Historical fiction. Romantic comedy. Science fiction. Fantasy. These are just some of the genres Butte writers crafted novels in during November’s annual literary marathon, National Novel Writing Month.
This year, 24 local writers took to their keyboards to peck out at least 50,000 words over the 30 days of November. More was a bonus, less was an incomplete. Writers could start from scratch, resurrect an unfinished work, or finish one novel and start another — the main stipulation being that you must come up with 50,000 new words by month's end.
Butte writers did more than just that. They placed sixth out of the 900-plus groups across the globe that participated, typing up over 770,000 words with an average of roughly 34,400 words per person, according to municipal liaison Debi Hall.
Hall was one of the first National Novel Writing Month — or NaNoWriMo — participants in Butte. In the eight years since she started, Hall said Butte’s group, the Copper Quills, has grown much larger and “snowballed” to where they are now.
“Every year is a little different. The dynamics change as people come and go, but the core group is always the same,” Hall said before adding, “I’m proud of our little group of writer soldiers.”
Hall sets up Butte’s annual marathon each October, when she begins reaching out to previous participants through the Butte NaNoWriMo webpage. Hall hosts a few story building workshops so writers feel they have a starting point before competition month, but she said not everyone participates. Some people are “pantsters,” who prefer to write their stories “by the seat of their pants,” Hall said.
Once November first hits, Hall said each writer has his or her own method to meet the quota. At that point, she becomes the Copper Quills' cheerleader. Hall facilitates online and in-person “word wars,” or 90-minute time blocks dedicated to writing. She said these group writing events help motivate many of the group’s members.
“There’s some sort of magic that happens when a bunch of creative people get together,” Hall said.
On Wednesday night, Hall and another November novelist, June Fritchman, sat together in the Clark Chateau dining room, where much of their group writing took place, for a “Thank Goodness It’s Over” celebration.
Both women talked about their strategies, stories, and the support they received. Hall and Fritchman said writers in their group this year ranged from 15 to nearly 70 years old and that everyone pushed each other through the novel-making process.
“It seems there are a lot of dedicated writers in Butte, so they make you want to do your best,” Fritchman said. “You don’t want to let the other people down.”
In December, some Copper Quills members work together to edit each other’s November rough drafts. Then they’ll start to spread the word again, encouraging literary friends to try next year’s challenge.
The group also works to “keep the community alive” through other write-ins and gatherings, Hall said, but NaNoWriMo is the main Copper Quills event. Based on her experiences, Hall believes the competition is the perfect “someday” for people who may want to try writing a novel and is a fun extracurricular for anyone who loves to read or write.
“As kids, we all had imaginary friends. I think we lose track of that later in our lives,” Hall said. “This competition is huge for that, because you are creating characters. It's this childlike sense of creativity that keeps you young.”