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Students writing 50k-word novel in 30 days for national competition

“There are so many people who say ‘I want to write a novel someday,’ but there are a few people that actually start.” – Sara Polk, graduate social work major.

To 514 El Pasoans, completing a 50,000-word novel in 30 days is a daunting, but achievable task.

November is National Novel Writing Month and a national nonprofit organization called NaNoWriMo is helping aspiring novelists achieve a finished tangible novel by the end of the month.

Many first-time writers are feeling the pressure of the competition. Senior multimedia journalism major Luisana Duarte is hoping that by the end of the month she will be considered a novelist.

“If something is going to push me to write, this is it,” said Duarte, a creative writing minor.“I love the feeling of having a community of people writing. I was really glad when I found out about this opportunity.”

Duarte plans to write a children’s novel. Her inspiration for her character and theme of the book was based on famous children’s literature writer Beverly Clery and her character Ramona.

Participants will have to write an estimated 1,667 words per day in order to meet the criteria of the competition. Those who complete the 50,000-word limit are awarded a certificate of completion and obtain a physical copy of their novel.

National Novel Writing Month was established in 1999 and each year thousands of writers attempt to reach the 50,000-word count. This year NaNoWriMo estimates about half a million participants will join the quest to complete this challenge.

Award-winning novel and major motion picture, “Water for Elephants,” by Sara Gruen was written because she took the challenge.

Time management is something that Duarte said she has to work on.

“I think time is a big obstacle as a student. I don’t have a lot of time,” she said. “I work two jobs so this is one of my main obstacles, another would be procrastination.”

Award-winning novelist and a guest instructor, L.C. Hayden, can relate to the worries of being a first-time writer. As an acclaimed author and speaker, Hayden jumped at the chance to take on the month challenge and provide her expertise and guidance to many aspiring novelists.

“I think for a first-time writer the hardest thing is actually finishing,” Hayden said. “Everyone can start a novel, but then they give up and that is why you have stuff like this, to encourage people to go ahead and finish and I think that is a big obstacle.”

Graduate social work major Sara Polk is managing writing sessions and coordinating the El Paso chapter of NaNoWriMo. This is her third year participating in the writing month.

“We have grown. Every year we get more and more people—this year we have had so many new people show up as well—but it really just started as a way to write and have fun,” Polk said.

Polk has been able to complete three novels through the competition and calls it a self-rewarding experience.

“Now being in charge of things, I feel more motivated to win because I feel like I have to, because I feel like I would let everyone else down who are relying on me,” Polk said. “But really I do this entirely for fun. It has nothing to do with my career or anything so as soon as I finish writing my novels, it is done.”

She also said that it is not too late for students to get involved. Those interested in participating would be about 8,000 words behind and Polk said it is possible to catch up.

“It is never too late to start and even if you do start and you don’t finish, you have still written more words than you have had before and you are that much closer to having a novel—because really, there are so many people who say ‘I want to write a novel someday,’ but there are a few people that actually start,” Polk said.

For more information on NaNoWriMo and how to join, visit

Amanda Guillen may be reached at [email protected].

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About the Contributor
Amanda Guillen
Amanda Guillen, Editor-in-Chief
Amanda Guillen is a senior multimedia journalism major with a minor in women's studies. She was born and raised in El Paso, Texas and graduated from El Paso High School in 2011. She has been a part of The Prospector since summer 2013 and is currently Managing Editor. She has always had a passion for journalism and plans to become a television news reporter upon graduating from UTEP. In addition to being a full-time student and reporter, she is a part of two honor societies on campus, Alpha Lambda Delta and the National Society of Leadership and Success where she participates in community service regularly. Amanda also interns for KVIA Channel 7 the El Paso affiliate of ABC. Her love for the city of El Paso is something that led her to choose UTEP as her school of choice. She has enjoyed her past 3 years at the university and looks forward to an eventful school year.
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Students writing 50k-word novel in 30 days for national competition