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NaNoWriMo 2012 Week One: Six Writers Each Pen A Book In One Month

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If your favorite coffee shop seems more crowded than usual, don't just chalk it up to the annual surge of fall flavors. It's National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), so writers will be setting up shop wherever they can in an attempt to complete the challenge of penning 50,000 words before November 30.

The event, which began in 1999, uses forums and meet-ups to encourage authors young and old, experienced and not, to abandon their inner editors and churn out at least 1,666 words each day. If writers are successful in their efforts, they will have completed around a 160-page story. NaNoWriMo's site describes this month as "a fun, seat-of-your-pants approach to novel writing," but a slew of bestsellers have emerged from its participants (referred to as WriMos), including Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen and The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern.

Last year, we followed seven NaNoWriMo veterans and first-timers, asking them questions each week about their process. This year, we've selected six WriMos from around the world, including a working mom, a published author and a 22-year-old first-timer. Their books-in-progress range from a post-apocalyptic thriller to a paranormal romance story. Check out their motivations, synopses and first sentences:

WriMo: Marita, 37, Australia
Title: Sunlight

Why did you decide to do NaNoWriMo this year?
I'm working on a long novel, and felt progress had stalled. In the past, I've found that writing intensely is the best way to transport yourself back into the world of your novel. I also love that NaNoWriMo turns writing into a team sport, and this year I'm doing it with a bunch of friends from Sydney's Faber Academy so we can spur each other on.

What, if anything, have you written previously?
In my day job, I write for a living, so words have always been a big part of my life. Creatively, I spent a long time as a poet but shifted my attention to novels about five years ago. This will be my fourth manuscript, but it's the one I feel most passionate about.

Describe your book-in-process in 50 words or less.
Set in the present day, it follows the three Hope children, who grew up in a 1970s commune called Sunlight, and the divergent paths they’ve taken. Ultimately, it explores the price you pay for loving something, whether it’s an ideology, your family, or your soulmate.

How do you plan to tackle your word count goal?
I work and I have a small child, so my dedicated writing time is 6:00-6:45 am every morning. Usually that's enough; if not, I have to make up time in the evenings. 2012 is my third time as a 'wrimo' and this year I'm focussing on just doing the required 1667 words per day rather than attempting big leaps on the word count meter. If that means finishing my session at a dramatic moment, all the better. Imposing 1667 as a limit, instead of a minimum threshold, has meant (so far!) that I always have some energy and interest left over for the next day.

What's the first sentence of your novel?
"All the kids at Sunlight were named alphabetically, like hurricanes."

WriMo: Samantha, 22, New York
Title: The Heart Wants

Why did you decide to do NaNoWriMo this year?
Twitter. I didn't even know about NaNoWriMo until I saw it posted on Twitter. I knew that if I signed up for it, I would have a reason to put pen to paper and actually write something.

What, if anything, have you written previously?
In college, I wrote for every publication that I could -- the school newspaper, the alumni newsletter, our HerCampus branch, even the Office of Academic Advising blog! In addition to published material, I've been keeping various travel-related blogs for the past four years. It's my catharsis at the end of every day, a way to get it all out there, no pressure, no judgment.

Describe your book-in-process in 50 words or less.
There are three story lines intertwined, all loosely based on events from my life. Part love story, part coming-of-age story, part family drama. Lots of emotional twists and turns. I've only got a rough outline. The story will create itself as I write.

How do you plan to tackle your word count goal?
1,000 words per day. At least. I'm working three different jobs, seven days a week, so I don't have a lot of free time. If I can make it to 30,000 words by the end of the month, I will consider that a success.

What's the first sentence of your novel?
"Everything was wrong."

WriMo: Kate, 41, Middle East
Title: Diamonds

Why did you decide to do NaNoWriMo this year?
Whatever stage you're at with your writing, there's nothing like a boot camp to motivate you and get the story flowing. Writing retreats, writers' circles are great, but now they don't work with a young family! This is where NaNo is brilliant - writing is a solitary business, and working with a community of writers from all over the globe for a month gives that edge, that motivation to just sit down and work. First drafts aren't beautiful things, (Hemingway put it in stronger terms), but to me NaNo is simply about getting something raw, and full of energy down that you can polish and perfect later.

What, if anything, have you written previously?
I wrote editorial and travel pieces, published short stories and was picked for UK ITV's 'People's Author' in 2009. Following that, my debut novel The Beauty Chorus about the 'Spitfire girls' of WW2 was published by Atlantic in 2011. This year, The Perfume Garden about the Spanish Civil War was published - 50,000 words of that was written during NaNo in 2010. It's coming out in paperback next year, and is being translated into several languages. I'm now editing a third novel about an American journalist who saved thousands of people from occupied France, and working on this new story.

Describe your book-in-process in 50 words or less.
An expert I've been doing research with for this story said 'a bestseller needs death, sex and jewellery'. It weaves all three together in a historical romance spanning the twentieth century - it's the story of a woman who loses everything but finds she has all she ever needed.

How do you plan to tackle your word count goal?
I'm aiming for 2,000+ words a day.

What's the first sentence of your novel?
"Grace runs the dark woods; in the silence, her white breath plumes, streams behind her."

WriMo: Dan, 28, Toronto
Title: The Guardians

Why did you decide to do NaNoWriMo this year?
After years of failing to actually finish the project, I decided to do NaNo this year because I finally have a support group that I know will nag, cheer, cajole, bribe, and threaten me into actually writing at least 50,000 words. I have a serious problem with actually finishing the projects I start (starting them is always so much easier!), so I'm hoping the group of people I have will help me get past my usual roadblocks.

What, if anything, have you written previously?
I've written a lot of short fiction, some abandoned novel beginnings, and a handful of atrociously bad poetry. I've also done a fair amount of stage playwriting and dabbled in screenwriting as well.

Describe your book-in-process in 50 words or less.
A man returns to his hometown, a now post-apocalyptic Toronto, and finds himself wrapped up not only in the city’s factions but also in a changed world where magic seems to be more and more real.

How do you plan to tackle your word count goal?
My word count goal is mostly going to be met at work - during my lunch hour I put on my headphones and drown out the rest of the office, and between that and a solid outline I tend to be able to write about 2200 words before my lunch break is up. I usually pick away at it during breaks throughout the afternoon in an attempt to finish a chapter a day.

What's the first sentence of your novel?
"When Carter Black finally coasted to a stop fifty feet from the east gate, the sun had already sunk low enough in the sky that he was in the shadows of the tall Toronto walls."

WriMo: Beth, 44, California
Title: A Deep and Dark December

Why did you decide to do NaNoWriMo this year?
I made a goal to finish the book I'm writing, which will just fulfill the 50,000 word count required for NaNo.

What, if anything, have you written previously?
My debut romantic suspense novel, Rush, released in August. I also just sold a mystery to another publisher. It will be released in 2014.

Describe your book-in-process in 50 words or less.
A Deep and Dark December is a paranormal romantic suspense about a woman concealing her ability to see the past and future in order to fit into the small town she loves. But when her visions become inexplicably altered, she must confide in a sheriff with undiscovered talents of his own in order to find a murderer with the power to attack others abilities and kill people with his mind.

How do you plan to tackle your word count goal?
Every day when I sit down to write it's with the intent of putting as many words on the page as I can. If I think about the end goal it feels very overwhelming so I'm tackling it one day at a time, one writing session at a time.

What's the first sentence of your novel?
"The sky hung low, dark and expectant, the kind of sky her Aunt Cerie called volcanic, a portent of violence."

WriMo: Elliot, 25, Oregon
Title: Midnight Run

Why did you decide to do NaNoWriMo this year?
I attempted NaNoWriMo in past years and never completed the project. I always wrote myself into a corner or had no idea how to finish. But this year, I was hungry for a creative outlet and decided to go for it.

What, if anything, have you written previously?
With regards to creative writing, I wrote a play and a couple of short stories in college. Otherwise, I worked as a journalist for a while, which included a lot of writing.

Describe your book-in-process in 50 words or less.
It’s a post-modern world where water is incredibly scarce. Our protagonist, a boy named Michael, lives in a walled community that depends on men (like his father) who leave the safety of home to retrieve water. These men are Runners. When Michael's brother joins their ranks, things go terribly wrong.

How do you plan to tackle your word count goal?
I did my best to get ahead of the word count and pick up momentum in the first few days. Planning to finish early means any unforeseen delays won't automatically derail my chances of completing the draft on time. Also, I storyboarded everything in October, so hopefully I can avoid feeling too overwhelmed and just focus on connecting those scenes.

What's the first sentence of your novel?
"The greatest sin one could commit in my boyhood home was to waste a glass of water."

Filed by Maddie Crum