BY BILL FERRIS
All writers need editors. Lots of writers have their own editors inside their heads. Some of these editors enjoy telling writers they’re no good, and that they’re wasting their time. The National Novel Writing Month Young Writers Program lets kids tell that internal editor to shut up so they can get some work done.
First, a little background: National Novel Writing Month (or NaNoWriMo) occurs every November, challenging authors of all skill levels to pen a novel of 50,000 words in only 30 days. The exercise is designed to get people to start creating for the fun of it without the pressure of trying to craft the next great literary classic. Last year 119,000 writers took the challenge. I did this myself in 2002 and found it to be a fun (and exhausting) exercise.
NaNoWriMo Young Writers Program eases up on the 50,000-word stipulation. Students and teachers are encouraged to set realistic word-count goals appropriate to each student. This gets students writing by letting them — nay, encouraging them — to think in terms of quantity, not quality. Kids can feel free to take risks without fear of ridicule, reprisal, or the red pen. This approach will undoubtedly lead to some terrible prose, regardless of each writer’s skill level — my own novel from 2002 is hidden from human eyes in an undisclosed vault — but it will also free students to let their creativity run wild, which can lead to unexpectedly brilliant passages, and possibly a new-found love for writing.
Check out the How NaNoWriMo Works for Educators page for information on how to set up a profile and set word counts for your students. The site also has other important suggestions, including how to overcome writer’s block, as well as reminders to plan kick-off and “Thank Goodness It’s Over” parties. Whatever their word-count goals, hitting the finish line is a goal worth celebrating.