise the goal for her students, requiring her students to achieve about 1000 words a block, culminating in a required total of 12,000 words by the end of the month. The word count was high enough that students had to put effort into their work and devote their class time to work instead of goofing around.

Despite the 12,000 word minimum for the grade, many students went above and beyond, several even crossing the 50,000 word goal set by the website. By using their own time, whether after school, on weekends, or during break, these students were able to achieve what they must once have thought impossible–writing a full length novel in a single month.

“It was an interesting experience and it showed me how much work it takes to write a novel,” senior Mary Fusca said.

While mandated for the creative writing class, the NaNoWriMo organization is open to all, and even includes a Young Writer’s Program that allows writers to set their own goal. The program caters to those not yet ready to tackle 50,000 words, or perhaps simple not ready to engage with the traditional NaNoWriMo community, which is made up nearly of adults. Both the adult and the children’s sites are built to support writer’s on their own treks.

Once the month was over, students were left with a finished project– at least 12,000 of their own creativity sat in front of them, printed and put in their hands. Over the course of the next few weeks, the classes will work together to revise and edit these works, turning them from first draft drivel into “publishable works”, according to Jackson.

“When we reflected on it afterwards, students realized what it takes to fulfill a dream or a follow a passion – hard work,” Jackson said. “And, they got a taste of what it was like to push through some unexpected barriers and lulls in motivation/creativity.”