Friday, November 11, 2005

Novel writing contest seeds interest in aspiring authors

The clock strikes midnight, and all across the nation, thousands of writers rush to their computers to compete in the National Novel Writing Month's annual competition.

For students who aspire to write a novel, the NaNoWriMo is offering a chance to do just that. Starting Nov. 1 at midnight, writers will have 30 days to complete a 50,000-word story.

"It's an opportunity to knock something off your to-do list," Austin senior Brandi Ledenbach said.

"Not many people can say they wrote a whole novel in one month," she said.

According to the NaNoWriMo Web site, this is a chance for anyone who has even momentarily considered writing a novel.

The idea is for amateur writers to develop their skills and maybe even get published.

"What I read on the Web site was true," Denton freshman Sarah Anisowicz said.

"Writing a novel is always one of those things you want to do, but never get around to doing," she said.

Sign-ups began Oct. 1 and will continue until the competition begins.

Even though no writing may be done prior to Nov. 1, the month of October is usually used for preparation.

"Most people spend the month creating outlines and doing background research," Ledenbach said.

Some writers choose their themes well in advance. Anisowicz said her story will be a fantasy novel, although she has yet to work out the specifics.

On the other hand, some novelists enjoy the thrill of waiting until the last minute to choose a topic.

"I'm looking forward to finding out what I'm going to write," Shawnee, Kan., sophomore Rea Corbin said.

"I haven't decided for sure yet. And if tradition holds true, I won't decide until Halloween," she said.

Once the competition begins, Ledenbach said "it's a challenge" for writers to meet the deadline while balancing school, jobs and social lives.

"I'm definitely looking forward to late night writing sprees, hopefully spurred on by caffeine and writer friends, both at home and here at school," Corbin said.

Often participants who accept the challenge return again and again.

"I found out about NaNoWriMo like I find out about most things -- completely on accident," Corbin said.

"The idea was just crazy enough to appeal to me. That was about four years ago, and I've been doing it ever since," she said.

Corbin said writers have come up with creative ways to reward themselves because the only tangible award is a downloadable certificate of completion.

"When I'm done ... it's the 'thank God it's over party!'" Anisowicz said.

Anisowicz said that, despite a severe lack of sleep, NaNoWriMo offers a chance to produce a novel.

She also said it puts school in prospective because after all, what's a two-page essay compared to a 50,000 word novel?

The way to win the NaNoWriMo contest is by writing 50,000 words by midnight on November 30. Every year, there are many winners.

Although no winners are given publishing contracts through the contest, the Web Site says many participants have been published through their own means.

There are no "Best Novel" or "Quickest-Written Novel" awards given out, but all winners get an official "Winner" web icon and certificate.

They are also all added to NaNoWriMo's hallowed winner's page, and receive a handsome winner's certificate and web icon.

[KELLY MYERS / The Lariat Online]

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