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Boulder-area novelists take on global writing challenge

Author and CU English professor Paul Levitt writes one page a day during the month of November. Each sentence is a carefully crafted step toward a global writing event’s 50,000-word minimum.

National Novel Writing Month flips the typical writing scheme on its head — the challenge is to complete as much as possible in as little time as possible.

“For people who suffer from verbal constipation, it’s a good exercise,” Levitt said.

NaNoWriMo is based online, where people of all ages and talents type their way toward a 50,000-word novel on any subject between Nov. 1 and 30. Last year, 341,357 participants across six continents completed the quest for 50,000 words, including more than 2,600 from the Boulder area, according to the event website.

The website does not claim that participants need to write an elegant work of fiction, simply a “lengthy work of fiction.” It could mean putting in countless hours to make a masterpiece of perfect sentences, or throwing words on the page to fulfill the quota by the end of the month.

“I cannot write the second sentence unless I know exactly how the first sentence sounds,” Levitt said. “It’s got to be right before I can move on, that’s how I write.”

The novel challenge becomes a job for participants. In order to make the quota, it’s recommended to keep a word goal each day. Levitt said that that aspect of the project could teach real-world lessons.

“People have the conception that what you write has to do with a muse,” Levitt said. “But if you want to be a writer, think of it as a job.”

Estevon Soliz, a junior at Front Range Community College, is a participant in NaNoWriMo this fall. He discovered the contest through his creative writing course.

“It’s an effective way of writing because it gets your ideas down,” Soliz said. “But professionally there’s a lot more to the craft.”

Autumn Braley, an undeclared sophomore at CU, has participated in the event on three separate occasions. For her, it’s all about the deadline.

“I think it’s an effective way to practice writing, because for me it helps me learn to write on demand,” Braley said. “If I end up being a writer when I get older, I need to learn.”

Especially for students, having a deadline can be a great motivator, she said.

The challenge of it is paired with an encouragement to connect with other local writers. NaNoWriMo plagues writers’ inboxes with motivational essays, e-vites to local writing workshops and library write-ins, as well as reminders throughout the month.

Neither Soliz or Braley take part in event’s in-person interactive elements, though they are available in the Boulder area. They said that being in a community of writers only furthers their motivation. Sometimes it’s the push that people need.

Contact CU Independent Staff Reporter Hannah Blatter at

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