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The 30-day novelist

National Novel Writing Month champions whirlwind creative output

November is a month overflowing with activity. It houses American Thanksgiving, GIS day (for all you Geography students in the loop), as well as Movember (the Australian moustache-growing competition – celebrated as a beard growing competition in the United States, “NoShavember”). It is also a month of awareness: Pancreatic Cancer Awareness Month, Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness Month, and National Homeless Youth Awareness Month. Luckily for all of us, November just got busier! National Novel Writing Month begins November 1.

National Novel Writing Month – affectionately dubbed “Nanowrimo” by its participants and creators – is a 30-day exercise in sheer output. By the end of the month, those who have written and submitted 50,000 words can pat themselves on the back and grin with smug satisfaction. The event functions on an honour system; no one is policing to ensure a simultaneous starting line, although its deadline for submission is absolute: November 30 at midnight.

“This is not as scary as it sounds,” says the Nanowrimo webpage – and it’s true! This event is not meant to be an exercise in brilliance, but a tool by which writers with reservations can shake their writer’s block and kickstart their ability to make words appear. Nanowrimo is not for professionals with a serious ambition to produce incredible work that will forever, indelibly mark the world. Take it from Andrew Campana, an undergraduate student at UofT and a veteran Nano writer. He calls each one of his November novels “a book-length work of deeply flawed fiction.”

“I’ve read quite a few other Nanos,” he tells me. “As a rule, they’re awful, but also kind of wonderful. There’s a lot of rushed prose, plots that don’t make sense, and general crap, but there’s always great gobs of raw potential and hints of genius that rise from the muck, always a sense of ‘Oh my god I’m actually writing a novel!’ joy that shows through in every page.”

Getting overwhelmed is likely the biggest obstacle to starting any work, be it a novel or your next 30 per cent Poli Sci paper – but the lesson here is to just start writing and let your reservations unhinge: write now, edit later.

To anyone writing this November, whether it be a 50,000 word novel or an epic thesis: keep your pen poised and your keyboard clicking. Good luck!

Register to participate in National Novel Writing month at