Ah, November. As the temperature drops, fall sports come to an end and big holiday breaks draw near, teens are searching for something new to occupy their free time. Why not write a novel?

November happens to be National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). Promoted by its Web site,, people worldwide participate in the hefty challenge to write 50,000 words over the course of the month. Upon visiting the NaNoWriMo Web site, you create an account and join a home region.

Many teenagers enjoy recreational writing, but for most, it doesn't cross their minds that they can write a novel in 30 days. However, this task has proved to be an exciting challenge for many.

"This is my second year attempting NaNo," says Sarah Hanson, a junior at Alden High School. "I like writing, and it's fun in the way that you're pushing yourself to get something done, and it's all up to you."

Eliza Feero, a sophomore who is home-schooled in Buffalo, is a first-timer.

"I've always written short stories, but I've never been able to get through them, so I decided it sounded perfect for me," she said.

Sarah is writing a young adult fiction story about summer love, and Eliza is writing a fantasy novel about the afterlife of people who are murdered. Both realize the difficult missions ahead of them.

"I have a heavy work load, so it's going to be hard to find time for it," says Sarah.

"I have two AP classes," says Rutger Moeller, a junior at Barker High School. "The goal admittedly seems a bit daunting."

Despite this, most young writers have methods for completing the goal.

"You have to try to break it into reachable goals," Sarah says.

Most participants shoot for 1,667 words a day, which will get them just past the goal of 50,000 words by the end of the month.

"My novel plan is basically to use the uphill-downhill method," explains participant Antonnea Bolden, a senior who is also home-schooled. "In week one, you write about twice as much as 1,667 words a day, so by week four you're writing less than 1,000 words a day."

"I'm probably going to do 2,000 words a day," Eliza said, "[so] I have a buffer zone."

One of the benefits of having a community of writers in Buffalo is organized meetings called write-ins, where participants from the area gather to focus on writing their novels. Word wars are initiated, which prompt people to write as much as they can.

"We spend 10 minutes just frantically typing and trying to beat everyone else at a 10-minute word count," explains Bethany Griswold, who is a sophomore at the University at Buffalo.

This is Bethany's second year attempting NaNo, as well.

"You can get a lot of input and a lot of support," she says of the local write-ins.

On the NaNo Web site, the Buffalo region includes a forum where writers from the area can chat and bounce ideas off of each other, as well as gain moral support.

"If you know that someone in England is writing a novel at the same time you are, it doesn't quite provide the same support as if you know that someone down the street from you is writing a novel," Eliza says.

While the forums are helpful and fun, they are definitely not necessary for participation in NaNoWriMo.

The write-ins and forums in Buffalo are organized by two municipal liaisons. One is Madeline Ciricillo, who is a UB graduate attempting NaNo for her seventh year.

"We do write-ins Monday and Wednesday evenings, as well as Saturday mornings. There are three parties: the kick-off in October, the half-way, and the thank gosh it's over party."

Whether participating in the forums and group gatherings or not, engaging in NaNoWriMo can benefit students in many ways.

"It definitely helps self-discipline and gives you a sense of power and confidence," Eliza says. "If you can write a novel in a month and you're a teenager, you can do anything."

School-assigned essays are almost always a turnoff for students. Most students agree that compositions given to them in school are on topics that they are not interested in. With NaNoWriMo, students pick their topics and write about whatever they want.

"How are sports fun? How are puzzles fun?" asks Ciricillo. "You put yourself to the challenge and you have fun trying your best to win. The difference between solving a Sudoku and writing a novel is that you can put the numbers anywhere on the graph, have them make a secret combination that opens a door to another universe, and take your character on an adventure in a land of your own invention."

Any young writers in the area, or anyone looking for a new hobby or creative activity, are encouraged to check out the NaNoWriMo Web site and forum. Motivation, writing advice and information are available to everyone.


Alyssa Phillips is a senior at Immaculata Academy