It’s National Novel Writing Month – Is Your Class Up For the Task?

It's National Novel Writing Month - Is Your Class Up For the Task? cover image

Each Nov. 1, hundreds of thousands of people across the globe start writing a novel – a novel they plan to finish by 11:59 p.m. on Nov. 30. They write together as part of a global initiative started in 1999 called National Novel Writing Month. What started two decades ago as a whim between friends has grown into an international creative movement, a free-for-all that embraces the idea that many, many people want to write a book before they die but relatively few actually do.

National Novel Writing Month_Friends writing at table

The friendly folks at NaNoWriMo (a moniker that shortens the lengthy National Novel Writing Month into a more manageable mouthful) have found that a simple tool – a deadline – is all people need to motivate them to complete this monumental task.

In 2005, National Novel Writing Month became a nonprofit and developed several new arms, including the Young Writers Program, a project aimed at getting students writing novels during the month of November, too.

The Young Writers Program division of NaNo has grown into a movement in its own right. In 2017, 95,912 students and educators across the United States took on the noveling challenge.

It’s not too late! Want to play along this November in your classroom? Here’s how.

Teachers go to and create a virtual classroom. A code is generated for students, who create a unique profile on the site and then join a teacher’s online classroom. The entire noveling project can take place online using the Young Writers Program interface. Students can log into a teacher’s classroom from anywhere, and they can type their novels directly on the site.

The site has all sorts of bells and whistles designed to make the noveling project more fun. For example, there is a “dare machine” that combats writer’s block by giving students a challenge such as “make one of your characters fall in love with the villain.” Teachers can also set “word sprints,” which are short timed writing sessions in which students try to write as many words as possible in a short space of time.

National Novel Writing Month_ Couple in library

The goal of NaNo, of course, isn’t perfection. How could it be when adults are writing 50,000 words and students are aiming for anywhere between 20-200 words (recommended kindergarten goals) and 9,000-50,000 (suggested goal range for high school students)? The goal, instead, is to encourage creativity and to build writing stamina. Students who finish a novel in a month have achieved a monumentally difficult task, and they know it. NaNo builds grit and determination and is an exercise in finishing a task that they’ve started.

Teachers will also find a handy curriculum they can access that has step-by-step instructions from introducing the idea to every stage of the writing process. The curriculum is Common Core-aligned and there are separate workbooks available for download (for free!) for low elementary, upper elementary, middle school and secondary-level students. Educators can also connect with other teachers participating in National Novel Writing Month through the forums.

Happy novel writing!



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I am an unrepentant lover of words - and lucky me, I spend all day, every day immersed in them. When I'm not teaching, I'm reading. Or writing. Or teaching eager (and sometimes not-so-eager) adolescents about the power of the written word. I live on the scenic Oregon Coast with my dog, two cats, and five-year-old son.

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