Queer Irish writer pens a book in 30 days for NaNoWriMo

NaNoWriMo; National Novel Writing Month has wrapped up for 2021, bringing writers together in the shared goal of writing 50,000 words in just 30 days.

Queer Irish writer Orla Butler who took part in NaNoWriMo
Image: Instagram @Orlaepb

GCN reached out to emerging Irish writer Orla Butler to tell us about her prolific efforts to write 50,000 words in just 30 days during National Novel Writing Month, AKA NaNoWriMo.

NaNoWriMo started 22 years ago in the US by founder Chris Baty with just 21 people challenging themselves to write 50 thousand words in 30 days. Now over 500 thousand people participate in this challenge.

NaNoWriMo first went online in 2000, with 140 participants and 29 winners with Chris Baty running a word count on each attempt himself. The following year, NaNo exploded in popularity, attracting 5 thousand participants, there could have been even more, but Chris and his team were limited by the technology they had available. The following year Chris’s team moved to NaNoWriMo.org where they have been growing ever since.

NaNoWriMo.org has developed into a social media platform for writers who can make new friends, announce new projects, and encourage each other’s efforts not just during NaNoWriMo but throughout the year.

The site also encourages people to meet and interact in real life, with volunteers organising writer meet-ups all over the world. Even while we were all safely social distancing volunteers worked hard to create a community for writers to interact using platforms like discord to run writing sessions and ask for help and advice.

The challenge runs over November each year but there is also Camp NaNoWriMo which runs each April and July. This was my fourth year taking part and happy to say my third year succeeding.

I learned about NaNoWriMo from a friend in college. At the time I thought it was a nice idea but with college and work, I did not think I could find the time. After graduating I found myself in a tricky situation writing-wise. I had promised to write a play for a Drama groups spring production. I was working full time and kept putting it off. But they needed it for December and coming to the end of October, I was running out of time.

I remembered NaNoWriMo and went on to NaNoWriMo.org hoping to find encouragement, not aware that November was NaNoWriMo. I now had a community of people to help encourage me to write. This was my first year and my first win.

The following year I had the same goal, to write a play in a month. I thought it was not quite in the spirit of things to be writing a play during a challenge meant for novels, but other participants reassured me that the challenge was for whatever we needed it to be. While most people were writing novels, others were writing scripts, Dungeons and Dragons campaigns and even their thesis.

The community involved in NaNoWriMo are encouraging and helpful throughout the whole year and not just during NaNoWriMo and the camps. NaNoWriMo veterans pass around their first drafts for feedback and as inspiration for new members.

Last year I decided to try a classic NaNoWriMo and try a draft of a novel. It did not go well. Despite motivation from friends and fellow writers, the lack of an actual official deadline like I had when writing the plays, left me less motivated. I suppose a bad break-up, losing my job and living in a lockdown did not help either. I saw many writers flourish during this time, finding more time to focus on writing. But just as many struggled, like myself with inspiration. While it was disappointing not to reach my goal, I was in good company with plenty of other writers.

This year, I had a new buddy, the friend who had introduced me to NaNoWriMo in the first place. She had struggled to complete NaNoWriMo in the past and suggested we motivate each other with weekly writing sessions. While life got in the way for her, the writing sessions helped me to succeed this year in writing the first draft of a novel. Is it any good? Probably not. Is it finished? Definitely not. It got difficult towards the end, I knew my story would not be finished in just 50 thousand words, but I pushed through and am happy to say I have won NaNoWriMo 2021.

If you want to learn more about NaNo and maybe participate in Camp NaNo this coming April visit NaNoWriMo.org for more information and to find a community to help encourage you towards your writing goals.

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