Remember that time when the best story idea entered your mind and you were sure it was best-seller material, but then life happened and you forgot about it? Well, here is your chance to get back on track.

November is National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) and this annual challenge held in the month is to make sure that the participants write 50,000 words in 30 days.

While NaNoWriMo has been informally celebrated in Pakistan, this is the first time that Desi Writers Lounge (DWL) has organised it in a structured manner. "We were approached by an expat author who goes by the online name of Slay Belle," shared Farheen Zehra, Karachi events lead of DWL, "She's a NaNoWriMo veteran and this year's official NaNoWriMo liaison for Pakistan. Slay approached us because she felt we were the perfect platform for this."

Holding sessions to encourage writers might relatively be a new thing in Pakistan but it is always considered important in other countries: "Physical write-ins are a big part of NaNoWriMo in other countries — that's always part of their pitch. It's a chance to get together and write with other likeminded people. The goal of NaNo, a 50,000 word rough draft of a novel written in just 30 days, can be extremely challenging, so the community aspect plays a strong role in helping authors make it through the process," Farheen explained.

She added that given that DWL already has an online forum, it has been their aim to organise physical write-in sessions to create an offline writing community and NaNoWriMo was the perfect opportunity for that.

Write-in sessions in Karachi

Along with participation from all over the country, DWL will be hosting two-hour sessions on Saturdays in November from 4pm to 6pm at The Second Floor (T2F), but that doesn't mean that aspiring writers outside Karachi can't benefit from them.

"Anyone living anywhere in Pakistan can participate in NaNoWriMo. All you require is a computer and a decent internet connection. Members on our online forums in other cities are participating in it. NaNoWriMo also has a Pakistan-specific forum on their site, but from what we and Slay have seen over the last several years, this is the first effort made to get people organised beyond just hanging out on their forum or in unofficial Facebook groups. Since our announcement about the Karachi write-ins has gone up, we've heard from people in Islamabad and Lahore who are interested in possibly organising their own meet ups," said Farheen about how NaNoWriMo is shaping up in other cities.

As of now, the response has been amazing and many people have already signed up for sessions.

"We are also encouraging people to sign up on our forums as we are posting preparatory exercises and writing tips to help writers complete this challenge. The strong response indicates that people want to participate in such activities. Writing is a very solitary process and it's always good to know there are others out there willing to lend support," she shared.

Will NaNo sessions be like workshops?

Not exactly. All those participating in the sessions will have their laptops, sit down for two hours and write without anyone necessarily guiding them.

"There will be people to help and give tips if someone needs it but it is not a workshop per se. The aim of these write-in sessions is to build a community. We don't have many platforms for emerging writers and through this we are hoping to make one," she told further.

A novelist is born?

With a dearth of Pakistani novelists in both English and Urdu languages, one would hope that this competition results in a slight increase in their numbers.

These USB  bracelets are a part of official NaNoWriMo merchandise because you never know when you gotta save that story. Hoping to see them here too!
These USB bracelets are a part of official NaNoWriMo merchandise because you never know when you gotta save that story. Hoping to see them here too!

Farheen strongly believes that writing is not only a talent but also requires a lot of discipline and practice: "Just getting started is often the hardest part. Lots of people have great ideas but if they never get down on paper or in a computer, they just stay ideas. Coming together every week, knowing you have other people and a goal to be accountable to helps a lot of writers make the jump from wanting to be a writer to actually doing the writing."

Writers wishing to compete in Urdu will have to submit their novel in Roman Urdu instead of the original script.

So, are you ready to hit the 50,000 word count by the end of November? You never know, you just might be the next NaNoWriMo winner!

The kickoff party is in three days, till then may the force be with you.

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