And let me tell you, it's only been 13 days since it began, but already I feel like I have been thrown under the bus in a thousand different ways. Not only am I participating as a writer myself, but I am also using the program in my classroom. It's been Nutz.
My Own Personal Experience:
NaNoWriMo is something that I fight with every year. Not only do I fight with whether or not I want to do it, but also whether or not it's even a good idea. One of my favorite, and word-smithly talented, writers Maggie Stiefvater wrote a really interesting entry that sums up what my biggest worried are when I think about tackling NaNoWriMo which basically boils down to: I'm not sure if I'm writing trash or actually getting a story out.
Perhaps my biggest issue as a writer is just writing. You would think as somebody who loves stories, words, pages, etc, it wouldn't be all that hard for me to buckle down and just put words to paper in any format, but it is. I think it's because once those words are out of my head and the story starts to move I become my own worst professor and I critic everything and over think it all. I want my writing to be purposeful and I want it to be good and I'm still trying to break myself of a horrible habit of thinking that it has to be that way the first time I put things down. I've been repeating to my students over and over about how writing is a process and nothing is really ever finished.
I actually started one novel, couldn't really bring myself to get invested in it, and restarted with another in the first few days. I'm behind about 10k and I'm doing my best to punch myself in the gut and get writing. So perhaps, NaNo is just the thing to kick start me into doing the one thing I find I have trouble with: actually write.
Here's my Participant site if you're interested in seeing me struggle. http://nanowrimo.org/participants/whitequeen13
My Classroom Experience:
My experience using this program in the classroom, however, has been almost like a tiny mirror and has both really made me excited about what my students are capable of, and sad at the same time.
The Young Writer's Program version of this challenge requires students to write 30,000 words. Because I'm actually using this project as a grade, I've assigned word count goals to a solid grade in my class. 30k is an A, 22k a B and 15k a C. Anything below that is failing. I've given my students half of the period each day (about 35 min) to write so that they can complete it. They also know that they need to dedicate time at home for homework to get at least 1k a day.
So far, the project has been a mixed blessing. Each week I have them turn in a two to three paragraph excerpt of their novel, and some of the writing has been really awesome! I've been focusing on the use of details in order for them to practice pulling the reader into their story.
Time management has been a big issue though, and I know that is the hardest part of the project. Not only for me but for the students as well. I should be about 40% finished by now and I am only at 20%. My students are even worse and only 1 or 2 out of 60 are at that point. Most are 20% or below like me. Most of them have little to no typing skills, which doesn't help, so I'll need to take that into consideration when doing the program again. Perhaps a month of typing skills as well as writing tactics will be needed.
Overall I'm really glad I decided to do NaNo, both individually and with my students. I think the rigorousness of the project is a good push, especially at the beginning of the year, for student whose writing skills are far below where they should be for their age.
For me, this is a good push to get in the groove of actually putting words down. It's also a great way to beat into my own head the idea that it doesn't have to be perfect the first time. I can't have a novel to work on without actually having a novel.