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Fox Valley writers take on a novel project in November


Everyone has a novel somewhere within them. 

What would happen if a group of people got together and tried to write their own — and in 30 days? That is the question Chris Baty, founder of National Novel Writing Month, wanted to answer in 1999 when he, and 20 of his friends tackled the 50,000-word challenge. They chose November, and twenty years later National Novel Writing Month (or NaNoWriMo) has become a global sensation. 

After the first NaNoWriMo, Baty said, “My sense of what was possible for myself, and those around me, was forever changed. If my friends and I could write passable novels in a month, I knew anyone could do it.”

NaNoWriMo has grown to a world-wide writing phenomenon. Since 1999, more than 3 million participants have attempted the novel-in-one-month goal. Per the official website, NaNo expects more than 400,000 participants this year this year, including 384,126 from the Young Writers Program, and 928 Municipal Liasons volunteered across 6 continents and within 646 regions. 1,168 locations opened their doors Wrimos, and 60,951 Wrimos participated in programs (called “Camp NaNoWriMo”) in the months of April and July. 

Thousands of NaNoWriMo participants become published authors, among them, Sara Gruen, Erin Morgenstern, Hugh Howey, Rainbow Rowell, Jason Hough, Marissa Meyer, and more.

NaNoWriMo is a rare gem in today’s online social media community. The 501(c)(3) volunteer-run nonprofit organization, relies on users’ donations for resources, time, and support. The online and offline community fosters a spirit of creativity for a project that is both unique to the user, and a shared experience. 

NaNoWriMo believes “your story matters,” and fosters “the transformational power of creativity. We provide the structure, community, and encouragement to help people find their voices, achieve creative goals, and build new worlds—on and off the page. It offers users a forum to interact with others and share ideas, tips, and stories. 

NaNoWriMo offers pep-talks to its users (known as Wrimos) from various published authors throughout the month. Wrimos also find support in forums on the NaNo official website, and local support through the community chapters. 

This year, Anne Lamott, Jasmine Guillory, V. E. Schwab, Maurene Goo, and Erin Morgenstern are writing pep talks that will go out to y’all via NaNoMessages throughout November.

NaNo is more than an online community of avid writers; it connects local writing enthusiasts of all levels of experience. Fox Cities Wrimos, the Fox Cities Region’s local chapter serves Outagamie, Winnebago and Calumet counties. It is led by a volunteer “Municipal Liaison” (or ML) who hosts more than a dozen events throughout the month to keep Wrimos engaged with their own projects, and connected to fellow, local writers. 

“The combination of our dedicated NaNoWriMo volunteers and the community spaces that welcome them create a powerful opportunity for writers to build a support system that helps them achieve their creative goals,” says Sarah Mackey, Director of Community Engagement.

From the amateur writer, dipping their two in the literary pool, to the published author looking for a way to tackle their next endeavor, NaNoWriMo allows writing enthusiast the opportunity check that “Write a Novel” off their bucket list.

Local criminal historian, Gavin Schmitt, author of the such books as, “Milwaukee Mafia,” and “Fox Cities Murder & Mayhem, is trying NaNoWriMo out for the first time this year. 

“I had tried writing a novel once before, way back in 2003. I still have it, but it remains unpublished,” Schmitt told the Valley Review mid-way through his first month of NaNoWriMo. 

“Between then and now, I’ve found my niche in Wisconsin history and true crime. It’s fun, interesting, and has been rewarding. There was no reason to turn back to try fiction again (though I admit to dabbling in the occasional short story).”

Schmitt recently changed his tune, at the behest of a good friend and fellow author, Sarah Read, and also by his own curiosity as to what could happen if he dug into cranking out a novel in 30 days. “…really, what does it hurt to take one month and see what you have? Good or bad, the human condition means we must always be creating in some form, so why not literature (or drivel)? I chose the genre-bending theme of a werewolf spy thriller… though it contains no werewolves or spies. 

Halfway through November, it has been a positive experience. Writing isn’t always easy…even [for] those of us who write professionally find that life, uh, finds a way to try and and stop us. But speaking for myself, it has been a great exercise to write in a different voice, a different form…and I can feel parts if my brain reacting that rarely do.

Anyone who has any desire to write should write, whether in November or otherwise. And whether a novel or otherwise. Some of us dance, some of us paint, some of us express ourselves in abstract ways. For me, who can’t sing or dance or paint, it’s the written word. And anyone who thinks they have a story or poem or essay inside them… let that ribcage crack open and allow the bird in your heart to fly free!”

Nano is all about quantity over quality, encouraging users to crank out that illustrious “first draft” of the novel they may have been sitting on for years, aiming for the 50,000-word-mark. For those wondering how words translate to pages, 50,000 words is roughly 180 pages.For more information on the Fox Cities Region, and how to get involved in the November activities and beyond, please visit any of the following websites: https://tinyurl.com/FoxCitiesForum, https://tinyurl.com/Regional-Discord-Channel, or their Facebook group, https://tinyurl.com/Regional-Facebook-Group

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