National Novel Writing Month returns

The largest writing event in the world returns to the Kootenays

The largest writing event in the world returns to the Kootenays this November, when National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) participants around the globe hit their keyboards.  The challenge: to write 50,000 words in 30 days.

“NaNoWriMo challenges writers,” says NaNo Municipal co-Liaison Deb O’Keeffe. “The best way to learn to write a novel is by plunging in and just doing it!”

There are no entry fees, no judges and no prizes. Just a fun, seat-of-your-pants approach to finally getting that novel written. Last year, 63 Kootenay residents joined 400,000 people worldwide (including one very chilly writer at Antarctica’s McMurdo Station) to write their stories in November. Typing away at home, in coffee shops or in libraries, those 63 intrepid writers managed to produce a staggering collective total of 1,524,426 words.

Of those, 50,512 were churned out by Heather Potter, a resident of Rossland and veteran of the challenge, winning her the regional NaNoWriMo champion mug for most words written. It was her first time reaching the 50,000 word count goal.

Heather encourages all writers to participate in the challenge this year, even if they don’t plan on reaching NaNoWriMo’s goal. The key, she says, is to write because you enjoy it, and to set some sort of goal to get you through.

“Keep it simple —­ ­the point of NaNo is to get the words down. You can always go back and tweak the foreshadowing or plot later,” Heather says.

“One of the reasons I got through was I wrote something I cared about.” Heather writes fantasy and says she especially enjoys developing monsters and animals. “It’s fun to tweak at that and suspend their disbelief,” she adds.

Although NaNoWriMo emphasizes creativity over literary masterpiece, more than 250 projects begun during NaNoWriMo have gone on to become published works, including bestsellers such as Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen and The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern. A complete list of published works by NaNoWriMo participants is available online.

Heather is not yet thinking of joining the publishing world — she writes for fun, not money — but she hasn’t counted herself out completely. A few more years of participating in NaNoWriMo and she just might be ready to release her beasts unto the world.

To learn more about the challenge and to register for this year, visit To learn how to virtually connect with other writers in your area, visit the NaNoWriMo website’s Kootenay Regional Forum,, or contact Deborah O’Keeffe ( or her co-Liason Karina Kram (  They promise this year will be fun for the whole Kootenays with online chats, weekly draws for prizes, and more.


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