penNational Novel Writing Month is so popular among a certain set of writers that it seems almost silly to chime in on it. To learn more, I suggest you visit their official website: (Find the “about” tab for the overview.) I’ll share my take with you here.

Nanowrimo crossed my radar for the first time several years ago when I happened to be teaching an evening section of Fiction Writing at my college. At the time, I was not especially qualified to do so. Although I had been tinkering with fiction for awhile, I was more qualified to teach poetry. No matter, creative writing classes are scarce at my college (I never get to teach poetry), and I’m not often allowed to meddle with this interesting bunch of students. So I said “yes” to the opportunity. A small group of students approached me and asked if I would be the faculty mentor for their nanowrimo group. Their what?

During Nanowrimo, one commits to writing 50,000 words — a short novel, or a draft of a novel. A draft of a draft of a novel. To write 50,000 words in a month, one must write about 1,800 words a day.

I wrote with my student group, of course. I worked on a novel about a waitress who, in 1976, finds herself working at a 24-hour coffee shop (like Denny’s) in Olympia, Washington. Her manager and the two assistant managers are retired military. Her coworkers include military wives and children (Fort Lewis was nearby; JBLM now), and Evergreen State College students (“greenies,” as they were called). I did not write 50,000 words, but I did get the story rolling (about 20,000) despite having younger children (14, 14, and 8, as I recall), a full-time teaching load, etc. It’s a story that sometimes nudges me even now and I expect to get back to it some day.

This November, though I’m not part of an official group, I am going to try to use the momentum and the author pep talks to fuel my draft of Act 3 of my current novel. November: Bethany’s Finishing Month. Cross your fingers for me. Or, better, get out a notebook and pen — or your laptop — and write with me.

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