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UConn-Stamford Professor Embraces Writing Challenge

UConn-Stamford professor Dave D’Alessio is taking the NaNoWriMo challenge this November, trying to complete a 50,000-word novel in one month.
UConn-Stamford professor Dave D’Alessio is taking the NaNoWriMo challenge this November, trying to complete a 50,000-word novel in one month. Photo Credit: flickr via mpclemens

STAMFORD, Conn. — Dave D’Alessio didn’t just wake up one day and decide he would write 50,000 words in a month. A friend challenged him.

D’Alessio, a professor at UConn-Stamford, said an online gaming friend goaded him into participating in the National Novel Writing Month, affectionately known as NaNoWriMo. The program challenges participants to write 50,000 words during November.

“She goes, ‘You should try this. You would really like it,” D’Alessio recalled.

So he did. And he has been churning out 50,000 words — a widely accepted minimum word count for a novel — every November since.

D’Alessio’s speciality is science fiction and fantasy. This year, he is writing a sequel to a previous novel.

Writing his latest novel, he said, came easy.

“I knew where the story was going,” D’Alessio said. “It was just a matter of saying, ‘OK, this is a story I have it in my head. I want to finish telling this story.’”

The experience of writing with the goal of simply finishing a novel is “very liberating.” Since he doesn’t focus so much on editing, he is often surprised where his muse leads him.

Although not every scene will make the final cut, D’Alessio finds the challenge to be productive.

“Sometimes good things come out of it,” he said. “I laugh or cry at things that I write."

D’Alessio said the key to writing for NaNoWriMo is persistently making the time to write every day.

A few participants type all of the 50,000 words in the first day or two, he said.

“I don’t know how they still have fingers on their hands,” he quipped.

D’Alessio has taken a marathoner's approach, planning to finish his novel Thursday, about three weeks after he started.

NaNoWriMo began in 1999. In 2005, National Novel Writing Month became a 501(c)(3) nonprofit.

Many everyday people — including those from Fairfield County — participate in the challenge. In 2014, the challenge counted 325,142 participants.

Local organizations, including libraries, have offered resources to participants. Norwalk Public Library, for example, set up a Pinterest page with links and tips for NaNoWriMo writers.

While many NaNoWriMo manuscripts are never published, some have turned into critically acclaimed bestselling novels.

One of the program’s greatest successes was Sara Gruen’s bestselling novel “Water for Elephants,” which was made into a movie.

But most novels are done by everyday people for the simple pleasure of writing.

“[They] started the month as auto mechanics, out-of-work actors, and middle school English teachers,” according to NaNoWriMo’s website. “They walked away novelists.”

For more information on the challenge, visit NaNoWriMo’s website here .

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