National Edition

Nonprofit inspires hundreds of thousands to try writing the Great American Novel

Published: Wednesday, Nov. 13 2013 4:00 a.m. MST

"When they do win the contest, they'll get five free copies of their [bound] book," Bayless said. "So that's really what motivates them so they also want to make their story as amazing as possible."

Beyond discussing it with their teachers and peers, students also have to communicate to their parents about their work. Stories must be typed to be entered into NaNoWriMo’s website, and many families are helping their fourth-graders in this way.

Last year, NaNoWriMo says, more than 80,000 students participated in the Young Writers Program.

Creating career novelists

One successful novelist, Bryan Young, started his National Novel Writing Month journey at the suggestion of a friend and fellow writer. After years of participating, he has bonded with many in his Salt Lake City community who share a passion for writing. They have found lots in common, from comic books to novel-writing.

"There's a lot of crossover from the geek community into the National Novel Writing thing," said Young. "The moderator for the local group here [and I] talk online via Twitter about the new superhero movies and things like that."

Young is actually an accomplished novelist. His last published work, "Operation Montauk," was started during a 50,000-word event in November. One of his favorite elements of the NaNo community is the friendly competition spurred on by the 30-day deadline.

"I really enjoy seeing my daily word goal,” said Young. “I love seeing it ahead of everyone else's. I want to be that guy at the top of the heap." Young relishes the opportunity provided by a huge community of creative people — all focused on writing to talk through plot ideas and get suggestions and tips for finishing his stories.

"I had a booth where I was selling books and signing books at Salt Lake Comic Con," he said. “We sat there and chatted about writing in the midst of Comic Con, because we'd made that connection through National Novel Writing Month."

Cal Armistead's first novel, “Being Henry David,” was another product of NaNoWriMo. Published this year, it follows a young boy who loses his memory, with a painful journey to discover who he is. The Boston-based author loves being with good company during the month of November.

"I’ve tried doing self-driven versions of NaNoWriMo at other times of the year, but I’ve never been successful," Armistead said. "There’s something powerful about the vibe during November, when like-minded people are stirring up all that creative energy in the universe!"

Email: ataylor@deseretnews.com

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