Ready, Get Set, Write!

Writing a novel is one of those tasks many us want to accomplish “someday,” but for most of us, that “someday” never comes. Never fear, for National Novel Writing Month is here. NaNoWriMo, which takes place in November, challenges any aspiring writer to pen a novel of at least 50,000 words in one month.

If you’re questioning how NaNoWriMo is important to Digital Natives, consider its current success Could have NaNoWriMo have existed before the digital age? Well yes, it did. It began in1999 as a localized project among 21 friends who had some time to kill. But could it have been the success it is today with 79,000 worldwide participants? Perhaps the most appealing part of NaNoWriMo is the sense that We are in this together. Writing a novel is all-consuming exercise, and writing a novel in a month is something close to creative suicide. NaNoWriMo hosts a virtual network of support groups for experienced writers and budding novelists alike. What started out as a simple group of friends evolved into a Yahoo group and then into extensive online forums, with the number of participants exponentially increasing each time. Digital Natives have taken advantage of this online community to participate in NaNoWriMo.

NaNoWriMo naturally draws out of the fanfiction (fanfic is considered a legitimate genre) and online writing community, which are composed of a relatively high number of young people. NaNoWriMo’s forums are subdivided into age groups, and it is under the Teens section where Digital Natives have come out in full force. This is apparent not only in quantity—the volume of posts in the Teens section is twice that of any other age group—but also in the nature of their interactions. While many of the posts are related to writing and NaNoWriMo, the forum is also peppered with threads like “Band geeks unite here!” and “Sweet sixteen birthday coming up.” For Digital Natives, the Internet isn’t a big, bad, scary place but a community within which conversations are to be had and friends to be made. There are plenty of posts asking for advice on how to juggle NaNoWriMo and college apps, and there are plenty of posts asking for relationship advice. These threads as well as the manifold threads in which Digital Natives swap their digital identities – screennames, LiveJournal, deviantART, MySpace, etc. – with others forum members exhibit a desire for interaction beyond just writing buddies. This is something unique to the Teens forum and nowhere to be found in forums geared toward older writers.

At a time with “mash-up” and “remix” are the current creative buzzwords, the novel isn’t the sexiest art form. The success of NaNoWriMo, then, has lots to do with the online community that has organically arisen in response to the inane challenge of writing a novel in one month. With NaNoWriMo, even an old art form like the novel—and maybe even the very process of writing a novel—is being dusted off and thrust into the Internet world by Digital Natives.

For something even more connected with the Internet world, check out NaBloPoMo – National Blog Posting Month.  

-Sarah Z.