Creative Writing Class Aims High With Novel Assignment

If you have dreams of writing a novel, Ms. Duggan’s Creative Writing class is the place for you. November was National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo for short), and Ms. Duggan’s classes did their best to accomplish that task.

The group behind NaNoWriMo, called the Office of Letters and Lights, has created a virtual space for young writers to encourage their participation in the project.

For adults on the main NaNoWriMo challenge website, the goal of the activity is to write 50,000 words by the end of November. Young writers, however, are given an option on their ultimate word count goal.  Ms. Duggan’s recommendation is 10,000 words.

“For students, 10,000 words seems like an insurmountable goal, but if they work at it a little every day, they can surprise themselves with what they can accomplish.”

Despite the enormity of the project, it is one of the most popular assignments in Ms. Duggan’s curriculum.  Though writing a novel seems like an impossible task for most middle schoolers, Ms. Duggan still asks her students to at least make the attempt.

“I don’t fully expect my students to finish a beautiful novel, especially in the short amount of time available,” she explained. “But I think it’s really helpful to sit in that place, to sit and work on a longer piece of writing.”

Ms. Duggan never reads the final novel because she has 62 students, and it would take a very long time.  She asks for occasional excerpts from the writing and has students create book covers for their novels at the end of the project, but most of the grade comes from putting in the work each day and reflecting on what you learned afterwards.

“If a student spends a lot of time staring at a blank screen, I think that can be a legitimate part of the writing process. It teaches them that inspiration doesn’t happen in a vacuum.  My recommendation for those students is to talk to people, go take a walk while considering their characters, or choose a random direction and see where it takes you.” Ms. Duggan said. 

She believes this assignment is very helpful for your writing process and great practice. 

“Even if you don’t meet your goal, just to experience the creative process and to feel how the ideas come is just so exciting to me.  When students inevitably ask, ‘if you don’t read it, how will you know that I did it?’ I always tell them, ‘if you aren’t writing in the time allotted, you aren’t cheating anybody but yourselves.”