Fifty-thousand words in a month—that’s the goal behind the world’ largest writing event.

Dedicated to helping professionals and amateurs alike fulfill their dreams of writing a book, National Novel Writing Month, better known as NaNoWriMo, attracted more than half a million aspiring novelists last year. In its 15 years of existence, this international movement has gained a stronghold in central Illinois through events sponsored by the local chapter, PeoWriMo.

From its humble start with two participants in 2003 to more than 50 last year, PeoWriMo has succeeded in inspiring community, transforming the solitary act of writing into a social experience through a series of events and workshops throughout the month of November. It encourages writers to set their own schedules and work toward their goals—with 50,000 words the shared aim.

A Thriving Environment
While the idea of writing an entire novel in just one month is intimidating to the majority of us, Cheri Nordstrom, PeoWriMo public relations chair, says it’s all about taking the mission one day at a time. “If you break it up into small chunks, it’s 1,667 words per day,” she explains. “Most people can accomplish that in an hour. So if you can set aside one hour a day, you can write a novel in a month.”

In truth, 50,000 words is really a novella—longer than a short story but shorter than the typical novel, which runs a median length of 64,000 words, according to Amazon.com’s Text Stats feature. But Nordstrom notes that any work of art this lengthy is “a huge accomplishment,” and she is living proof the challenge can be met: she’s successfully completed 50,000 words every November since 2004.

The greatest benefit of involvement with NaNoWriMo may be the sheer camaraderie, says Nordstrom, and the ability to bounce ideas off others. “There’s a whole host of different reasons people get involved,” she says. “Some people can’t seem to get started without someone egging them on. Some people thrive on the competition… and some people just like to get together in coffee shops with friends.”

For Pride and Swag
Peoria’s group includes all ages, from middle school to retirement, everyone eager to write. Riding the growing wave of community, PeoWriMo has expanded its reach in 2014, hosting events throughout the year, including July’s Camp NaNoWriMo, a national offshoot of the November program with a “looser format,” according to Nordstrom. “You get to assert your own word-count goal,” she explains, “and they’re a little more open to seeing shorter or combined projects.”

For participants this November, it’s more about the word count. Writers register nationally at nanowrimo.org and submit their words online to be tallied by the site’s counting tool. The site allows participants to track their progress, access support and meet fellow writers through its online forums. Local chapters organize in-person events such as PeoWriMo’s write-ins, organized “writing marathons” in which writers gather together at a single location to write as much as possible individually; word wars, 15-minute battles for prizes to see who can write the most words; and movie days, social gatherings to give writers’ brains a rest.

The completion of 50,000 words by November’s end results in benefits beyond the requisite pride and feeling of accomplishment. Novelists gain access to several offers from NaNoWriMo sponsors like Amazon’s self-publishing platform createspace, the word processor and project management software Scrivener, writing and reading app Wattpad, and manuscript review site lulu.com, among others—serious perks for aspiring writers. a&s

This year’s PeoWriMo kicks off on November 1st. For more information, visit peowrimos.wordpress.com or email [email protected] To learn more about the national program, visit nanowrimo.org.