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NaNoWriMo: Embrace the challenge

Each November the U's Poetry and Prose Club joins in a worldwide word sprint to produce 50,000 words of a novel over the 30-day course of the month.

The month of November holds the designation of National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), and for members of the University of Utah’s Poetry and Prose Club, that means participating in a worldwide word sprint challenge involving hundreds of thousands of people.

NaNoWriMo is an annual worldwide event hosted by a nonprofit company of the same name, that takes place every November. Its beginning can be traced back to 1999 but has grown in popularity, and now, every year as Halloween ends, people across the globe take up their proverbial pens and embrace the challenge. And what is the challenge? Writers are asked to produce 50,000 words of a novel over the 30-day course of the month. It’s at once both simple and complex; straightforward but intimidating.

It’s a task that, even for someone with quite a bit of free time, can seem difficult to achieve. Add on top of that the busy life of a university student, and it’s a wonder any student can participate, let alone accomplish the final goal. However, here at the university, the Poetry and Prose Club members act as a support group for one another, meeting often over the course of the month to brainstorm plot resolutions and character arcs and participate in short “word sprints” that bring them closer to their final word count.

“I really appreciate the support we give to each other,” said Lauren Gleave, club president and a senior in the Department of Health, Society & Policy. “Before November begins, we meet a few times to brainstorm ideas and get our thoughts and outlines in order. Then, during the month it’s all about getting words down. That’s what’s great about NaNoWriMo. You don’t have to worry too much about whether or not what you’re producing is amazing or not. Editing can come later. Right now, you have to worry about meeting your word count, and that means just writing!”

In 2020, though they couldn’t meet in person, the club used the Voice over Internet Protocol app Discord to keep in contact and encourage one another during the challenge. Even in the midst of a pandemic, the club members were able to turn out a cumulative total of 408,342 words throughout the month of November. For reference, the word count of the entire “Lord of the Rings” trilogy is 481,103 words.

Benjamin Franklin is credited with saying, “Either write something worth reading or do something worth writing.” Now, nearing the end of November, as the Poetry and Prose Club is hard at work, racing to reach their word count goals, one could say they are trying to accomplish both at the same time.

Have an itch to try your hand at writing? For more information about the Poetry and Prose Club, email the club leadership at To learn more about NaNoWriMo and the different programs you can get involved in, click here.