Thirty days to write 50,000 words.

I am nearing two years removed from the world of academia and long nights spent writing papers, so you might be wondering why I’m gearing up to attempt such a feat.

One word. NaNoWriMo.

NaNoWriMo, or National Novel Writing Month in longhand, beckons would-be authors to take up their pens and write a novel – start to finish, 50,000 words – during the month of November.

Crazy, right?

But before I ever wanted to be a newspaper reporter, I wanted to be an author – or, as I mistakenly told people when I was little, an “arthur.” Lovable aardvarks aside, I knew I wanted to be a writer from the time I was 5 or 6 years old, and for years I imagined writing the kinds of things I loved to read – the Boxcar Children by Gertrude Chandler Warner, the Anne of Green Gables books by L.M. Montgomery, Little Women by Louisa May Alcott – stories that excited my imagination and touched my heart.

I spent a brief time writing children’s stories for magazines like Highlights and Cricket but never had one accepted. That was when I discovered journalism and found a new passion.

But there is a part of me that is still in love with the thought that I could one day see my name on the cover of a book. And that’s where NaNoWriMo comes in.

See, with NaNoWriMo, the pressure is off. It doesn’t have to be perfect at the end of the month – no one expects perfection as the final result of “thirty days and nights of literary abandon” (one tagline of the worldwide effort).

The short time frame and ambitious word goal pushes you to just get it out. Get it all on paper.

I have an idea for a novel that has been tumbling around in my head for probably two years.

It begs to be written.

When I took creative writing at Auburn University, I took this idea to my professor. I essentially said to her, “I want to know if you think this idea is good, because if it’s good enough, I want to write it and work to get it published, but if it’s not good enough, then I don’t want to put my time into it.”

She had a different perspective for me. She said something like, “You write something because you NEED to write it. If you write to be published, the story will never be great. Write it for you. If it gets published, so much the better. But write it for yourself, because it needs to be written.

Well … this story needs to be written. And I have a feeling it needs to be written for NaNoWriMo.

So Nov. 1 I will join almost 200,000 others from around the world who dream of authorship. Some have already had works published. Some have had stories they wrote for NaNoWriMo published. Some have never tried to write something of this magnitude before in their lives. They, like me, have a desperate longing to get their story out of their head and on paper for everyone – or at least themselves – to see.

Do I feel like I have something to prove? Maybe. Maybe I want to show myself and everyone that I can still be that person my 5-year-old self wanted to be.

I can be a novelist. If only for a month.

It’s not too late to join me on this journey. If you want to find out more about NaNoWriMo, you can visit It’s totally free to participate.

If you’re planning to be part of the fun this year, send me an email. We can face literary abandon together.

Alison James, associate editor for the Opelika Observer, has loved to read and write since she was 5 years old. She loves meeting new people and telling their stories.