NaNoWriMo: Duluthians write 50,000 words in thirty days

BY ANNA SPIELMANN | Lake Voice News Four glass marbles. Three plastic trinkets -- a golden coin, a glow stick, and a silver spoon. Two striped candles. One purpose: novel-writing inspiration.

“You can’t just sit and wait for the muse to show up,” said Veronica Mullen, who is well acquainted with the sport of writing a novel in 30 days.

She handed out this eclectic assortment of objects to spark creativity in participants at Saturday’s write-in at the downtown Duluth Public Library.

It’s National Novel Writing Month, better known as NaNoWriMo, and it happens every November. Beginners and experienced novelists alike undertake the task. To win, writers must reach a word count of 50,000 by the end of the month. Bragging rights and a rough draft of their novel serve as motivation to make the deadline. 

“It’s a very, very ambitious timeline for writers,” said library technician and event organizer Jocelyn Baker.

She was excited when municipal liaison Mullen, a NaNoWriMo volunteer who arranges write-ins, reached out to the library.

Baker described the newfound partnership as, "an absolute perfect fit for the program." The library was happy to provide a quiet space to community writers, providing coffee and chocolate to keep the creativity flowing. For those facing writer’s block, a table with coloring books offered a place to take a break. 

“The general theme behind National Novel Writing Month is just get the words out, edit them later,” said Baker.

Most writers, herself included, have the urge to self-edit as they go. Overcoming that habit is essential to reach the goal, as is staying focused. 

For Mullen, most mornings she tells herself, “It’s writing time, time to get out of bed.” And it helps.

A NaNoWriMo participant for over a decade, Mullen’s first win came in 2005. Not every year ends with a win, but the drafts that come out of the challenge have helped her grow as a writer. She has self-published several novels as a result.

Each writer has their own set of tactics to stay motivated. Mullen counts on coffee, as well as setting aside both physical and mental space to write. Fourth-year participant Wyatt Rassier swears by his playlist.

“I curated a station on Pandora that has turned into instrumental metal,” said Rassier, who is attending write-ins for the first time this year.

The idea for his last novel came on October 31 during an overnight shift at work.

“I somehow managed to squeeze 50,000 words out of it,” he said.

Although library write-ins are new to Duluth, the partnership will likely continue. Participants expect the events to grow through outreach to local writer communities and the region’s forums on the NaNoWriMo website. Baker also wants to create new writers through NaNoWriMo because she believes the community offers such strong support.

“I’ve never considered myself good at creative writing," Baker said. After exploring the NaNoWriMo community, she changed her mind to, “I can do this."

One more write-in will be held in the library's Gold Room on Nov. 23. When the month is over, writers can attend the “Thank God It’s Over” party on Dec. 3, where wins, losses, and everything in between will be celebrated.

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