A woman of her words

By Thaisi H. Da Silva

Hampton University senior Kat De Shields is on a literary mission.

Her goal?  To finish her novel by writing 37,986 words in 12 days. To many, this feat might seem unfeasible, but the print journalism major from Maryland is determined to make it.

“I’m going to do it,” she said. “I want to be one of the few that finish the race.”

De Shields is one of several Hampton University students who signed up for National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo).

NaNoWriMo is an annual literary marathon that kicks off Nov.1 and ends midnight, Nov. 30. The project, which began in 1991, is open to both national and international writers. Participants are challenged to compose a 175-page or 50,000-word novel in the given period, while managing the responsibilities of daily life. Last year, 18.2 percent of those who signed up completed the challenge.

For English major Shyniqua Stalling, juggling multiple responsibilities has been the biggest test.

“Finding time to sit down and actually write has been the toughest part,” Stalling said. “I get distracted by the TV, Facebook and all the papers I have to write, and when I do find the time to write, I can’t find the words.”

According to the NaNoWriMo Web site, because of the limited writing window, the only thing that matters is output. It’s all about quantity, not quality.

There are also some basic rules. Writers must start from scratch, so previously written prose cannot be included in the draft. Only one writer must author the book and the novel must be uploaded for word-count validation to the site between Nov. 25 and Nov. 30. All who succeed will get an official “Winner” web badge and a PDF certificate. In 2008, 21,683 out of the 119,301 participants were official winners. This year’s numbers have not been officially released.

Hampton University public relations pre-major Jonathan White wasn’t able to participate in this year’s challenge, but said he is looking forward to next November.

“I’ve always thought about writing a book, so I think this would be a cool way to do it,” he said.

For many, the end is drawing near, but for others there is no giving up.

“I only have 1, 096 words so far, but I have not given up yet,” Stalling said.

The aspiring author said she hopes that she will find time to write during Thanksgiving break. She is not the only contestant who wants to see this challenge through.

“The thought of giving up has crossed my mind, but now it’s not an option,” De Shields said. “My pride won’t allow me to quit.”

And she didn’t.

On the morning of Nov. 30, De Shields had approximately 20,000 words left to write, but she pressed on.

By 9:19 p.m., 7,000 words still remained.

At 11:49 p.m., De Shields submitted her story and completed her mission.

“It feels really good to have finished,” she said.

For Stalling, the writing momentum never really picked up.

“I’ve added some words, but I am nowhere near done,” she said. “I’m not going to be done.”

Regardless, the Minnesota native is glad she made the attempt.

“Ah well, there’s always next year,” she said.