If you invite Dan Scholes to a party this month, he's probably going to decline.
He's cleared his calendar of all obligations except his job as a groundskeeper at the University of Florida. He will spend his November writing.
Scholes, 44, is one of about 200,000 writers participating in National Novel Writing Month, frequently abbreviated to NaNoWriMo, or simply NaNo, a writing project taken on by professionals and amateurs alike.
The project challenges participants to write a 50,000-word novel, the equivalent of 175 pages, in 30 days. That breaks down to about 1,667 words per day.
Scholes has written podcasts and short stories for the past two years but has never attempted to craft a full-length book.
"I've had an idea for a novel for a long, long time," Scholes said. "NaNo is the push I need to get those ideas out of my head and onto paper."
The first National Novel Writing Month was held in July 1999. Chris Baty, a freelance writer from the San Francisco Bay Area, recruited 20 friends for the project. He was curious to see if a strict deadline would motivate writers. Six reached the 50,000-word goal.
In 2000, the month was moved to November, when the distraction of sunny summer days does not tempt writers into procrastination.
Today the Office of Letters and Light, a non-profit organization based in Berkeley, oversees NaNoWriMo as well as Script Frenzy, where writers attempt to complete a stage or screenplay in 30 days. Baty is executive director.
Lindsey Grant, program director for NaNoWriMo and a writer herself, said about 18 percent of participants will write 50,000 words by the end of the month. Grant said the project is designed to encourage everyone, from the seasoned novelist to the amateur writer, to write on a daily basis.
"The title of 'author' is this much sought after but very rare thing," said Lindsey Grant. "We're trying to make writing a little more accessible to people."
For some, the task seems daunting.
"I thought it was absolutely crazy when I first heard about it," said Denise Jaden, of Abbotsford, Canada. "My friend told me I should do it, and I looked at her like she was insane."
But in 2007, Jaden accepted the challenge. She'd written three novels before, each taking months to complete, but had no success in getting them published. She hoped NaNoWriMo would relieve the frustrations she felt after so much writing and no publication.
She finished the first draft of a novel she called "Losing Faith," a book for young adults, just 21 days into November. After a year of revisions, it only took six weeks for a publisher to make her an offer. The novel was released in September by the Simon & Schuster imprint Simon Pulse.
Jaden said the novel she wrote during National Novel Writing Month was more focused than books she had worked on before. With such a tight deadline, she was forced to outline and plan before she attempted to write, making the "writing tighter and the quality better," she said.
Lisa Daily, of Sarasota, Fla., said the short deadline is a motivating factor in her writing.
"There's something about this insane deadline," she said. "You don't have time to be worried. You only have time to keep cranking out that word count."
Daily first participated in 2006. Previously a non-fiction writer, it was her first time ever writing fiction. While she only wrote 10,000 words during the month of November, she considered the project a success.