NaNoWriMo, a look at the month long writing challenge


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NaNoWriMo also known as National Novel Writing Month gives participants the chance to write a 50,000-word novel throughout the month of November.

By Caleb Johnson, Lifestyle Writer

November has come and that means it’s time for writers to rise to the challenge that is National Novel Writing Month, colloquially known as NaNoWriMo. The idea is simple: write a 50,000 word novel in 30 days. 

According to an interview with Small Print Magazine, NaNoWriMo was created in 1999 by Chris Baty. The event initially started as a local challenge with just a couple dozen people in the San Francisco Bay area. Much to Baty’s surprise, the event grew exponentially to become a global phenomenon. Baty stayed with the organization until he left in 2012 to focus on his writing full time. 

NaNoWriMo has been a non-profit organization since 2006. The organization’s current executive director is Grant Faulkner. The event has grown exponentially and now has a large staff and programs that cover a variety of issues concerning writing proficiency and education.

Some of these include a young writers program and Camp NaNoWriMo.The camp is a summer workshop designed to help writers hone their writing skills. According to NaNoWriMo they had over 50,000 participants this year. 

In 2021 the event had 427,653 writers across 671 regions participate in their various programs according to NaNoWriMo.


In the DeKalb region, there is a visible NaNoWriMo presence. The regional Discord has 61 members. The municipal liaison for the event is Michelle Kitz.  

Kitz is an avid supporter of the event and has been participating since 2013, however, she’s only been a municipal liaison since 2020. 

“As the Municipal Liaison, I provide support to the participants of the DeKalb region. Specifically, I set up write-ins, the Kick-off and ‘Thank Goodness it’s Over’ events,” Kitz said. “I also send emails from the NaNoWriMo website to provide moral support and provide information.” 

Kitz is also in charge of the region’s forums. She also created and maintains the regional Discord server.

Kitz said that she provides incentives for participation in the form of milestone prizes, such as NaNoWriMo merchandise and Dunkin Donuts gift cards, as well as putting together goody bags for the kickoff event. 

Weekly write-ins take place on Sundays. Write-ins are sessions where writers can meet and write together. This gives participants the opportunity to build community, according to Kitz. 

Write-ins take place in person and virtually on Discord. Signing up is free but requires you to register with NaNoWriMo. Once registered you can choose your home region and get access to the forms and Discord server for event information. 

“Anyone can participate! I was nervous when I first started but I’m so glad I did,” Kitz said. 

Kitz also appreciates the friends she has made through the program. 

“Being a part of NaNoWriMo has given me a whole new friend group that has interests like mine and the group has always been a comfortable and safe space,” Kitz said. 

To be considered a winner, you simply have to finish with 50,000 words. To help with this Kitz holds writing sprints, spurts of writing words, in the regional Discord to help increase word count.

However for some simply having a community that is like them and is interested in writing is what matters. 

“I don’t usually finish, but I’ve been working on the same book for three years. I just like to write and I love being surrounded by people like me that get me, you know?” said Kari Grace, a Malta resident. 


At NIU there’s a small community that is also interested in NaNoWriMo. 

“I’ve been participating in NaNo since 2011. I love the experience,” said Cassy Pelletier, a Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages Masters candidate. “I met my writer’s group through the regional group tool on the NaNo site, and even year-round I can be found in the Discord server chatting about writing.” 

Pelletier said that they try to encourage people every year to take part in the challenge. 

 “It doesn’t matter if you actually make it to 50,000 words, what matters is that you have fun crafting your stories,” Pelletier said. 

They said that the challenge is good for professional writers as well.

“Writing all year long for a living can result in some epic procrastination habits, and that daily commitment to NaNo always helps to get me back into the habit of just sitting down and writing every day again,” Pelletier said.

In the end, Pelletier is grateful that something like NaNoWriMo still exists and that there are still people interested in writing books. 

“In our modern world, it sometimes feels like books are falling out of style, like they will be the next thing to go extinct from our world,” Pelletier said. “However, it seems like the joy of story is alive within a large majority of us, and that is bolstering as someone who has chosen writing and teaching writing as a career.” 

There is still an interest in writing among the DeKalb area and it seems like NaNoWriMo is helping foster a community that encourages creativity.