Sierra Lutheran writing class produces 316,830 words |

Sierra Lutheran writing class produces 316,830 words

by Katie Allin
Sierra Lutheran High School

When you think of Thanksgiving Break, you typically think of family, turkey dinner and football. But Heather Kois’ students at Sierra Lutheran High School were thinking of something entirely different: word count. For her creative writing class, November was National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo for short). The month-long novel writing curriculum is actually provided to the public through, a non-profit dedicated to empowering anybody with the desire to write a novel to actually write one. “Students spent the last two weeks in October prepping for their novels … but weren’t allowed to start writing until November 1st,” Kois explained. “They had several times each week to work on the project in class, but I also provided mini-lessons to help keep the students motivated and learning.”

Just how many words were required? Kois required her students to write at least 7,500 words each — the precise point at which a short story becomes a novelette. All 15 of her students wrote at least that much, with 13 of them writing 10,000 words or more. Two students, Molly McKee and Claire Cochran met the NaNoWriMo adult goal of 50,000 words; Claire Benson was close to that, meeting her personal goal of 40,000 words. Cumulatively, the class wrote 316,830 words (not including Kois’ own novel of over 50,000 words). Molly, who wrote a coming-of-age story, said the class was an “open space,” stating that “you didn’t have to share your work, but everybody was really supportive.” Claire, who wrote an episodic novel highlighting the last week of school for five main characters, said that she was ecstatic to begin the project, but thought she would only write around 20,000 words. “I never thought of myself as a writer before,” Claire explained, “but this project made me a better writer and taught me that I can write.”

Not all students were enthusiastic at the start. Sydney, a Junior, said she was terrified about the project.

“I didn’t think it was possible, but after it was done, I realized it wasn’t quite so bad,” she said.

For Kois, that was the charm of it all. “I loved watching the students get into it, even the ones who had been really nervous at the beginning,” Kois said. “After the project, most of them were really proud of how much they had accomplished, and they laughed at how short a 2-3-page paper seemed now.” Kois plans on repeating the project in her creative writing class during November 2016.