“Water for Elephants” spent weeks on the New York Times best-seller list, and generated a movie that starred Reese Witherspoon and Hal Holbrook, among others.
Young adult books “Anna and the French Kiss” and “Cinder” are reportedly headed to the big screen, as is the post-apocalyptic zombie novel “The Forest of Hands and Teeth.”
While these genres might not be everyone’s cup of tea, they and a number of other published books have one thing in common: They began as a manuscript generated during National Novel Writing Month, known to fans as NaNoWriMo.
The event is a free online challenge to write 50,000 words of a new novel in one month, and is conducted every November by the nonprofit NaNoWriMo (NaNoWriMo.org).
For anyone who has ever had the urge to write but needs a little push or bit of encouragement to get started, the Bluffton Branch Library can help with a series of 10 Come Write In sessions beginning Nov. 1.
“We’re planning on doing write-ins in a room set up just for them to come in to write. We’ll probably have snacks, water and word prompts they can choose from if they want,” said Alyssa Krob, reference and teen services librarian. “We always put together a word count sheet or calendar so (writers) can record their daily progress if they want.”
Word prompts are one of the tools NaNo offers to inspire the writer, charging participants to include a specific action, emotion or animal into their writing. These are completely optional, as are the timed sessions offered continuously on the NaNoWriMo Twitter feed.
Keeping track of the daily word count is crucial. An average of 1,570 words is highly recommended in order to reach the 50,000-word count by midnight on Nov. 30.
Krob conducted several write-ins when she worked in the Beaufort branch. Now working in Bluffton, she is continuing the same process, offering an information packet for prospective writers – from teens to seniors.
“Because NaNoWriMo also has the young writers program, I’m all about that because I’m the teen services librarian. I try to encourage kids, saying, ‘You can write. It doesn’t have to be school-related. You can just write whatever you want,” said Krob.
The write-ins offer authors a quiet space with little interruption with the exception of the occasional word prompt, and Krob said she has had anywhere from five to 10 people show up for the events.
When it gets down to writing, some participants prepare for November by outlining their manuscript down to the most minor details. This can include listing and describing the primary players and their characteristics, the structures, attire, animals and food as well as creating a map of the environment they will inhabit. Other participants, however, start with a basic premise: a handful of characters they know from life, books or movies or ones they create from scratch.
The website offers a “Prep 101” with a suggested timeline (that started in September) of how to develop a story idea, create characters and construct a plot, as well as tips for organizing your life to allow for writing, and managing your time during your writing marathon.
Included in the local prep package that Krob distributes is a calendar, and a brochure that highlights preparation steps listed in the writing website, plus a “Pre-NaNoWriMo Non-Noveling Checklist.”
This list is vital for sustaining writers who will be hunkered down over their keyboards or legal pads. It lays out the importance of planning meals (No. 1 on the list), handing off chores for the month, setting aside a specific writing space, letting your close friends know you will be creating and less available for social activities, buying a supply of special writing snacks, and designating someone to bring you endless mugs of tea.
No matter how an author prepares, at 12:01 a.m. Nov. 1, the writing may begin in earnest.
Krob plans to participate as a writer as well as community leader.
“I have a young adult novel that I started working on the past couple years and have tried to work on each time. This year, I’m working on a different type of novel I’ve never written before,” Krob said, “so it’s going to be interesting. We’re going to see where it goes.”
To participate as part of the international online event, sign up on the NaNoWriMo website. Participants may choose to join a geographic region. There are South Carolina Lowcountry and Georgia Savannah regions, and many participants will note their locations with the possibility of joining others for write-ins. Each author’s page has spots where they can provide as much or as little information about themselves and their project, including a working title, the genre, a brief synopsis, and a brief bio.
About 10 days into the month-long contest, authors will be able to use one of two ways to begin submitting their word counts online. No one on the website will read the manuscripts, and no one hounds writers to keep up or catch up. The same will hold true at the library.
“I don’t want them to feel pressure because writers are often skittish creatures. So I don’t want to scare anyone or overwhelm anyone,” said Krob. “I want this to be as easy as possible.”
Writers may stop by the Bluffton library to pick up a prep package. The NaNoWriMo write-ins will be held in November from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. every Tuesday and Nov. 3, 9 and 17, and from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Nov. 5 and 19.
Gwyneth J. Saunders is a veteran journalist and freelance writer who has participated in NaNoWriMo for seven years, relying on Milk Duds and tea for snacks.