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Students participate in novel writing month

November signals the retreat inside to escape the cold, and hundreds of thousands of individuals use the move indoors to participate in “National Novel Writing Month.”

“NaNoWriMo” was established in 1999 to encourage aspiring novelists to write a full novel of no less than 50,000 words in one month. The program begins Nov. 1 and ends on Nov. 30 at 11:59 p.m., according to its website.

The novels submitted to the website at the end of the month are never read by the administrators of NaNoWriMo, according to its website. In fact, they are deleted immediately after they are submitted.

Despite this, some participants have continued writing after the program and had their novels published, such as Sara Gruen with her novel, “Water for Elephants,” according to the website.

Philip Wythe, a School of Arts and Sciences sophomore, said he started a novel for the program.

His story is set in World War II-era Russia and based on magical realism, he said. The plot revolves around a young girl’s mission to find her brother’s spirit. In the novel, she and her brother’s girlfriend encounter different creatures of folklore.

“There are different kinds of character arcs that form, and as a writer, I have to build those over time, basically over the period of one month,” he said.

Wythe said his idea for the novel was inspired by a number of factors.

“I’m 50 percent Eastern European myself,” he said.

His idea was also spurred by his interest in his current classes in magical realism and the Russian language.

Wythe said it is difficult to find the motivation to churn out approximately 2,000 words a day in addition to his multiple exams and essays.

“The biggest thing I tell myself is that the novel isn’t just a hobby, it’s a responsibility,” he said. “And for me, what I’m telling myself is that I’m not just writing something for fun, I’m writing something for my future.”

Maryna Sidykh, a Rutgers alumna, agrees that NaNoWriMo is a challenge because sense of urgency self-enforced.

Sidykh, a tutor at the Plangere Writing Center, said a 50,000-word novel calculates to roughly 1,800 words a day, or three single-spaced pages of text, over the course of a month.

“It takes more discipline and self-control to commit yourself to that,” she said.

Sidykh has participated in NaNoWriMo for the past six years, but is not writing a novel this year because she started her own novel this August, she said.

She said one of her novels for NaNoWriMo was about a girl who moved into a haunted house and became friends with the creatures inhabiting it.

“It’s a little contrived, but it’s the effort [that counts], I think,” she said.

Sidykh is not entirely detached from the program, she said, since the novel she started in August builds upon former characters and themes.

The novel is about a young man who finds himself on his own for the first time and experiences new things, she said.

“It’s an exploration of relationships, sexuality, growing up and adolescence,” Sidykh said.

She said writing, whether under the constraints of NaNoWriMo or not, is a challenge, especially with the added responsibilities of school and work.

“It’s really difficult, I would say. You have to commit the time to everything at once,” she said. “It’s a process of compromise throughout the project.”

Sharae Allen-Martin, a Rutgers alumna, said this is her fifth year participating in NaNoWriMo.

Martin’s first year competing was the year she graduated from Rutgers. She was 5,000 words short of the expected 50,000 that year. Last year was the first time she achieved the goal, and she was not even been close to finishing her novel, she said.

“There’s a certain freedom that exists in NaNoWriMo. Like today, I’m going to have a masquerade, and [tomorrow], someone’s going to get poisoned. I can’t wait to get home and write. It’s that excitement that I absolutely love having for November,” Martin said.

She said she learned to write for NaNoWriMo by allowing herself to fail. Over the years, she has seen marked improvements.

“I love being able to surprise myself with certain lines of dialogue, or the way characters are developed,” she said. “I love how enthusiastic I feel about getting up and writing.”

One important feature of NaNoWriMo is that the month of November is solely for writing, and December is when writers focus on peer-edits and revisions, according to its website.

“There are rough patches in there, but there is also something that gleams in it that kind of feels like at the end of the day there’s going to be something really interesting to write about,” Wythe said.

Wythe said his biggest motivation is watching people gain interest in his novel.

“Telling people about that and seeing them really light up about those ideas. It really inspires you to put your best foot forward and to say, ‘This is what I really want my work to be at the end of the day,’” he said.


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