Helen Stutsman ’19 has spent the past eight Novembers writing 50,0000 word novels.
Is she a masochist with nothing better to do? Probably not—she’s just one of several student writers at Hamilton who love a challenge.
November is National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), where thousands of writers from across the country took on the challenge of writing a 50,000 word novel draft in 30 days. With a word-counting app, writing prompts, pep talks and participation badges, the NaNoWriMo nonprofit aims to help aspiring writers meet their goal.
This year, Stutsman worked with the Novelist’s Support Group to continue this tradition on campus.
“I think so many people participate because it’s good motivation to get down that first draft,” said Stutsman. “Since there are thousands of people also typing away at their keyboard you can’t help but feel like you’re part of a community. I found that this experience gives me the motivation to take a few hours out of my day to get that story out of my head and onto paper. What started as a simple project turned into a lifelong passion for writing novels.”
With the daunting task of creating a 50,000 word draft, participant Alina van den Berg ’21 credited the tough deadline for pushing her to devote hours each day toward personal writing amid the demands of other commitments.
“It was definitely stressful, but I think it was a great way to hold myself accountable. Having the support of a community of writers gave me incentive to keep writing even in the moments when I was losing motivation,” she said.
In addition to word-count deadlines, the Novelist’s Support Group hosted weekly write-ins for encouragement and support. This provided the opportunity to compete in Word Sprints—15 minute timed writing exercises where participants challenged themselves to write as much as they could.
During the month of November, Hamilton participants reached a combined goal of 256,507 words.
When asked if she had reached her word-count goal, van den Berg laughed and said, “Not exactly, but I think I learned a lot about my characters and my project as a whole. I’ll definitely get it next year.”