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From left to right: Lauren Sweeten, Leslie Copeland and Megan Davis at a post-NaNoWriMo meet-up at Caffe Adagio in Bellingham, Wash. on Dec. 2, 2023. Davis holds write-ins every week throughout the year. // Photo by Logan Schreiber

Put on by a nonprofit of the same name, National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo, is an annual challenge to write an entire 50,000-word story during the 30 days of November.

In 1999, Chris Baty created the competition with a couple dozen friends and it has since reached over 300,000 writers worldwide. 

Becoming an official nonprofit in 2006, NaNoWriMo has developed programs and services for writers to use, as well as other challenges for the rest of the year.

There is only one goal for writers during the main challenge: you finish, you win. Anyone who completes the challenge is considered a winner, and writers receive badges as a result of completion. 

Lorena Lytle hosts write-ins for competitors to talk through problems or ideas at the Skillshare Center in the Bellingham Public Library. 

“Completing the challenge is always a lot of work, and sometimes it is right down to the wire,” said Lytle in an email. 

The write-ins are a place for writers to gain the encouragement to keep going. 

“It's easy to get tired and discouraged, but winning NaNo comes with such a huge sense of accomplishment. Taking a story from a vague idea to a completed draft – disordered and clunky as it may be – in just 30 days is a huge undertaking,” said Lytle in an email.

During the write-ins, Lytle helps writers solve problems that come up during the challenge, the most common ones being losing steam and getting stuck. 

“They're two very different problems, but the end result is the same – you stop writing,” she said. “I find that connecting with others in your writing community helps a lot with that. Being around other people who are facing the same challenge and being able to share ideas and encouragement goes a long way.”

Lytle is not the only local resource writers can use to achieve their goals. 

Known by her peers as Mango, Megan Davis is NaNoWriMo’s municipal liaison for Bellingham.  Davis made her first attempt at the challenge in 2006 and is now in charge of moderating and connecting with NaNoWriMoers in the area.

Davis wants to engage with more students at Western Washington University and get more people talking about NaNoWriMo. 

“I feel like we don’t have a lot of Western students doing [NaNoWriMo] anymore,” said Davis. “When I first started it was mostly Western students who would come to the write-ins. Now, I think it’s just people who have been doing it for 20 years.”

One reason why students might not be as eager to participate is the idea of writing 50,000 words in 30 days seems intimidating, Davis said. 

But from those who’ve taken it head-on, it’s not as bad as one might think. 

Lauren Sweeten is a participant in NaNoWriMo. While she usually writes poetry more so than novels, she tries every year to branch out and try different writing styles 

“It’s a personal challenge,” said Sweeten. “I like poetry, but I really wanted to branch out and this group has been so inspiring.”

Leslie Edens, who also goes by her pen name Leslie Copeland, has a motto for trying the challenge: do it badly.    

With this mindset, Copeland has completed 10 writing month challenges since 2012. In turn, the work she completed during the challenges helped her publish multiple books.

The message of the NaNoWriMo community is essentially just that – simply trying is enough. 

“Nobody else is like you, your art is essential,” said Sweeten.“If you don’t make it, no one else will. That makes it valuable.”

Logan Schreiber

Logan Schreiber (he/him) is a fourth-year student going into the PR Journalism program. He enjoys writing and music, hoping to do both for his career. You can reach him at

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