National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) Challenges PCS 10th Graders to Write a Novel in 30 Days


PCS 10th grader Savahnna A. writes thousands of words a week in the NaNoWriMo program to produce a 50,000 word original novel in the month of November. Her novel, Love My Killer, is a thriller about a girl with Stockholm syndrome.

A man is seeking justice for his love, who was killed during the Salem Witch Trials.

A high school basketball player from Providence works his way up to be named Rookie of the Year in the NBA.

An Iraqi boy is determined to exact revenge on the Taliban.

These are just a few of the examples of the novels that 10th graders are writing for National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). Adults and students across the country participate in NaNoWriMo during the month of November, dedicating much of their time and energy in an attempt to write a novel in just 30 days. For the last six years, students at Paul Cuffee Upper School have voted to join them, and this year was no exception.

In October, students brainstormed and planned their novels, each setting an individual word count goal that they will reach. During November, they furiously type in order to meet their word count goals and make their stories a reality. Students are given creative license to write stories that reflect their own passions and interests. The main requirements are that the novels contain the basic elements of fiction, such as conflict, characters, setting, plot, and dialogue. Each student must also work to meet his or her word count goal, ranging from 10,000 to 50,000 words. This goal is determined based on students’ typing speeds, passion for their stories, and the amount of time they are willing to commit to the project outside of school.

The students who are currently leading the charge for word counts are Indira McCall with 21,052 words, Emily Cabreja with 22,506 words, and Omar Richardson with more than 28,000 words.

So far, Omar has really enjoyed the NaNoWriMo experience, saying, “It’s fun. You just type and let your ideas flow and go onto paper. I know a lot of people dream a lot. You take the stuff that’s in your head and put it all on these digital sheets of paper.”

It hasn’t all been fun and games though – even the student with the highest word count in the tenth grade isn’t immune to writer’s block. “It was good at first,” he said, “but I’m running out of ideas, and I need to get 40,000 [words]. I need to keep going back and adding chapters and making sure that they fit into the story.” He is still determined to reach his word count goal by midnight on November 30th. “I want to finish, so I just type every day, whenever I can,” he said. “I’m on my phone a lot. I type on the bus, any time I’m waiting anywhere, when I have free time in class.”

Indira, on the other hand, is having doubts about her story. “I don’t really like it. I wish I didn’t write about what I wrote about. I’m running out of ideas, and it’s kind of cliche,” she said, of her murder mystery novel laced with romance, secrets, and drugs. She realizes that she has come too far to go back, and is persevering, adding descriptive, sensory details.

Overall, she said it has been a positive, yet challenging, experience. “It’s fun,” she said. “You have to be committed to it. A lot of people think that it’s going to be easy, but you need to be disciplined and do it every night, and it will be enjoyable.

Although she is not a word count front-runner, Savahnna Anderson is unmatched in her enthusiasm for NaNoWriMo. She heard about NaNoWriMo last year, when she was in the ninth grade. She became excited and started planning her novel, talking frequently about how she couldn’t wait to participate the following year.

“I love writing stories,” she said, taking a brief pause from working on her novel of more than 14,000 words. Savahnna began NaNoWriMo with a lofty goal of 50,000 words, but soon became overwhelmed with the daily word count demand. “It’s hard to stick to your word goal because you have stuff to do for other classes,” she said. Savahnna does work on her story each evening, but typically holds off until she has completed her assignments from other classes, as she gets very focused on and drawn into her story.

When asked what she likes most about NaNoWriMo, Savahnna smiled and said, “Everything. I get to create my own world where I’m in control of everything.”

By Jessica Medeiros, 10th Grade English Teacher


Average Class Size: 20
Current Enrollment: 820
Students of Color: 96%
Female Students: 51%
Male Students: 49%
Free/Reduced Price Lunch Eligibility: 82%
Multi-Language Learners: 19%
Students Receiving Special Education Services: 13%
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BIPOC: 45%
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