Reading & Literacy

Lessons From National Novel Writing Month

By Amy Wickner — November 08, 2012 3 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

I recently wrote about how school libraries can help young writers publish and promote their work through Makerspaces and student-produced book collections. National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), the popular and self-evidently titled writing project taking place this month, has been widely promoted as another way to encourage student creativity and goal-setting.

Since its humble, 21-member beginnings in 1999, NaNoWriMo has grown into an international,
250,000-participant effort. The challenge: Write a 50,000-word or 175-page novel during the month of November. Organized and promoted by the nonprofit Office of Letters and Light since 2006, NaNoWriMo has a robust social-media presence, partnerships with self-publishing platforms, and several high-profile success stories for former participants like Sara Gruen, author of Water For Elephants, and Erin Morgenstern, whose bestseller The Night Circus began as a NaNoWriMo project.. This year, numerous K-12 media outlets offered tips and resources for young challenge participants:



  • The NaNoWriMo Young Writers Program offers resources for young writers and educators alike, including a Writer Community portal and the all-important Pep Talks.

  • Writer’s Digest is offering one NaNoWriMo tip every weekday for the month of November. While geared toward writers of all ages, the tips may be more accessible to older students.

  • Publishing blog GalleyCat is also offering a daily NaNoWriMo tip, kicking off with a list of all 30 tips its editors offered in 2011.

  • The Office of Letters and Light blog has recruited designers to come up with a list of 30 Covers [in] 30 Days. Students may find inspiration in these striking and quickly rendered covers.

  • The New York Times’ Learning Network blog featured a testimonial of sorts on NaNoWriMo from New Jersey high school teacher Jennifer Ansbach. Ansbach suggests classroom activities to supplement the novel-writing process.

  • Public libraries across the country are hosting NaNoWriMo kickoff events and write-ins, encouraging aspiring novelists to make use of library resources and workspaces.

What happens to student novels when the month ends? Opportunities abound for students (and teachers) to publish their own work using online book design and production services. Createspace (an Amazon service) and Figment are NaNoWriMo’s official publishing partners, but other popular options include Lulu, MagCloud, Isuu, Scribd, Smashwords (ebooks only), Blurb, and Mixbook (also ebooks only). Depending on price points for each service, schools may have the option of furnishing school libraries with a copy of each student-written novel.

Interestingly, just 36,843 of the event’s 256,618 participants ended NaNoWriMo 2011 with a finished novel—that’s about a 15 percent completion rate. While many students may not reach “The End,” they will still have spent 30 days planning, writing, and revising. What material they do produce can be repurposed into new forms or continue to evolve as works in progress long past the end of NaNoWriMo.

Just as NaNoWriMo’s lofty goals challenge students’ determination and focus, understanding and accepting the possibility of failure may also contribute to their resilience and capacity for creative thinking. As numerous Education Week articles and Commentaries have suggested, students may need to learn to fail, and fail in order to learn. Recent news stories describe how nurturing creativity and encouraging imaginative play both involve a certain tolerance for failure. Angel B. Pérez espouses this philosophy in his piece on college readiness and admissions. And as Nikhil Goyal, a current high school senior and published author, writes in his book, One Size Does Not Fit All: A Student’s Assessment of School, some of the best learning is messy. He advises his peers to “start rolling around in the dirt from the get go.” Whether or not you consider NaNoWriMo a worthy undertaking, it’s important to anticipate how young people might benefit from creative challenges and achievements alike.

Related Tags:

A version of this news article first appeared in the BookMarks blog.


Commenting has been disabled on edweek.org effective Sept. 8. Please visit our FAQ section for more details. To get in touch with us visit our contact page, follow us on social media, or submit a Letter to the Editor.


Events

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Teaching Webinar
6 Key Trends in Teaching and Learning
As we enter the third school year affected by the pandemic—and a return to the classroom for many—we come better prepared, but questions remain. How will the last year impact teaching and learning this school
Content provided by Instructure
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
School & District Management Webinar
Ensuring Continuity of Learning: How to Prepare for the Next Disruption
Across the country, K-12 schools and districts are, again, considering how to ensure effective continuity of learning in the face of emerging COVID variants, politicized debates, and more. Learn from Alexandria City Public Schools superintendent
Content provided by Class
Teaching Profession Live Online Discussion What Have We Learned From Teachers During the Pandemic?
University of California, Santa Cruz, researcher Lora Bartlett and her colleagues spent months studying how the pandemic affected classroom teachers. We will discuss the takeaways from her research not only for teachers, but also for

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Reading & Literacy Spotlight Spotlight on Literacy in Education
In this Spotlight, evaluate the possible gaps your current curriculum may have and gain insights from the front-lines of teaching.
Reading & Literacy Opinion Teachers, More Than Programs, Make for Great Reading Instruction
Let's focus on specific teaching practices, not confusing labels like "balanced literacy," write Irene C. Fountas and Gay Su Pinnell.
Irene C. Fountas & Gay Su Pinnell
5 min read
Children reading books in front of books.
iStock/Getty Images
Reading & Literacy Creator of 1619 Project Launching After-School Literacy Program
The 1619 Freedom School, led by journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones, will make its curriculum a free online resource in 2022.
4 min read
Collage of an American Flag.
Collage: Laura Baker/Education Week (Images: iStock/Getty)
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Reading & Literacy Whitepaper
Scaffolding to Achieve Grade-Level Literacy
In this whitepaper, Curriculum Associates National Director Kandra James explores how scaffolding, the use of instructional techniques an...
Content provided by Curriculum Associates