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West Jordan Journal

A novel in a month? These writers are up for the challenge

Nov 20, 2018 03:25PM ● By Bob Bedore

By Bob Bedore | bob@mycityjournals.com

For many, November is the month of pumpkin spice and giving thanks. It’s that time just before the snow starts to fall and the chance to get the holiday decorations up. But for aspiring writers, November means NaNoWriMo! For those left scratching their heads, that means National Novel Writing Month, and it’s a challenge handed out to write 50,000 words toward a novel in the month. 

The Viridian Library in West Jordan kicked off the month with “Local Writers & You” event. The “Writing Celebration” kicked off with a reception on Nov. 2 and then held a daylong conference featuring more than 70 published authors presenting workshops, book signings and panel discussions. 

But even if you missed this event, there is still no excuse not to try your hand at writing. You can find writing groups all over Utah where encouragement, feedback and idea sharing come in abundance. Once such group meets at High Point Coffee on 7800 South in West Jordan. Aspiring writers, like Tony, Bri, and Ian, cover the table with note, laptops and warm drinks as they look for the work to make their word count for NaNoWriMo.

“It’s the one month where I really turn writing into a part time job,” said Ian, whose real full-time job involves working in a warehouse while he plots out his stories. “It’s a month that really focuses me to write and not procrastinate.”

NaNoWriMo began in 1999 and has grown every year. Last year, nearly half a million people cast off their normal personas and became “writers,” and this year should pass that mark easily. And it’s more than just a challenge, the site (nanowrimo.org) is a fountain of help for writers of all levels. 

“NaNoWriMo and writing groups really give us a lot,” said Tony, working on a supernatural thriller with a cultist/Lovecraft vibe. “It’s great to have a community getting together for the same goal. There is a lot that can come from that sort of mental collaboration.”

Bri, who is typing away on a cyberpunk racing story, agrees. 

“Writing is something you really have to do yourself, but it doesn’t mean that you have to do it alone,” she said. “Having others who are going through the same thing you are is really empowering.”

The writing group that the three belong to expands and contracts as people come and go, but on this night they are all huddled around a small table with barely enough real estate to hold their materials and certainly nowhere near enough to contain their imaginations. 

“I just enjoy telling stories in any medium I can,” Tony, who is a picture framer in his other life, said. “Writing is the easiest one to do because I don’t have to drag others into it, and I have an endless budget to let my imagination go crazy.” Tony is referring to movie scripts that often involve having to get a lot of people and money behind for anything to happen with them. But with writing, you are the only person you have to convince that the story is worth spending time on to finish.

Ian, sees writing as very important. 

“Writing is the core of any collaborative project,” he said. “Pretty much every project started with someone writing it out a bit. It’s the framework for so much.”

Ian describes his latest project as a revenge thriller. “At least half of it,” he said as the others give a laugh. Bri and Tony make remarks like, “and then hilarity ensues.” It is obvious that these three like to have fun while they work. 

And part of that “group fun” can be very important in writing. “Writer’s Block” can be a real problem for many writers, and getting a chance to stop and talk things out with others can be a great way to break out of a slump. 

And NaNoWriMo is another way to help with writing. 

“It pushes me,” Bri said. “It forces me to make it through the draft process, and I find that very helpful.”

Tony quickly agrees with her. 

“I have a terrible habit of over re-writing chapters,” he said. “But with NaNoWriMo, I’m forced to continue the story. I can go back and do the re-writes when the month is over, but until then I keep moving forward. It’s amazing.”

Ian joins in on the thought, showing the true nature of a collaborative fore that comes from a writing group.

“It gets the imagination into hyper-mode, and the sparks just start flying,” he said. “And it’s the small sparks that can start big fires.”

Even though NaNoWriMo ends in November, the forums stay active year-round and remain a great place to look for ways to start your journey as a writer. You can also check out the League of Utah Writers (leagueofutahwriters.com and on Facebook) to find a possible writing group near you. 

And speaking of writing groups, here’s a little advice: Keep your passion as a writer, but don’t let that infect how you interact with the group. And remember that writing is very personal, so don’t attack someone’s “personal” writing. And on the flip side, try not to take any advice personally. Remember why you’re there so you can be part of a strong community and not get ousted. 

“I heard a great bit about how to get rid of people you don’t want in your group,” Bri said with a smile. “You have to disband the group and then find a different night for the rest of the group to meet and you just don’t tell the other person.” The others laughed and agreed that they’ve seen it happen before. 

So, if you have ever had the bug to write and get one of your stories down for others to read, there are many places that can help you. You don’t have to wait until next year’s NaNoWriMo. You can start today. Pick a daily word count that works for you (even 100 words a day) and do what you can to stick with it. Check out the resources that are out there for you. 

And whatever you do, just start writing.