If you’ve ever considered taking the stories in your head and letting your characters roam free on the page, now’s the time to do it. November is National Novel Writing Month, also known as NaNoWriMo.
Dating back to 1999, NaNoWriMo started as a challenge to write 50,000 words of a novel in 30 days. What began with 21 participants has since grown into nearly 800,000 active novelists and more than 367,000 completed novels. In 2017, 306,230 people participated in NaNoWriMo.
Popular novels — including my personal favorite “The Night Circus,” as well as “Water for Elephants” and “Fangirl”— started as a draft during the November challenge. But NaNoWriMo has grown into so much more than a writing event. The nonprofit organization supports writing fluency and education, offers year-round programming and connects writers like a social media network.
We get it though: Writing a novel sounds daunting. But if you’re a Charlotte resident, you have access to a myriad of resources to help your stories bloom into bestselling novels, from workshops to writing nooks and more.
Follow our checklist below to help you hit 50,000 words in November.
(1) Get a library card and attend workshops
Think of your Charlotte library card as your all-access pass. Not only can you borrow up to 99 items from the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Library to help inspire your novel, but you will also have access to a wealth of free resources at 20 branches, such as Lynda.com and local workshops. Check out more free benefits of your library card here.
Whether you’re starting with a specific scene or a full-blown outline, you can drop into a writing group at a branch nearest you to meet and share ideas and feedback with other local wordsmiths.
Upcoming (recurring) NaNoWriMo workshops include:
National Novel Writing Month Open Writing Sessions
Branch: Mountain Island. 4420 Hoyt Galvin Way
When: Saturday, Nov. 2. 11 a.m. - 1 p.m.
Branch: Myers Park. 1361 Queens Road
When: Tuesday, Nov. 5. 5- 7:30 p.m.
NaNoWriMo Quick Tips
Branch: Main Library. 310 N. Tryon St.
When: Wednesday, Nov. 6. 10-11 a.m.
You can find more monthly workshops here.
(2) Join a local writing group
Outside of the library, local veterans and aspiring authors get together in other spaces as well. One is the Charlotte Center for Literary Arts — also known as Charlotte Lit. The nonprofit arts center offers a comfortable and welcoming writing studio in Plaza Midwood.
“Charlotte Lit is our community’s home for writers, and anyone who loves words,” said Paul Reali, Charlotte Lit co-founder. “We offer more than 100 classes a year, half of them free, and a dozen public events including readings, talks and community conversations.”
Reali recommends checking out Charlotte Lit’s free Pen to Paper classes on Wednesdays from 9:30-10:30 a.m. Drop-ins are welcome.
For NaNoWriMo, the center will host two weekly “writing sprints” (Mondays at 6:30-8:30 p.m. and Thursdays at 11:30 a.m. - 1:30 p.m.) throughout November. They’re free and open to both members and nonmembers. Membership begins at $7 a month and includes discounts on classes and invitations to special events and workshops.
“After finishing that first draft during NaNoWriMo, Charlotte Lit can help with the polishing,” Reali said. “We offer dozens of craft classes to help writers become better writers, including our year-long Authors Lab program, which can make the rewrite process a little easier and a lot more fun.”
The Charlotte Writers’ Club is another community of local writers and storytellers that often meets at Providence United Methodist Church. Hone your craft, find a critique partner, or enjoy workshops and panel discussions. Membership is $35/year for individuals and $20/year for full-time students. The club has over 200 members and a “branch” in the Lake Norman area.
(3) Find your writing spot
While it’s convenient to write in the comfort of your home, you may find inspiration just by changing your scenery. Pack your laptop or notebook and discover your November writing nook.
If your writing is fueled by a strong cup of coffee, consider posting up on the cushion-laden stairs at Coco and the Director, where Uptown energy mingles with the scent of freshly roasted coffee. In South End, settle into the industrial space in Not Just Coffee at the Atherton Mill or order a locally sourced caramel latte prepared with Enderly Coffee at ROOTS cafe.
Charlotte’s crisp fall weather also offers the perfect outdoor environment to pen your novel. Find a cozy spot at Freedom Park or The Green, an uptown park inspired by literary works. Feeling adventurous? Ride out to the U.S. National Whitewater Center and sit along the Lake Loop for a new perspective.
(4) Visit an independent bookstore for inspiration
The best writers are avid readers, so writing a novel is the best excuse for spending all of November in local independent bookstores.
Nestled in the Park Road Shopping Center, Park Road Books is a popular Charlotte literary destination. The colorful shelves hold novels from local and national authors, and the store hosts book clubs and author visits, among other events. But the people — and beloved bookstore dog, Yola — are what make the store so special. Every time I venture inside, the staff go above and beyond to help me find my next read.
On your next visit, make sure to say hello to Kareem “K.J.” Ghori, a Park Road Books bookseller. Ghori, who’s been in the bookselling business since 2001, compares his role to that of a travel agent — he listens to his customers’ preferences and suggests written adventures based on their responses.
As much as Ghori enjoys sharing book recommendations with Park Road Books patrons, he wants to try penning his own journey this year.
“Looking at bookselling through that ‘travel agent’ perspective, you can see how the act of reading is a lot like being a passenger because you’re being transported to this other place in your imagination,” Ghori said. “As nice as being a passenger is, I want to start being a pilot for a change. And that’s why I’m taking part in NaNoWriMo this year. I feel a little like an out-of-shape athlete that’s about to run a marathon but that’s OK. Hopefully it’ll put me in better shape as a writer.”
Ghori gets his inspiration both from reading and from the customers who visit Park Road Books.
“Recommending books to people can be pretty fun. But it’s also pretty awesome when customers recommend books in return. Just goes to show that there’s still an immense interest in reading books, regardless of the fact that we’re living in a world already heavily saturated with TV and computer screens. It’s that persistent interest in actual books that inspires me to continue writing.”
If Park Road Books doesn’t have what you need to get you motivated to put pen to paper, traverse the city to other independent book shops. For discount purchases, consider grabbing a used book at The Book Rackor picking a novel at Julia’s Café and Books, where book sales benefit Habitat for Humanity. Or, if you’re spending the day near Davidson, pop into Main Street Books, a charming retailer located on the main strip of town.
(5) Get your supplies
As true writers know, one can never have too many notebooks. Use NaNoWriMo as your excuse to collect a heap of fresh, crisp notebooks in which to write down your thoughts and ideas.
The newly opened Archer Paper Goods in Optimist Hall has a collection of stationery and paper gifts that are ideal for novel-writing. Check out its Pencil Shop, which holds a variety of pencils made in countries across the globe. Test them out on an eclectic journal or notebook purchased from Paper Twist in Myers Park or Paper Skyscraper in Dilworth.
Ready to jump in? Give your novel a title and join the NaNoWriMo challenge here. (It’s free!) Happy writing!