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Cambridge writers encourage budding novelists to take on the challenge of writing a 50,000-word book in 30 days

By Alex Spencer

Ian Rennie and Rachel Iliffe of Cambridge Nanowrimo
Ian Rennie and Rachel Iliffe of Cambridge Nanowrimo

Around half a million people take part every year worldwide and there are groups in most major towns in the UK who attempt the task each November.

Old hands Ian Rennie and Rachel Iliffe run the Cambridge chapter of National Novel Writing Month, or Nanowrimo for short.

Ian, one of three volunteer municipal liaisons for the group, said: “Nanowrimo is a challenge that gives you an excuse to write a novel in the course of November. What counts as a novel for the challenge is 50,000 words or more.

“It’s free to join and the prize at the end of it is you have written a novel. Ultimately it is just the excuse and structure to do what you have always wanted to do. But by joining the group you get to meet other people doing the same thing, get lots of support and hopefully have fun.”

National Novel Writing Month started 20 years ago in California as the brainchild of writer Chris Baty, who decided that what writers needed more than anything to get their novel done was a deadline. Now it is a worldwide phenomenon with groups in most major cities around the globe.

Many people simply take part at home, joining in on the chatrooms at nanowrimo.org.

However, the Cambridge group is hoping to welcome new members into the fold this month, and it is free to take part. There is an arrangement to meet at a variety of cafes and pubs throughout November for write-ins and social sessions.

They can be found on Saturday mornings at the YMCA cafe on Tenison Road, Cambridge.

Rachel, also a municipal liaison, said: “Anyone can join in. We encourage people to come along because it’s fun and because it will help you stop procrastinating about writing that novel.”

For nervous first timers, Ian, who works in a mental health library, added: “The group is very positive and focused on encouragement – there’s no negativity. We celebrate reaching each milestone. I always tell people if they finish their novel at a write-in I will buy them a hot drink of their choice.

“A lot of writing groups can be discouraging to first timers. If people get the wrong criticism too early they might give up writing. But no-one will judge what you are writing here or ask you to read it out.”

For more information about taking the National Novel Writing Month challenge, visit nanowrimo.org and check out the forums for the Cambridge group, or search for Cambridge Wrimos on Facebook.


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