A Month of Writing

November is National Novel Writing Month!  Both serious writers and casual ones are encouraged to write a 50,000-word work of fiction between November 1st and November 30th.  While it’s not likely to produce a high-quality first draft, it helps people learn how to put thoughts into words and helps them get into the habit of writing regularly.  If you have any students who absolutely love to write, encourage them to take this challenge.  But for most students, it’s a bit too much.  So here’s what you can do instead.


Write 5,000 Words in a Month

It won’t be a novel, but it’s still a fair-sized short story, and an accomplishment to take pride in.  It’s quite manageable, too; only 167 words per day, if you include holidays and weekends.  If they only write on school days, it’ll still probably be less than 300 words a day.  Whether they do this in class or for homework, it’s still a challenge, yet still doable.

Some students might require more of a challenge than that (but might not be up for the original 50,000 words), so another option is to ask them to write 500 words a day.


It Doesn’t Have to be Fiction or Prose

For students who simply don’t like to (or aren’t good at) fiction, they can write nonfiction instead.  If they have trouble thinking of a story, they can just journal about their own life each day.  Or – if you want them to focus more on the process of writing and don’t care about the subject – they can re-tell one of their favorite stories in their own words.

Also, it doesn’t have to be one single work; consider allowing them to write a collection of super-short stories.  Of course, some students love poems, so why not let them do that instead.


Plan in October

Probably the hardest thing about writing a lot in a short time is figuring out what to write.  Before November starts, brainstorm with your students on plots, themes, characters, and settings.  If many of your students are still unsure about their story, ask your class to outline the story (write a summary of each scene).  Then in November, they just have to flesh out the story by adding more details.



A lot of writers don’t edit their work during November.  There isn’t enough time; they’re too busy writing to edit.  With only 5,000 words, your students may have the flexibility to edit as they write (or after, if they reach their goal early) depending on how comfortable they are with writing that much in a month.

What’s your goal?  Do you want your students to practice writing strong sentences?  If so, ask that they edit their work so it’s nice and readable by the end of the month.  Would you rather practice on just putting pen to paper and expressing themselves in English instead of their native tongue?  In that case, let them know that it’s okay to make grammatical and spelling mistakes along the way.  That’ll take some pressure of them while writing, and it’ll also ease some tension if you have them share their stories after they’ve finished.


Make it Yours

Whatever you do, do what makes sense for your class.  There are certain expectations when doing NaNoWriMo officially, but you can just take the inspiration and adapt it however you like.  Throw in extra challenges, extra ideas, or anything else that suits your style and your students’ abilities.

For more, visit https://nanowrimo.org/how-it-works.

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