National Novel Writing Month is a 50,000-word, 30-day challenge keeping Long Island writers young and old, experienced and rookie, busy in November. NaNoWriMo, as it's called, may entail late nights, lots of caffeine and a nail-biting finish, but it's designed to inspire and empower anyone who has heard the call of the writer's muse. What started in 1999 as one author grappling with a novel, has gone global with participants from all seven continents (yes, even Antarctica) crafting fiction in more than 200 countries.
"Our mantra is, 'Everyone has a story to tell, and everyone's story matters,'" says Grant Faulkner, National Novel Writing Month's executive director. The online program (nanowrimo.org) is free, welcoming and accessible to all. "We help people make creativity a priority for one month of the year. And when they feel that wonderful pulse of creativity, hopefully, they remain creative beyond November."
With tools like writing prompts, time management tips and forums for naming characters, there's something for every author. Last year, more than 450,000 signed up. Hundreds of books written through the years went on to be successfully published.
Sara Gruen's bestseller "Water for Elephants" was drafted during NaNoWriMo. "It's a little bit like improv acting," Faulkner explains. "A lot of the words in your rough draft aren't going to make it to your final draft. But Sarah Gruen did write a rough draft, just like Marissa Meyer did, like Erin Morgenstern did, like Hugh Howey did, like Rainbow Rowell," Faulkner says, listing some of the program's bestselling authors.
Libraries and shops in Nassau and Suffolk counties have been hosting "Wrimo" get-togethers.
Laura Cerrone, 27, of New Hyde Park, is NaNoWriMo's Municipal Liaison (think literary den mother) for Nassau. Those who sign up get help, ideas and invitations to "write-ins" from her. Meanwhile, Cerrone is pounding out her own 50,000 words. This is her sixth time; she's working on an untitled coming-of-age novel. Cerrone's friends and family cheer her on every autumn. "Now they're like, Oh, November's coming up, just hand her a cup of coffee, and back away," she says with a laugh.
Sean Patrick Brennan, 43, from Malverne, is working on his seventh book. He's certain he'll make his 50,000 word-count, but that just represents half his story. "Tree House Down" is a multigenerational family saga with a murder mystery twist. He penned the first 50,000 words during 2016's NaNoWriMo and will finish the book this year. "The hardest part is you're not going to feel like writing every day of the month," he says. Brennann's advice to first-timers: Have reasonable expectations and a trusted reader.
Erica Converso, 32, of Dix Hills, turned her passion into her profession. She's a full-time author participating in her fifth NaNoWriMo. "Every Face a Shell," the third of a planned five-part series, is about a girl's search for her family in a war-torn fantasy world. Erica usually reaches her 50,000 words early, and expects to do so again. The proverbial solitary writer, she's found community, advice and friendship in the program. "I love being there with all the other people in the writing community. It just gives you so much energy."
There's still time to sign up through November 30th. You won't make 50,000 words, but you'll have made a start. Consider the advice from James Patterson's NaNoWriMo pep talk: "Stop reading this. Start writing. Now."
National Novel Writing Month Write-ins
WHEN | WHERE 2-4 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 25; Port Washington Library,1 Library Dr., Port Washington
WHEN | WHERE 1-5 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 25; Longwood Library, 800 Middle Country Rd., Middle Island
WHEN | WHERE 7-8:45 p.m. Monday, Nov. 26; Syosset Library, 225 S. Oyster Bay Rd., Syosset
WHEN | WHERE 4 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 29; Panera Bread, 4959 Nesconset Hwy., Port Jefferson Station