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2017.11.23 Eagerly Awaiting Stories from the World’s Writing Marathon
Autumn is the season for reading in Japan. The chill in the air seems to inspire people to read books. Similarly, for writers all around the world, November is the time to actively engage in writing. This year, the National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) marks its 19th year. This writing event has spread from the United States to the whole world, and there are Japanese participants, too.

Known as the “marathon of writing,” anyone—professional or amateur—can take part in NaNoWriMo. The only objective is to write a novel of at least 50,000 words (approximately 175 pages in English) from November 1 through November 30. Participants can increase their online “badges” every time they reach a milestone in their number of words. There is no monetary prize since it is an event which aims to inspire creative activity, undertaken by a non-profit organization. Instead, writers gain a sense of accomplishment and confidence from attaining the goal. In recent years, opportunities for online publishing and the use of word-processing software by various sponsors have become available.

Among the stories written in NaNoWriMo, so far more than 400 works have been published through conventional means. At least 80 of these have been published by the “Big Five” U.S. publishing firms, such as Penguin Random House and Macmillan Publishers. The first drafts of established author Hugh Howey’s Sand and Wool books, of which Japanese translations have been published by KADOKAWA, were apparently written during NaNoWriMo.

The organisers behind NaNoWriMo accept donations and engage in various activities that support the creative process. For example, they sponsor writers’ workshops at local libraries or book stores, and host writing competitions between participants. NaNoWriMo’s website is also used as an information exchange hub for members. Furthermore, there is a Young Writers Program which promotes writing in age groups ranging from kindergartners to high school students and provides free workbooks and writing tools to classrooms around the world.  

With the goal to output as many words as possible in a limited time frame, NaNoWriMo is considered to be core training for writers. By pushing one’s potential to the limit, not only will writing capability improve, but mental resilience will also be strengthened. What kind of works will be produced this year, from regular participants of this event or from aspiring novelists taking part for the first time?

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