In November, a novel experience for U writers

University libraries are promoting National Novel Writing Month.
November 19, 2013

Although linguistics and math senior Hannah Cassel writes novels in her free time, November is special — it’s National Novel Writing Month.

She’s one of many University of Minnesota students and faculty taking on the national challenge to complete a 50,000-word novel during the month of November.

“Sometimes I wonder if I’m getting too old for this. I think, ‘I’m a grown-up writer. I don’t need someone to tell me what to write,’” she said, “but it’s hard to resist.”

For the first time, University Libraries are promoting the effort to encourage creative writing, called NaNoWriMo, by holding “write-ins” on Fridays at Wilson Library.

“It helps foster creativity. With school, you’re split so many different ways with classes and activities,” said Becky Adamski, an assistant at Wilson Library. “Sitting down and writing lets you be in control and decide exactly what you want to do.”

Creative writing associate professor Peter Campion said the craft can benefit students in many ways.

“Creative writing gives students an inside-out view of how not only stories and poems are made, but also movies and all kinds of writing,” he said.

Pre-veterinary medicine freshman Amy Paschke, a member of the University student group Campus Creative Writers, is attempting the challenge for the first time. Though she’s written short stories, she said attempting a novel has been a “jump.”

“At first, I had an outline for my story, and I thought it would take me all the way through 50,000 words,” she said. “But I found that I had to write a whole lot more than that. It’s been a learning experience.”

For his November novel, Campus Creative Writers President John Moen is writing a sequel to one of his previous works, a self-described mix of magical realism and speculative fiction.

Most students in Campus Creative Writers participate in NaNoWriMo, Moen said. And for many, this year isn’t their first.

Cassel, the club’s vice president, said that because she writes often, NaNoWriMo isn’t too challenging for her.

“You actually don’t have to go crazy with time management to finish,” she said. “It’s really not that bad.”

But for computer science senior and Campus Creative Writers co-chair Kevin Thomsen, time management is the biggest challenge.

He said he prefers working after everyone else goes to sleep, which produces interesting results.

“Sometimes I’ll wake up and read what I wrote and just think, ‘Who are these people, and what are they doing on my page?’”

NaNoWriMo participants have to write an average of 1,667 words per day to complete the novel in time.

Although Cassel said some of her other hobbies get pushed aside for the month, she thinks most people could manage the challenge even if they aren’t avid writers.

“If you have things you do for fun, you’ll probably have to box those up a bit during NaNoWriMo,” she said, “but it’s not going to take over your life.”

Elena Carrillo, a University library assistant, is participating in the challenge and helped plan the Wilson write-ins. She said most writers don’t produce a finished product during NaNoWriMo.

“Because you are sort of flying by the seat of your pants and trying to do it quickly, chances are … you’re going to have a very rough draft you’ll have to do a lot of work on,” she said.

Moen said the month can be exhausting and time-consuming.

“Right after NaNoWriMo, sometimes I’ll think, ‘Wow, I never want to write again because it’s not worth it,’” he said. “But I always come back.”

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