With the amount of work piled on students of the Claremont Colleges, time is a precious commodity. Between papers, lab reports and research, students attempt to fit in jobs, sports and extracurriculars while also keeping up social lives. This November, various students across the campuses are adding one more task to their to-do list: write a 50,000-word novel.
National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) began in 1999 as a way for writers to motivate themselves to complete a novel. Writers are required to finish 50,000 words in exactly thirty days and can’t start writing before the beginning of the month. The topic and form of the novel are up to the writer. At the end of the thirty days, writers post their novels onto the NaNoWriMo website. Last year, NaNoWriMo had 256,618 participants, but only 36,843 were able to complete the goal of 50,000 words, according to the NaNoWriMo website.
Creative writing collective 5Cs Out Loud and Pomona College’s Residence Hall Staff sponsored an event Nov. 1 for writers participating in NaNoWriMo to help them get started on their novels.
“Double the novelists than we had expected came to the event. We brought writing exercises we both found online and books with inspirational photos that we’ve amassed over the years,” said Christina Bejjani PO ’13, co-founder of 5Cs Out Loud.
According to Bejjani, although there are many writers at the 5Cs, novelists have less of a presence.
“I think our campuses have a fantastic poetry scene, and I would like the same to be true for novelists,” Bejjani said. “For instance, the literary magazines of the five campuses are known to be more poetry-oriented. They do accept excerpts from longer works and short stories, but nothing longer than ten pages. If you’re a novelist, that’s a rather limiting goal.”
First-time participant Graham Bishop PO ’15 is using NaNoWriMo to challenge himself.
“I decided to participate in NaNoWriMo because, although in the past I’ve been inspired to write novels, I’ve never actually gotten around to sitting down and committing,” Bishop said. “This is the first time I’ve participated in the event, but I’ve written a few short stories and poems in the past. I hope to take [Pomona English Professor Jonathan] Lethem’s fiction workshop next semester, and getting experience with novelistic form will definitely prepare me for it.”
Other students have participated in the event for years, including Calla Winchell SC ’16, who is currently writing her eighth novel for NaNoWriMo.
“I write throughout the year, but I usually don’t attempt writing something this long,” Winchell said. “I first wrote for the National Novel Writing Month in sixth grade with a story about a dinosaur named Sandy. I’m currently working on a piece of fiction about the two perceptions of time, kairos and kronos, from the Greek tradition.”
The challenge of writing a novel is daunting. Attempting to write over 1,600 words a day can severely cut into a student’s schedule. Yet students are optimistic.
“I never thought I’d be glued to my computer screen trying to map out plot sequences and develop characters, but I love it and it’s the most fun I’ve had with a writing assignment in a very long time,” Adrian Redford PO ’13 said.