It’s a safe bet that a lot of people who spend time in libraries have dreamed of someday writing the Great American Novel themselves. I know from personal experience that novel writing is not a task for the faint of heart, but with the help of a free online interactive event known as “NaNoWriMo” (National Novel Writing Month), today’s wanna-be authors have a better chance of reaching “The End” than ever before.
A group of twenty-one friends in the San Francisco Bay area originated the writing challenge that proved to be “half literary marathon and half block party” in 1999. This year, NaNoWriMo expects to sign up about 500,000 writers who will commit to write 50,000 words of a novel during the month of November. Participants get daily support and advice from other writers and then upload their words to the website for word count validation. Those who reach 50,000 words or greater are declared winners, despite the fact that most of the novels written during the event are not exactly print-ready. However, many NaNoWriMo submissions have later been published, among them DBRL’s 2007 One Read Selection, “Water for Elephants” by Sara Gruen.
If you want to join the online writing fun this year, the library offers plenty of computers on a first-come, first-served basis for word processing and Internet use. Those with their own laptops will find a myriad of cozy nooks with comfy seating and Wi-Fi access for extended writing and web interaction at all of our branches. At the Columbia Public Library, you also have the option to re-fuel at The Perk Desk in the lobby. The check-out desks at each location also sell USB flash drives on which to back up those daily word counts—and while you’re there, you can purchase a set of ear buds to listen to Stephen King’s classic “On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft,” from our downloadable audiobook collection. Or, without ever leaving your chair, check out the e-Book version of “Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life,” Anne Lamott’s insightful look at the writing process. For some timely articles on writing, be sure to peruse The Writer magazine from our new Zinio digital magazine collection. For a little break from your extended library writing session, take a walk through our nonfiction collection and browse our shelves for countless books full of writing inspiration and advice.
One author recently utilized the library for her first writing endeavor, with good results. Missourian Laura McHugh, who was living in Columbia while writing her mystery thriller, said that she established a daily routine of dropping her children off at school and then heading to the Columbia Public Library. In an article in the Columbia Missourian, McHugh said she usually checked into Study Room 7, which she considered her lucky room. She was evidently right—less than two weeks after her initial queries she scored a major book deal for her debut novel, “The Weight of Blood,” due out in March 2014.
*National Novel Writing Month image used courtesy of National Novel Writing Month.