For some, the thought of sitting down and typing a five-page paper induces a sheer, sweat-dripping panic, for others the thought might induce a wide, bright grin, but what if a writer was tasked with writing a small novel in a single month?

That’s exactly what the National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo for short, offers aspiring writers. Participants are challenged to write 50,000 words in the month of November, or roughly 1,667 words a day.

The Ball State English department decided to make extra efforts to ensure students and Muncie community members compete. It currently has 49 writers registered. 

“It’s a really powerful way to develop a writing habit,” said Cathy Day, acting chairperson and associate professor of English. “One thing that university life doesn’t provide is is time to just write, not for a grade, not for a story, not for a deadline, not to be read by anybody, but just for your own enjoyment and to show that you can do it. I think that’s pretty valuable.” 

The competition, which began in 2001 has sparked the writing of famous novels such as “Water for Elephants,” “The Night Circus” and “Cinder.” Now, the Ball State competition coordinator, Angela Cox, has instilled write-ins to keep participants motivated. 

“We are trying to build community with this because we really think that will help people,” said Cox, an English professor. “Attending write-ins really improves people’s chances of finishing. It really improves how many words they write and also their sense of having support in the community.” 

The write-ins will take place in Robert Bell 361 on: 

  • Nov. 3
  • Nov. 10
  • Nov. 17
  • Nov. 30

Cox has competed in NaNoWriMo since 2005 and has reached the world limit every single year. 

“If a student wants to ask me, ‘How do you succeed?,’ I’ve done it a lot of different ways,” Cox said. “It is different every year because every year you have different things come up in your life, or your novel is different, or you care about it in different ways so I have a lot of different strategies now.” 

Both Cox and Day said that everyone is welcome to join, even those who don’t think they can make the 50,000 word goal. In fact, Cox has set up prizes for each milestone the group as a whole passes on its way to a 5 million-word goal. 

“For every million words that we write as a group, we’re going to have something crazy happen,” Cox said.  “We’ve created these group incentives so even if you don’t make your 50,000 words, you’re still contributing to the group’s total number of words written.” 

The incentives so far are:

  • One million words: Professor Silas Hansen will sing “9 to 5” in Robert Bell 125
  • Two million words: Dr. Ben Bascom will get a tattoo
  • Three million words: The English Department will host a free breakfast in Robert Bell for students taking English classes/majors and minors

Bascom said he’s been thinking about getting a tattoo for about six months now. 

“I thought it would be fun to put my name in the hat to celebrate writers' achievements,” Bascom said in an email. “It's just a fun way to encourage and motivate people to work on their novels for a specific month.”

Students must join the leaderboard in order for the words to count toward the final goal. Those wishing to participate may join at anytime. 

Contact Brynn Mechem with comments at or on Twitter at @BrynnMechem.