NaNoWriMo Inspires Writers of All Ages

By Wanda Dengel - Contributing Columnist



NaNoWriMo is an acronym for National Novel Writing Month which began November 1 and continues through November 30. It is a project of The Young Writers Program with participants from around the globe representing six continents. Students in Kindergarten through senior in high school as well as adults have been involved in NaNoWriMo since its inception in 1998.

The challenge of NaNoWriMo is to pen a complete novel by the end of November.

Writing can be a challenge to anyone staring at a blank computer screen, but then to be expected to make the leap to writing a novel appears to be an insurmountable undertaking. It could be a daunting task but the Young Writers Program has simplified that task and made it a real possibility for teachers and their students in grades Kindergarten through high school.

Oftentimes teachers are reluctant to take on this writing challenge due to their inexperience as a novelist; nevertheless, many teachers accept the challenge and write along with their students. It’s a form of writing that many teachers never thought that they would ever attempt. The NaNoWriMo Young Writers Program has all the curriculum materials and resources available without cost to educators. In addition, they connect all the novel writing to Common Core state standards. Adjustments for individual learners can be made by teachers in this real world writing experience.

The bulk of the writing is completed in November, the month designated by the Young Writers Program as the focus month of writing. Teachers, however, begin in September by helping their students decide on the genre of their novel, develop character sketches, conflicts, and an outline of the plot. Students use both class time and time at home to complete their novels.

Several schools have made the novel writing project a whole school endeavor by including teachers and principals in the writing project. The undertaking is a challenge that stretches writing skills and affords a deep sense of accomplishment to all participants. Writers have to make many writing decisions within a limited time period and, as a result, decision making skills develop rapidly and confidence surges.

Students can write by hand but most prefer laptops or tablets to do their writing since technology allows them to write more quickly, find resources online, and make connections with peers who are part of the NaNoWriMo challenge. Writers receive encouragement through emails, videos from peers, and even through videos of favorite published authors, some of whom participate in the program. Published authors offer mentorships to young writers throughout the month of November.

The NaNoWriMo Young Writers Program has all the curriculum materials that teachers need to maximize the writing process. The website has a virtual classroom that allows teachers to carry on discussions with students and monitor individual progress. Writers create an avatar (a personification) of themselves and include a personal word count goal which can be changed at any time, with a maximum word count of 50,000 words. Writers then go to the “Prep” section to begin their free writing and take notes on their novel as their drafts are crafted. The site is filled with writer resources to help spur the writing process. Resources include practice writing sheets, pep talks, and NaNoWriMo flair to get writers prepared and inspired to write. The site also includes forums for young writers so they can connect with peers from around the world. The forums are moderated by NaNoWriMo staff and are strictly governed by Codes of Conduct. For 30 days writers let their imaginations soar as their creativity is revealed. The onsite writing space automatically counts words and awards badges for the number of days the writer has written and the percentage of the word goal that has been achieved. Icons at the bottom of the writing space motivate and challenge students to keep writing until November 30, 11:59:59 p.m. After November the novel remains onsite so that writers who are not finished can continue to write and edit or download what they’ve written onto another application.

Every November, 30 professional designers volunteer to design book covers of aspiring NaNoWriMo authors from around the globe. 30 Book Covers for 30 Days is a collaborative program of NaNoWriMo with professional designer and author Debbie Millman.

Students can publish their books on self-publishing sites and sell them on Amazon. Copies of students’ novels are often housed in their classroom libraries, and students have opportunities to share excerpts of their novels at local bookstores and other venues. Over 250 NaNoWriMo novels have been published in the conventional manner.

NaNoWriMo can be found on Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Twitter and Tumbir.


By Wanda Dengel

Contributing Columnist

Wanda Dengel, long time local and Columbus inner-city schools teacher, can be reached at

Wanda Dengel, long time local and Columbus inner-city schools teacher, can be reached at