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Writers Discuss Their Speedwritten Novels As NaNoWriMo Begins

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Yesterday marked the launch of this year's National Novel Writing Month, a community-driven movement using forums and in-person meet-ups to help authors complete 50,000 words in 30 days and nights of "literary abandon." This lofty goal amounts to 1,666 words per day. Whether amateur or previously published, participants will devote November to thoughts and plots, motifs and metaphors.

Opponents of hasty word crafting may be surprised to know that many a classic work was written speedily, often lending to authenticity of voice. William Faulkner penned "As I Lay Dying" in six weeks, and one of fall's most popular and enchanting young adult novels, "The Night Circus," resulted from author Erin Morgenstein’s frantic NaNoWriMo scribblings in 2005.

We've tracked down seven NaNoWriMo veterans and first-timers, and will update you weekly on their progress. A pre-teen girl with a haunting storyline, a Southern expat retracing her roots, and an experienced novelist kicking off a new series, each writer will share the details of their frustrations and triumphs.


Barry, Colorado
@BarryJHickey

Why did you decide to do NaNoWriMo this year?
I have been trapped working with social media for two years trying to promote my books and have gotten nowhere. This is to remind myself that I am a writer, not a carton of eggs. I jokingly tell my friends - "Ask me how I sold three books on Amazon! One copy of each!"

What, if anything, have you written previously?
Three novels: "The Five Pearls," "Chasing God's River" and "The Glass Fence" (being considered for two prestigious awards). But even experienced writers can use November to write! It's my first attempt at a young adult “Goosebumps” sort of story.

Describe your book-in-process in 50 words or less.
The Lemon twins (Cecil and Bernice) must uncover the mystery of the old cemetery's caretaker if they ever expect to win friends and finish elementary school. But the school bully has different plans for the red-headed little geniuses in "The Witch with 300 Hats."

How do you plan to tackle your word count goal?
Some days I'm certain to miss, some days, I'll get ahead. If I can get about sixty scenes in overall, I'll be happy. It's keeping the story moving - that's the struggle.

What is your opening line?
"A double-dare had been made!"


Chelsea, Dallas
@VampBookClub

Why did you decide to do NaNoWriMo this year?
Daily blogging and a heinous travel schedule have broken my habit of meeting a daily word count. NaNo is an excellent way to correct that. Additionally, while I didn't "win" last year, I completed a 30,000-word paranormal novella. After numerous revisions, it is currently in a final revision at the request of a publisher.

What, if anything, have you written previously?
I was a full-time entertainment reporter and editor for magazines and newspapers for several years. These days, I run the speculative fiction book blog Vampire Book Club and frequently contribute to Heroes & Heartbreakers.

Describe your book-in-process in 50 words or less.
YA paranormal steeped in mythology, long-held grudges and, yes, there will be kissing.

How do you plan to tackle your word count goal?
Three words: Write or Die. The application keeps me off Twitter, which is truly a word count killer.

What is your opening line?
"It's easy to miss the importance of epic moments until after your world has crashed."

Sonja, Wisconsin
@SJWhipp

Why did you decide to do NaNoWriMo this year?
I need to write a novel. I need some new material to work with.

What, if anything, have you written previously?
I wrote a novel once in the seventh grade. Other than that, I’m a blogger and I write fiction and poetry.

Describe your book-in-process in 50 words or less.
My book-in-progress is a fictitious thriller loosely based on a financial crime that took place a couple of years ago. I changed the location in the story. The story shows the ripple effect of how one crime can have a deep impact on unlikely suspects.

How do you plan to tackle your word count goal?
A positive attitude, hard work, loud music, and a case of beer.

What is your opening line?
"Dear Theo, I hope you are well."

Spenser, Kentucky
@feverdreamy

Why did you decide to do NaNoWriMo this year?
A friend of mine challenged me to it. NaNoWriMo is pretty time-intensive, but I currently lack full-time employment so I decided working on a novel would be a productive use of my extra time.

What, if anything, have you written previously?
In previous NaNoWriMos, I wrote one novel about a post-apocalyptic war between tribal factions who had taken internet sites and memes as their gods (one group worshipped Google, another Raptor Jesus); my second NaNoWriMo novel was an urban fantasy about various magic-users and supernatural creatures trying to gain power and influence in "normal" society, the idea being that these supernatural powers are vying with other superhuman powers such as corporations and ideologies.

Describe your book-in-process in 50 words or less.
The novel I'm working on now centers on six English writing majors nearing the end of their undergraduate careers and trying to come to terms with the distance between the worlds they've created and the world as it is. The idea is that much of the world around us is constructed by our thoughts, that these worlds serve mainly to insulate us from others, and that in order to grow one must occasionally walk away from these worlds. So far I'm drawing heavily on my own personal experiences, but it is by no means a work of nonfiction.

How do you plan to tackle your word count goal?
The best way to keep yourself going is to have friends take on the challenge with you, as you can sometimes bully each other into continue when things get desperate, or even just find like-minded writers on Twitter or on the NaNoWriMo forums. If you're in an even moderately-sized city, there are almost always local gatherings of participants who you can share ideas and strategies with as well.

What is your opening line?
"The ceremony's commencement was signaled by a whisper of feedback issued from the mic as the Dean of Students approached the podium and sighed."

Connor (age 11)

Why did you decide to do NaNoWriMo this year?
I heard of NaNoWriMo from my drama teacher, a fellow Word Nerd. She said her friends have participated and that she is thinking of participating this year, too.

What, if anything, have you written previously?
I wrote and entered two books last year (and the year before) in my schools writing competition (if you are interested in knowing, I won 2nd and 1st place). I wrote some essays for school, if that counts. I also write lots of scripts for my school class and my drama class.

Describe your book idea.
A girl (Henry Adventure Murdock) and a boy (Louis Thomas Gilbert) meet at the old Ardegar Mansion, a center for the arts, that used to be owned by the late Sir William Ardeger. When they find his journal, strange hauntings begin in the mansion, and Henry and Louis are put in danger. Can they save the mansion from the ghost, or the golden goblet they have learned so much about?

How do you plan to tackle your word count goal?
I recently received an email from NaNoWriMo saying that the goal for each day is 1,667 words a day, totaling at 50,000 words in 30 days. I bring my laptop to school, so I will work on it during every tiny minute of free time, and I got close to 1,667 when I was writing yesterday.

What is your opening line?
"He ran."

Wil, California
@WilJames_author

Why did you decide to do NaNoWriMo this year?
I’m really eager to get going on the second book of a series I’ve started, but sometimes I really need to kick myself to get writing. I’m working overseas right now and I have the time, but I really need to motivate myself.

What, if anything, have you written previously?
I’ve written a number of family and adventure fiction titles mostly intended for Young Adults. So far, I’ve published six as eBooks, including "Sons and Brothers in Seattle" and "Playing the Baseball Card." I wrote another one of the six, "A Family Legacy: The Watson Works," during NaNoWriMo in 2008.

Describe your book-in-process in 50 words or less.
This is the second of a series called "Prince David," about a contemporary young prince who, with the help of a small group of boys and girls, confounds the adults around him, deals with a dysfunctional family, helps others, and gets involved in challenging and diverse adventures around the world.

How do you plan to tackle your word count goal?
I'm away from family and other demands on my time right now. Most of my writing will be done on my days off, and I can produce 5,000 words on a quiet day. With eight weekend days plus one more day of a long weekend in November, that’s 45,000 words, leaving only 5,000 words spread over the remaining 21 days.

What is your opening line?
"I watched silently, my heart pounding, as David slowly leaned forward and put his hands in place at the end of the platform."

Lara, New York
@districtbelle

Why did you decide to do NaNoWriMo this year?
I want to get over my fear of writing fiction. I'm a perfectionist when it comes to writing, tending to over edit as I go along, which makes it hard to make any progress.

What, if anything, have you written previously?
I did NaNoWriMo in 2008 and 2009 - using the collective 100k words to write one memoir. Last year, I tried to do it again but started my first fiction novel. This year, I'm picking that novel back up and adding another 50k words to bring it closer to completion.

Describe your book-in-process in 50 words or less.
It's a fiction novel about a girl living in NYC who, due to a family crisis, gets pulled back home to Texas and has to make a decision as to who she has become and where she wants her life to go.

How do you plan to tackle your word count goal?
I'm a big fan of putting all the little breaks in the day to use. I bought an iPad and am writing the full 40 minutes to and from work, as well as a bit at lunch. I'm also trying to take advantage of the write-ins with other participants when I can, and I'll be getting to know the coffee shops in my new neighborhood well over the next month.

What is your opening line?
"I shot up in my bed suddenly, throwing back my half of the satin duvet into the darkness."

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