Not many freshman engineering students can write novels, but Abby Garrett is trying to write one in a month’s time.
November marks National Novel Writing Month, and a number of students at Virginia Tech are planning to participate and write a novel of their own.
NaNoWriMo is an annual challenge for all writers willing to attempt it, and those participating are charged with writing 50,000 words in 30 days. The tradition started over the Internet in 1999 by Chris Baty, starting in the San Francisco Bay area, eventually becoming a national sensation.
“When you start off, it’s great — you have fresh brand new ideas, and then you get about a fifth of the way through,
and you realize ‘I don’t know where I’m going.’ It’s really hard to get past that, but once you get past that it goes well,” Garrett said.
Garrett has done NaNoWriMo for two years previously, making this her third year
writing a novel. However, this year, she is still uncertain as to what her novel is about.
“I don’t really know yet,” she said. “The thing with NaNoWriMo is that the point is to just get words on the page. So sometimes you’ll start writing and have no idea what it’s going to end up being like. And then you get to the end, and while you may have started writing about one thing, by the end you’re completely somewhere else.”
The biggest constraint most students face is the pressure of college classes and time.
“In college it’s much harder to stay on top of that kind of thing,” said Erika Lower, a sophomore humanities, sciences and environment major.
Lower was unable to do NaNoWriMo this year, given the weight of her class load. She participated in
NaNoWriMo before in high school, writing a novel about two astronauts who were lost in a time rift and struggle to return to their
“Several of my friends are doing it, however, and I’ve taken it upon myself to act as a cheerleader,” she said. “One of the things I really like about NaNo is the sort of spirit that’s involved with the online community.”
But for new writers, the creation of fiction is intimidating in its own right.
Fred D’Aguiar, an English professor, suggests that students read along with their writing to maintain a source of writing style and structure, as well as additional influence and inspiration.
For students looking into writing careers, he advises they keep an eye on what is being written and published in magazines,
keeping up to date on what is popular and maintaining their own convictions in their writing.
For students looking into writing careers, he advises they keep an eye on what is being written and published in magazines, keeping up to date on what is popular and maintaining their own convictions in their writing.