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The City Journals

50,000 words or bust for aspiring novelists this November

Oct 31, 2019 02:26PM ● By Josh Wood

Salt Lake County Libraries will host NaNoWriMo events at different locations every Tuesday through Friday in November. (Joshua Wood/City Journals)

By Joshua Wood | [email protected]

Over 80% of Americans think they have a book in them. They also think they should write it, according to writer Joseph Epstein. For many, the dream of writing a novel remains that, just a dream. However, for those who are ready to finally write their story, some extra motivation comes along every November in the form of National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo.

NaNoWriMo writers share a common goal of reaching 50,000 words in just 30 days each November. That adds up to a 200-page novel draft in just one month. To help writers stay on track, and to find a group of like-minded novelists to be around while cranking out those pages, the Salt Lake County Library offers write-in events at several of its locations.

“People can come to a branch hosting a write-in,” said Liesl Seborg of Salt Lake County Library. “There will often be treats, prizes, word sprints, a little social interaction.”

This will be the sixth year of large participation in write-in events at Salt Lake County Libraries. Five locations will host write-in events during November, including the Whitmore, Millcreek, Taylorsville, West Valley and Bingham Creek branches. Write-ins will be held in at least one library each Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday throughout November. Event schedules can be found on the library’s website.

“Our main function is to provide a comfortable space where writers can work and meet other writers engaged in the same challenge,” said Daniel Berube of Whitmore Library. “It's also helpful for writers to have a set time blocked off for writing. We usually have a mix of writing veterans and people that are curious about what NaNoWriMo is.”

While dozens of people typically participate in the write-in events each November, Seborg estimates that around 1,000 people in Salt Lake County will sit down to write as part of NaNoWriMo. Statistics from the national organization showed participation increasing from fewer than 200 in its first year in 2000 to over 200,000 10 years later. The number of participants has continued to grow from there.

The draw of NaNoWriMo comes from something that many aspiring novelists share deep down. “Everybody ultimately wants to write a book,” Seborg said. “I think the appeal is that there are many stories to be told, and this is a way to push themselves to write what’s in their mind, what’s in their heart of hearts.”

Write-in events held all over the world offer something else. While the act of writing tends to be a solitary task, writers themselves help push each other. “You’ve got other people who are also struggling,” Seborg said. “They can share the good days and the bad days.”

Throughout November, new and experienced writers in Salt Lake County and beyond can find a quiet place near them to write. They also find a group of people who share similar aspirations. Each write-in event ranges from silent to raucous. Writers will all quietly type or scribble away at their stories, then take time at the end of the session to talk about their experiences. They celebrate each other’s breakthroughs and laugh off their challenges.

Write-ins are typically led by people affiliated with the national NaNoWriMo organization. These municipal liaisons offer experienced words of encouragement as well as structure for the events. If a community liaison is not available, local library staff step in.

Some library staff even participate in NaNoWriMo as writers, including Seborg, who intends to aim for her own 50,000 words this November. “I write fantasy/science fiction and focus on dystopian novels,” Seborg said. “I like to put my nightmares on paper so I can control them.”