Students Write Novels for NaNoWriMo


Joanne Kim, A&E Editor

Mrs. Deragisch, who is teaching all Freshman English this year, will be participating in the 2016 National Novel Writing Month.

How did you come across the program?

I came across the program through a friend of mine who mentioned it. The online community is so great and their twitter page is really active and their forums on the website is really cool. I was really drawn into that part of it.

What made you decide to incorporate the NaNoWriMo program into your coursework?nanowrimo

I’ve attempted to twice over the past few years and I’ve never been successful myself and I’ve always wanted to do it in class because I think it’s such a cool program and such a great opportunity for a project. You can set up a goal to work toward and it really covers a lot about what we talk about in first semester with freshman, storytelling devices and all of those different things, so I really wanted to find a way to work it into the curriculum. This was really the first year where I was able to sit down and map it all out and find a way to do it.

So you’re saying your students will be incorporating the curriculum into their novels?

Yeah, we spent October planning for the stories. We went over plot map and character, protagonist, antagonist, conflict, all the different things you need in a story. They developed those almost like an outline sketch of what they’re planning on doing before they got started.

Is it solo, or can they do it in groups?

It’s solo. They do have people they work with either their table group or their workshop partners, but they are writing their own individual stories. I think I have a couple of students who talk about doing something where they write a sequel to another person’s story such as making their world together, but it has to be an individual story.

Is it open? You don’t assign them a genre or anything?

It’s really open. They’re able to choose whatever story they want to write. So even if they’re reluctant writers and they want to do fanfiction where it’s a world that exists, but they’re telling a new story within that they can do that as well, just to give them some flexibility for writing and kind of encourage them. It’s really hard to start brand new and for some reluctant students the thought of writing thousands of words is really intimidating to them.

Are you hoping that they get the personal achievement awards the program gives out?

So I made the digital classroom online for them to sign up and join in on some of the opportunities they have. There have been some sponsors in the past that actually print some copies of your book if you meet your goal and things like that and my students were pretty excited by that idea.

How do you grade?

We’ll be doing several submissions throughout where I’m checking for progress on word count, because the goal for NaNoWriMo isn’t to write a perfect story it’s to just get it out, get all the words out, get everything out. So mostly in the month of November that’s what i’m checking for that they’re making progress and they’re working on it when we’re in class together, and also that they’re giving constructive feedback with their group mates. In December is when we’re going to really look at the stories and polish at least a section of it and that’s where I’m looking for more of the technical aspects of it.

Are you all aiming for 50,000 words?

No. They’re able to set their own word count goal depending on what the class is. The average is about 10,000 for ninth grade, but I have some that are really ambitious and they picked bigger goals. I’m allowing them to adjust it after a little while if they feel like it’s too much or maybe it’s too easy.

Have you ever tried it yourself?

Yes, but not successfully. One time I participated and I got through half of the month and hit almost past thanksgiving break but then I was out of town and I ended up not reaching it. I don’t remember what my word count goal was. It was pretty close, but not quite there.

What do you want your students to get out of this?

To me one of the big things is that idea of goal setting and time management and really pushing yourself to achieve something that you didn’t think you could before. Even more so than finishing a story, I want my students to get that. In high school-their first semester of high school- a lot of times students kind of get lost in this big project and they get overwhelmed by everything, and the idea that you can take something that seems really huge and break it down into smaller pieces and achieve something in the end that you didn’t think you could before is what I want my students to understand; that whole idea of pushing themselves to think outside of their usual limits.