Community prepares to participate in National Novel Writing Month

Posted on Oct 24 2017 - 8:01am by Jordan Holman

On Nov. 1, National Novel Writing Month — affectionately abbreviated NaNoWriMo by participants  — will begin. Participants of the challenge will attempt to write 50,000 words, the length of a short novel, over the course of the month. The prize? A first draft.

Alex Watson, a J.D. Williams Library employee, acts as news liaison for participating Mississippi writers. He described the event as “a self-challenge.”

“There are no strings attached and no prizes other than the first draft writers will have in hand at the end of NaNoWriMo,” Watson said.

A participant and winner since 2007, Watson said he believes the challenge motivates writers to get their stories out of their heads and onto the paper.

“Having something at least means you can refine and improve it,” he said. “It’s better than having nothing.”

Throughout the month, participants will meet at the library and at Cups an Espresso Cafe to support one another and write together. Watson, with the help of his fiancée Shelby Hilton, who has participated in the event since 2010, organized the events and the signup last Sunday.

On Sunday, interested writers met at the library to learn about National Novel Writing Month and to sign up online. Writers created accounts online at, the official site that keeps track of word count, provides support and validates winners at the end of the month.

“It’s good to have a community virtually and in reality, where you meet so many passionate writers and storytellers that you don’t get when you write by yourself,” Hilton said.

The community Sunday was composed of students and faculty of the university as well as members of the Oxford community. Three freshmen, Jordan Evans, Alyssa Hetterich and Eleanor Atkinson, all noted that their interest in NaNoWriMo began with the Rebel Writers group on campus, which meets at 7 p.m. every Tuesday.

They all said they hope participating in the event will give them the motivation to complete a novel.

Atkinson, a secondary English education major, hopes to write a novel about a young foster mom attempting to find meaning and substance in her life.

“It’s meant to be absurdist, but the experience is going to be fun,” she said.

Janie and Brian Hopper, a married couple on staff with the university, both cite their backgrounds in literature studies as piquing their interest in the event. They both have general ideas of what they want to do, which Hilton said is being common.

“There’s two types of writers that participate in NaNoWriMo: planners and pantsers” she said. “Planners know exactly what they are going to write about and how to pace their novels. Pantsers just fly by the seat of their pants. I’m more of the latter.”

Regardless of status as “planners” or “pantsers,” all NaNoWriMo participants will begin attempting to write around 1,600 words a day starting Nov. 1. The library will host a kickoff party at 7 p.m. in room 106D and a write-in at 2 p.m. on Nov. 12. Other write-ins will take place at 2 p.m. Nov. 5 and 26 at Cups. On Dec. 3, all participants — winners and not — will be invited to a “Thank God It’s Over” celebration at the library.