NaNoWriMo writers work together to meet 50,000 word count goal

By Kelly Bauer

Word Count: Three.

That won’t do. After all, it’s National November Writing Month (NaNoWriMo): a time when every participating writer is given a goal of spewing out a 50,000 word novel in one month. That’s a minimum of 1,667 words a day. But thousands have risen to the challenge, and among those thousands are several DeKalb residents.

Every Sunday at Barnes & Noble, 2439 Sycamore Road, DeKalb’s WriMos (as the participants sometimes call themselves) meet to chat, give each other support and work on their NaNoWriMo novels. From noon to 1 p.m., they socialize. After that, the writing gets serious.

“I tried to do it on my own and I lost,” said Jen Justice, NaNoWriMo Municipal Liaison for DeKalb. “The next year, I got a group. It was so much easier to do when you have a community of writers. We’re like a family.”

Justin Difazzio, the group’s other Municipal Liaison, added, “but we’re a family we picked, so we like each other better.”

The group isn’t all jokes, though: when they start doing word sprints, things get a little competitive, as prizes of candy are on the line for the person who can write the most in 15 minutes. Senior English major Caitlin Yimet was able to write over 1,000 words in the allotted time and was rewarded with candy that was sent in from Perth, Australia. Perth also sent a taunting letter – “Go out in the snow and catch a cold or something” – as the town is competing with DeKalb to see who can get the highest word count per writer.

There are also rewards for every 10,000 words written: a dice and “plot generator,” used together to add twists to a story when a writer is unsure what to do next, were passed around to several who met the word count mark.

The goal of NaNoWriMo isn’t so much about writing a perfect novel as it is about forcing writers to get something on the page, hence the emphasis on word count.

Justice said sometimes, would-be novelists edit their work too harshly to finish or put off writing altogether. But if a writer wants to make the month’s goal, there’s little time for editing or procrastination.

“If you even get to 25,000 words, that’s 25,000 words,” Justice said. “It’s fun because it’s something you want to write – it’s not a school essay or a report. When you get to the end of it, it’s worth it.”

For Yimet, there’s barely even time to get down the 50,000 words, though she managed to do it in 2010 and hopes to meet the goal this year. She takes five classes, runs five student groups and is involved in two other student groups. She works on her NaNo novel during Sunday meetings with the DeKalb group.

“The magic is that I do it without caffeine,” Yimet said.

There’s one published author in the group – Dale Cozort, author of Exchange. Cozort is currently working on its sequel for NaNoWriMo.

None of the DeKalb’s group NaNo novels have been published, but Justice and Difazzio said getting a book published isn’t the goal of NaNoWriMo.

“Sometimes, success isn’t publishability,” Justice said.

Difazzio finished, “sometimes success is writing 50,000 words in a month.”