One novel, one month

Student writers participate in National Novel Writing Month

After participating in National Novel Writing Month Sam Morris has no trouble writing essays for school.

“With four page papers, I write more than that in a day now,” the senior English major said. “Even ten page papers are pretty easy.”

Every November, NaNoWriMo participants tackle the same goal—write a full-length novel, or 50,000 words of original content. They bond through’s discussion boards, where writers can bounce ideas off of each other, learn more about others and challenge each other to write more.

Morris’ novel’s genre is fantasy, but he said it’s different from most fantasy that exists. He pulled from his own experiences in the Air Force translating Arabic.

“Fantasy is usually set in a European world,” he said. “What I did was design my own Arabic fantasy. Instead of dragons and Christianity, I used Islam to create a unique feel.”

This is Morris’ second year participating in NaNoWriMo. He finished last year at 51,000 words, and this year, even after the month is over, he wants to reach 80,000 words with his novel.

It’s a challenge for him as he also juggles working full-time, attending classes and raising three children.

“I find myself in class writing down mythology (for my fantasy world),” Morris said. “It’s fun to go down these rabbit holes, and it’s hard to snap back sometimes.”

As of November 29, he had 46,779 words.

“I really enjoy doing NaNo,” Morris said. “I’ll keep doing it until I fail.”

Morris is one of a diverse group of students participating in NanoWrimo. The Student Writers Union gathered every Tuesday in November in the Rice Library to work on their novels.

Some of the Student Writers Union decided to make their novels connect with a common theme.

“We’re doing this collaborative novel mix,” sophomore Maggy “M” Moore said. “We’re writing about a writer’s utopia and exploring utopian society.”

The communications major said the idea sparked during the Student Writers Union’s retreat in New Harmony. About ten of the members are collaborating in the utopia concept.

“We write separately, but we’ll try to tie it together somehow,” Moore said.

It’s Moore’s first year attempting NaNo, but she said it certainly won’t be her last.

“I’ve learned time management,” she said, “and I’ve definitely gotten closer to people in the Student Writers Union.”

Senior English education major Lauren Abney said this year, the group of NaNoWriMo participants at the university are the most productive she’s ever seen.

“A lot of people are focused and staying on task,” she said. “It’s more serious compared to previous years.”

Abney is writing a young adult novel with dystopian and utopian themes. It departs from her usual work, as she considers herself more a poet than a fiction writer.

“I’ve already been published with poetry,” she said, “but seeing a larger piece of fiction published would be amazing.”

While she’s a participant now, Abney would like to incorporate NaNo into her future career.

“When hopefully I’ve figured out the whole process of NaNo, I hope to take it into my future classroom to do with students,” she said.

As for now, Abney said the participants she writes with help each other become better writers.

“NaNo is communal and a lot of fun,” she said. “It’s competitive, but we encourage each other, we support each other, and we push each other past what we think we can do.”