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Teaching NaNoWriMo

November 1st, 2009

National Novel Writing Month (aka NaNoWriMo) launched today, sending millions of people “with a book in them” to the keyboard in an attempt to churn out a rough novel-length manuscript (minimum of 50,000 words to ‘count’) by the end of November. People engaged in this activity all bond on the nano website, encouraging each other and sharing tips, posting and boasting their latest word counts all the way to the end.
I’ve never done it, but I’ve always been intrigued by this collective endeavor of binge writing. I’ve signed up on the site and lurked, just to see what people are up to. It appeals to me, as a writer who works in manic, highly-caffeinated spurts, and as a teacher who believes in the collaborative learning inherent to a writer’s workshop community. A number of our more productive Writing Popular Fiction students and even some faculty dare to “nano”…it’s awfully difficult for a full-time faculty member to take on such an enormous task during the endgame of a Fall semester, when term papers come pouring in and advising for the next term is afoot, but it can be done.
Maybe college profs need a NaSchoWriMo for writing scholarship? Now is the perfect time to get to work on those conference papers you want to present next Spring, after all.
In any case, I noticed that teachers are actually beginning to use NaNoWriMo in the classroom, and that the site has a Young Writers Program that fosters an educational mission. The site includes some GREAT novel writing workbooks for young adults — and the program can even lend out NEO word processing hardware to students in need.
It’s a great idea. And it can be used creatively. From a class-collaborated story to simply a study of the novel itself, teachers are tapping into NaNoWriMo as a form of learning that reaches outside of the walls of the classroom and participates in the “outside world” even as it focuses the attention needed for cultivating the intimate and interior setting of the imagination.
Daniel Moulthrop shares his experience “Teaching NaNoWriMo” in a google doc, suggesting that the main benefit is “a month of unbridled creativity vs. school as we know it” which leads to increased writing fluency and — after the initial hurdle of starting to climb what seems to be a very high mountain — a reduction of fear about writing.
To any teachers out there doing this: GOOD LUCK!
I don’t have much to offer, but over on my horror writing website, I have a section called “Instigation” that offers “twisted prompts” for creative writers that you can crib from to get your students working on a dastardly plot point.
You also might get your class involved in twitter.com for this project. There’s a lot of activity on that site — just search for the #nano hashtag or “follow” NaNoWriMo.

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  1. November 1st, 2009 at 13:00 | #1

    I added a special batch of “nanowrimo”-specific prompts to the Instigation this morning. Good luck, writers!

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