Novel Achievements

By Matt Hawkins
November 22, 2013

Fifty thousand written words in 30 days: That’s the challenge 10 Bradley University NaNoWriMo club members are tackling this November. The month, dubbed National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), pushes authors to balance coursework and life with the process of writing a short novel before the clock strikes midnight November 30.

The second-year club brings together writers from across the academic spectrum with founder and President Sarah Marshall an English major, Secretary Sarah Fields from computer science, Treasurer Jennifer Cundiff an English and philosophy double major and Publicist Xavier Gordon in the game design program.

“This is community for people who value the same things you do,” Marshall said.

Many in the group have been writing since youth, so NaNoWriMo pushes participants to write a short novel in a condensed timeframe.  Cundiff and Gordon hope to use this year’s projects as drafts they hope to eventually publish.

“It’s a method of escape,” Cundiff said. “I do a lot of writing anyway, but creative writing lets you go anywhere.”

NaNoWriMo participants need to average 1,667 words a day to accomplish the task while also keeping up with academics. Gordon and Fields, among others, have seen their previous NaNoWriMo dreams shattered by homework.

“Coming into (last) November, I wanted to finish a story I was working on,” Gordon, a junior, said. “I didn’t finish it but I added 50,000 words and finished over break.”

“There isn’t a lot of sleeping,” he added. “You eventually hit a haze where you’re seeing the (computer screen) after-image and you’re OK with it.”

NaNoWriMo participants attack their novels with multiple writing and distraction minimization strategies.  That means turning off social media for the month or composing story outlines in advance.  Healthy meals and laundry go forgotten as writers concentrate on writing.

“It’s a blur,” Cundiff , a sophomore, said. “You’re so intensely focused that no matter how much of a break you take, you don’t forget it.”

Marshall, a junior, offered two pieces of wisdom for NaNoWriMo authors: “If it works for you, do it,” and “Don’t get it right, just get it written.”

Writers bond at regular gatherings before and during November. Meetings before November focus on writing exercises and plot development.  November “write-ins” allow writers to enjoy company while working on their projects.

Despite the frenzied month, writers enjoy the challenge and take pride in the drive to meet the word count. November unites these students through pursuit of a unique goal.

“It teaches you to stick with things and forges bonds with people,” Cundiff said.

For more information about National Novel Writing Month, visit