Chronicle. At 18.00 every Thursday during November, a group of students from different programs gathered in a corridor at the University of Gävle.
The tables were moved to form a long table and the sofas were placed around. Some students sat with headphones on, others without. Their faces were illuminated by the glow of computer screens. Keyboards clattered. The smell of coffee and candy filled the hallway.
The tradition began four years ago, during my first year studying creative writing. Me and my classmates had heard about a writing competition called Nanowrimo, National November Writing Month, and wanted to participate. The goal was to write 50,000 words in a month. An average of 1667 words per day. Those who succeeded would have the draft of a novel ready in one month.
We gathered on Thursdays for a 12-hour writing marathon. The idea was simple: bring a computer or notebook and something to eat and drink, then write for as long as you can. The nights in the corridor became a forum for creativity and creation. We would run writing sprints for 20 to 30 minutes, help each other through difficult passages in our manuscripts, play board games and discuss anything related to writing and studying.
At two to three in the morning, I often got into a focused writing flow. Fatigue caused creative inhibitions to drop and I became incredibly focused. I didn’t have a clear book idea before the competition started. Some November days I barely wrote anything on the book manuscript, others I wrote until my fingers went numb. But I had to be disciplined. An important lesson for me was not to wait for inspiration and flow. If I want to write, I have to take my time, sit down and just start writing. Even on days when it is slower to formulate sentences.
Some writers write by feel without knowing where the text will go. Others plan from start to finish before they start writing. What works best for me is somewhere in between. Just writing spontaneously leads to a lot of editing afterwards, but I don’t have the patience to plan down to the last detail. I got more than 50,000 words the first year.
Of course, there are critics of the competition who feel that the texts are too sloppy. But many say they would like to write a book at some point and this is a forum to actually get something written. It is a space where people with the same ambitions meet, help and inspire each other. Once you’ve written your first draft you’ve laid the foundation and the real work can begin. Editing, proofreading and more editing. I believe in hard work, persistence and the courage to try again and again. Refining your craft through practice.
Famous books written during the Nanowrimo international competition include Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen, Cinder by Marissa Meyer and The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern. The idea that there is a global network of writing people from all over the world to join makes me happy. The November darkness always makes me want to write.