By Bob Uphues
For the past two years, North Riverside resident Jennifer Smith has spent the month of November writing 50,000 words as part of National Novel Writing Month – known among participants as NaNoWriMo – where would-be novelists are challenged to stop procrastinating and get words on the page.
This week, Smith will jump into her third go-round with NaNoWriMo, and she's something of a veteran, although she's still trying to nail down a suspense-thriller story that might be able to work as a finished book.
"The first two years got me started to think about how to write," said Smith, whose goal was simply to get as many words and ideas out of her brain and into print, story structure be damned. "You don't worry about editing, because if you worry about it, you won't do it."
And for the second consecutive year, the North Riverside Public Library is one of 16 suburban libraries participating in NaNoWriMo to help local writers hit their word-count goals through a series of "write-ins" that will form a month-long library crawl that will cap with a Thank Goodness It's Over Party on Dec. 8 at the Naperville Municipal Center.
North Riverside Public Library will host its write-in on Nov. 10 from 2 to 4 p.m. Meanwhile, the LaGrange Park Public Library will hold two write-ins, one on Nov. 4 and another on Nov. 25. Both will run from 1 to 4:30 p.m.
Last year, a small group of six to 10 writers participated in North Riverside's write-in.
"There's a real aspect of community to it," said Lizzy Boden, adult services librarian at North Riverside Public Library. "It gets people more in gear. If we can give writers time and space to write, it definitely gets them to write and workshop ideas."
Leading the North Riverside and LaGrange Park write-ins will be Jenny Johnson (her nom de plume), who has been involved with NaNoWriMo since 2010 and has completed a novel she's is presently shopping around. That novel had its origins in the 2014 NaNoWriMo, she said.
"It was instrumental in giving myself that dedicated time to get something done," Johnson said. "To reach your goal, you have to write roughly 1,700 words a day, and what you really need to do is not get distracted.
Having the space and time as well as having everyone else around you doing the same thing is important for getting this done."
While the month-long writing blitz is a key stretch for many of the writers, keeping the momentum going afterwards is also a major challenge. That's where making contacts with other writers and tapping into that writing community comes into play.
To that end, North Riverside on Dec. 15 from 4 to 6 p.m. will host the first meeting of its Writers Group with Smith giving an hour-long talk about writing prior to participants getting down to work at their own writing. The group will meet on the third Saturday of each month.
NaNoWriMo has given Smith, who works in IT and whose job-related writing is mainly technical in nature, insights into the creative-writing process she can now pass along to others. Earlier this month, Smith gave a three-hour writing presentation in Naperville.
"I just like to be creative," said Smith, who also plays guitar and drums. "At work, I'm very technical, and writing helps feed that demand."
For more information on NaNoWriMo, visit online at nanowrimo.org, and to sign up for the North Riverside Public Library's write-in, visit www.northriversidelibrary.org/events/nanowrimo-writing-party.