Campus Life

Novel writing group part of a much bigger picture

A group of eight to 10 people gathered in the bowels of the University Library every Saturday throughout November to work on their novels together. As part of National Novel Writing Month, the library hosted weekly write-ins, opportunities for participants to get together, write together and support one another in the sometimes frantic and often solitary work of writing a 50,000-word novel in one month.

One participant describes the write-ins as, "A three-hour time slot where we participate in word wars, get story help, receive a couple of awesome stickers and buttons, and generally just provide a chance to amp up your word count!"

Fueled by coffee and snacks, the writers focused intently on their laptops, breaking occasionally to chat and swap stories about their work. Fingers were flying especially quickly during word wars – timed sessions during which everyone competes to produce the highest word count.

National Novel Writing Month (aka NaNoWriMo) began in 1999 in the San Francisco Bay area, and has since grown to an international annual event with over 200,000 participants from around the world. The challenge is to write 50,000 words (approximately 175 pages) between November 1 and November 30. As stated on the national website (, it's about quantity, not quality.

Participants sign up on the NaNoWriMo website, often forming regional groups, such as the University of Lethbridge group, that meet up in person for write-ins and other events. A winner is considered to be anyone who has completed 50,000 words by the end of the month.

There are over 175 members in the Lethbridge area, including a number of full-time U of L students who accepted the challenge of writing a novel in a month, in addition to their academic load and just for the fun and experience of the exercise.

Some published novels that began as NaNoWriMo projects include Sarah Gruen's Water for Elephants, Farhan Devji's The Hockey Farmer (set in Alberta), and Las Vegas Chew Toy, a mystery by Laura L. Alton.