Alaskan Writers Push to Finish a Novel in a Month

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Nearly 500 Alaskans are trying to write a novel this month. An entire novel. They’re participating in November National Novel Writing Month, a worldwide movement aimed at getting people writing. Some of the writers gathered at Anchorage’s Loussac Public Library.


Shield-Nano-Side-Blue-Brown-RGB-HiResFor the most part, the room of writers at the library is pretty quiet. Teens and adults holding laptops and tablets sit at tables and lounge on the bench, occasionally chatting. Except for Abby Foster, who plunks away on the old school typewriter she calls Gus. This is the seventh time she’s participated in National Novel Writing Month, affectionately called NaNoWriMo. She says Gus helped her surpass her goal of writing 50,000 words this month.

“It gets rid of the inner editor when I’m using it so I can just keep typing,” she says while typing.  “And there’s no delete key.”

Foster volunteers with the non-profit called NaNoWriMo, which runs the novel writing competition and coordinates events like the Write-ins at the library. She says it takes a lot of things to get people through the process.

“A little bit of craziness…” she says.  “A lot of people swear by caffeine. I swear by chocolate. But probably the best thing to have if you want to do a novel in a month is support.”

Part of Foster’s role is to provide support to a group of teens she’s been volunteering with through different youth writing groups.

One of those teens is high school senior Zach Butch. He’s working on a graphic novel about the unplanned misadventures of four goofy friends trying to save an artifact from a corrupt government. He’s a little sensitive about his progress.

“Are you trying to insinuate that I haven’t been keeping up with my word count at all?” he says when asked how he’s progressing.

Butch admits he hasn’t been, but that’s not his goal. He says he’s working hard on a project he put aside when he was 14 and he’s having fun doing it.

Eighth grader Max Kelchner takes his 20,000 word count more seriously since he signed a contract with himself to do it. He says he’s almost finished writing his novel about a boy who is writing a novel. It’s like a book within a book.

“There are quite a few parts where it’s funny,” he says. “It’s heartfelt.”

Kelchner offers solid advice for people pursuing writing.

“Put your work into sections maybe, words a day, words a week. For some people that are really have a bunch of ideas going through their head that disappear quickly, you should really write them down.”

Alana Terry, who has already published several novels, says the great thing about NaNoWriMo is that you have a support group and it forces you to really just write.

“I think when I’m writing by myself it’s fairly easy to daydream or wander or say, ‘Hey I’m going to go research this.’ When you’re doing it and paying attention to the word count and the time frame, you just get it out.”

The program started in 1999. So far this month, Alaskan participants have written nearly 7.8 million words.