Augustana Writer’s Guild participates in National Novel Writing Month



The phrase “NaNoWriMo” may look like just a jumble of letters, but to several Augustana students, this acronym perfectly describes the month of November.

Short for National Novel Writing Month, NaNoWriMo (or NaNo) is described on its website,, as “a fun, seat-of-your-pants approach to creative writing,” where the ultimate goal is to write 50,000 words by the end of November. Writers sign up on the website, then write nonstop for a month in hopes of “winning” NaNo (or reaching the desired word count).

This year, several Augustana students have accepted the literary challenge. The Writer’s Guild is hosting write-ins in the Siverson Lounge Wednesdays and Fridays at 6:30 p.m. throughout the month, which, according to junior Caleb Van Vooren, is “a great way to bounce off ideas.”

“It helps that there are people familiar with the story [besides] yourself,” he said. “You get a lot of input.”

Several participating students are NaNo veterans. Senior Elizabeth Zokaites, president of the Writer’s Guild, has attempted the project 4 times total and won in 2011.

“It’s a great feeling to reach 50,000 [words] at the end of the month,” she said. “Even if I don’t make it, I still end up with thousands of words more than I would have had otherwise.”

Newer NaNo writers are also learning to enjoy the process.

“I thought it would be a fun incentive to get me to write, and I have always wanted to try and do [a novel],” junior Tori Weber said. “It makes me feel very accomplished when I see the number of words go up in my word count. I never knew that little tool bar could make me so happy.”

Though they are doing what they love, fitting writing into hectic school schedules has been a challenge for the writers.

“At this rate, I doubt I’ll make it to 50,000 this year, but I’m sure some of my friends will,” Zokaites said. “I just hope that I establish more regular writing habits. It’s so easy to let that be forgotten in the onslaught of homework and daily life.”

Since NaNo is, according to Zokaites, “about dragging that first draft out of your head and onto paper,” most Augustana participants aspire to publish their projects.

“Eventually, I hope to be a successfully published author,” Van Vooren said. “I don’t need a lot of money, just enough so that I don’t have to go do a boring job every day.”

Though 50,000 words is a lofty goal for most beginning writers, veteran NaNo writers say that the task is obtainable with perseverance.

Zokaites said that working in a group, updating the NaNo site with her daily word count and reading words of support from fellow writers online motivate her to keep writing.

“I get a real sense of community when so many people are working toward the same thing,” she said.

Ultimately, according to the aspiring novelists, writing regularly is the key to success.

“If you want to be a writer, you have to treat it like a job,” Van Vooren said.

“Set daily work goals, meet them every day regardless, turn off your internet, turn off the TV. Treat writing like a job, and you can hopefully do it as a job one day. NaNoWriMo is a great way to get started.”