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Sam Workman working on his NaNoWriMo novel at the Saskatchewan Writers' Guild conference room.

Darcy Summers has around 11,000 words written of her 50 Shades of Grey parody. She’s 39,000 words away from the 50,000-word goal, but she still has half the month to go.


Throughout the month of November, writers like Summers will be racing against time to reach the 50,000 word count before midnight, Nov. 30.


National Novel Writing Month, or more sweetly known by its acronym NaNoWriMo, started in 1999 with a group of 21 writers in California. The phenomenon has grown every year since, with last year’s total number of participants over the 300,000 mark.


Summers, a six-year NaNo veteran, is in her second year as the NaNoWriMo municipal liaison for Regina. She said that involvement with the international writing project is at an all-time high in the city.


“There are 90 people signed up in Regina. Twelve to 17 people also come to our weekly write-ins... last year the most we ever had was eight,” said Summers.


Write-ins are hosted twice a week. Besides giving participants a time to boost their word counts, they also act as writing workshops. Local authors such as Melanie Schnell, Marie Powell, and Gail Bowen have dropped in to give some inspiration and join in on the writing fun.


“Having write-ins really helps because everyone gets together and you have that extra motivation,” Summers said. “I have to get my words in, I have to keep going, I have all these people rooting for me, and it’s all good fun. It’s a good way to write with other people instead of alone in the room in the dark.”


Write-ins have given the motivation and time for Sam Workman to reach her daily word goal of 1,667.


“To accomplish the goal you have to write 1,667 words a day, but I’m willing to admit that I’m not going to do that...I set the goal of going to every write-in I can, and writing at least 1,667 words every time. In an ideal world, every day I would write at least 2,000 words.”


Workman is participating in her sixth NaNoWriMo. She’s currently 5,577 words into what she calls a “supernatural” novel.


“I want to write. I love writing, but it’s very hard to sit down for an hour and just write,” she said. “With NaNo, there is that accountability. You have a whole forum of people who are working at the same goal you are, and because we have these write-ins you also have that two hours that is just for this, and everyone else is putting in these two hours just for this.”


Saskatchewan Writers’ Guild program assistant and first time NaNoWriMo participant Caelan Reilly is at 5,000 words on his novel.


“I’m one of the newbies at it. I’ve always enjoyed writing, but I haven’t attempted anything this long,” he said.


“I didn’t have a novel in mind until two days before the start of November. Now I’ve just been flying by the seat of my pants, and just making it up as I go.”


Reilly says that it has been more difficult than he thought to write every day, but his goal isn’t to reach the 50,000 word count. He says many other participants don’t have this goal, either.


“I’m going to be humble and say that I probably won’t reach the goal, but my new goal is to get at least 25,000 words,” he said. “Most people who start this don’t have a plan, but it’s more about just getting words on the paper and the practice of writing.”


“I’ve never won. I’ve failed five times, and this is my sixth time, but I’ve had a blast every time,” said Workman. “I think the biggest thing is to not be afraid to do it... It’s not that scary, and most of us fail. A lot of us go into it not intending to hit the goal, but to just come in and do some writing.”


Summers has reached the word count twice since 2008, but is currently 10,000 words behind the pace she needs to reach 50,000 words.


“It’s just a good excuse to spend at least one month of the year getting it out of my system...first drafts are always terrible no matter what. You’re going to be tearing it apart anyways. What is more important is getting the words on the page and getting you started, which is something a lot of people need the motivation to do and NaNo helps with that.”