Every November, thousands of writers take leave of their sanity and attempt to write a 50,000-word novel in one month. That’s approximately 1,667 words per day. Even if you don’t have a day job, that’s an ambitious quota. However, National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo for short) is not about quality. If it were, participants would likely be paralyzed with perfectionism. Instead, the goal is words…just words. Churn out the words, the argument goes, and you’ll end up with a very rough draft of a novel in one month. What you do with that draft is up to you, but some writers have used National Novel Writing Month to launch novels that eventually found their way to publication.
Whether teachers make use of NaNoWriMo to encourage their students to write, or students take up the project on their own, school libraries can be an important support system for these writers. As institutions that promote literacy, libraries have an interest in supporting NaNoWriMo. Whether participants are experienced writers or newbies trying their hand at a long draft for the first time, writing makes students better readers and thinkers. In addition, NaNoWriMo works best when it offers the ordinarily solitary business of writing a community. The school library can be a place where students can find resources–including fellow writers–and where they can be supported in their quest to churn out the next great American novel.
Here are some ways that school libraries can support National Novel Writing Month.
- Provide resources that support writers. This might include books on the craft of writing, but libraries are also places where writers can do background research on their novels. Consider creating a display or a website featuring resources for NaNoWriMo participants. Even something as simple as a name generator could be a boon to a writer on a deadline.
- Sponsor NaNoWriMo writing sessions! If writers are to meet their quotas, they will need opportunities and places to write. The library can be a site within the school community where novelists find one another and write together. If you’re going to suffer through writing 1,667 words a day, you shouldn’t suffer alone.
- Encourage students to establish a daily writing routine. Once they get in the habit of producing words, it will be become easier to start and finish writing projects–whether assigned for school or taken on as an extracurricular activity.
- Once National Novel Writing Month is complete, help students revise their work. This might include providing resources on editing and publishing, or it might be putting students in touch with online writing communities where they can share drafts and get notes.
- Write with your students! Start your own novel in solidarity with your younger cohort. If you need material, look no further than your job.The world awaits your masterpiece…or at least, awaits your rough draft. Join me in taking the NaNoWriMo challenge and give your novel its due!
Author: Loretta Gaffney
Loretta M. Gaffney, MLIS, MA, Ph.D., is a librarian and teacher at Harvard Westlake School in Los Angeles. Illinois-born and Iowa-raised, she is slowly becoming an Angeleno by learning to shiver in 50-degree weather. Loretta is the author of Young Adult Literature, Libraries, and Conservative Activism, published by Rowman & Littlefield in 2017. A frequent conference speaker and guest lecturer, Loretta taught YA Literature, Reading Research, Intellectual Freedom, and Youth Services Librarianship at both UCLA and the University of Illinois. She has twin 13-year-old daughters and two extremely active kittens.