Budding and seasoned writers across the Hunter region are gearing up for the 2021 National Novel Writing Month competition, set to begin in November. 

Newcastle novelists have started prepping for the 2021 National Novel Writing Month. Photo supplied.

Each year on November 1, hundreds of thousands of people across the globe embark on a writing journey, challenged to end the month with 50,000 words of a brand-new novel. 

Competition creators say the “daunting but straightforward challenge” is intended “to remedy a well-known writer’s problem: writing a novel alone can be difficult, even for seasoned writers”. 

“Writing can be a lonely profession. Having friends to share the experience with makes you feel a little more sane,” NaNoWriMo’s municipal liaison for the Newcastle region, Morgan Bell, said.

She said the competition was a social network encompassing “people who can understand the challenges of producing a large-scale work little by little, day by day”. 

“Our community becomes a brains trust of resources and advice during October and November.”

NaNoWriMo not only offers support socially, but the organisation said it encouraged individual improvement and development. 

“You develop both a daily writing habit and the first draft of a manuscript. Proving to yourself that you can complete such a massive undertaking is a real confidence-booster,” Bell said. 

The competition is regarded as “a start-up incubator for novels”, and Bell said the competition was “open to everyone, from complete beginners to publishing veterans, from teenagers to retirees”. 

Within the competition, participants can join virtual writing sessions that consist of “writing sprints”, in which participants have 10 minutes to write as many words as they can. 

“It is the one writing challenge that is entirely about quantity and not quality. You give yourself permission not to do it perfect the first time. That’s what revision is for,” Bell said. 

Writing volume is recorded via an honour system, whereby participants update their daily word counts on the NaNoWriMo website. The site generates a progress chart, and writers are awarded badges for hitting key achievements.

NaNoWriMo said the aim was “to help writers track their progress, set milestones, connect with other writers in a vast community, and participate in events that are designed to make sure they finish their novel”. And it’s all completely free.

Writers across Newcastle have been participating in the competition since 2011, and since then over 800 residents have joined as members of the regional group. 

“Some may pop in and out over the years. Many make it a yearly pilgrimage. If you join once you are a member for life,” Bell said. 

In 2019, the Newcastle region had 105 novelists, 27 winners, and 2,070,585 words written. 

Over the years, the Hunter region has proven itself to be a successful writers hub, with several published children’s authors, romance novelists published with Mills & Boon, and Harlequin, and at least one writer of contemporary fiction for Allen & Unwin hailing from the region. 

The competition has evolved to run programs across 671 regions around the world, and empowers nearly half a million people each year to access the power of creative writing. 

So far, participants have completed 367,913 novels and last year alone, 383,064 writers worldwide participated in November.

In 2021, over 900 volunteers in cities such as Mexico City, Seoul and Milwaukee will coordinate virtual communal writing sessions. 

Best-selling novels that began as rough drafts in the competition include Water for Elephants by Sarah Gruen, The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern and With The Fire On High by Elizabeth Acevedo. 

Established and budding writers from the Hunter, the Central Coast, and regional NSW are invited to join the “Australia : Newcastle” NaNoWriWo writers group and the companion Facebook group.

Maia O’Connor and Hayley McMahon

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