The Bookshelf: N.H. Writers Face the National Novel Writing Month Challenge

Nov 22, 2019

This November, writers across the world are participating in National Novel Writing Month. Organized by a non-profit, its goal is to encourage anyone who has dreamed of writing a book to just do it...over the course of one month. With a little more than a week remaining, NHPR's Peter Biello spoke with writers from New England giving it a try.
 


Elisabeth Jewell of Penacook has been trying to find time to put her feet up on her couch, open her laptop, and work on her novel.

"I like fun books, so I said, 'We’re going to write a book about a sky pirate!'"

This sky pirate sails on a flying ship and fights other sky pirates. But in her novel, he makes a mistake, and as punishment, he is forced to live a mundane life--that of Steve, the insurance guy.

"And that is possibly the worst punishment that you could give this man of action, this bold, suave, debonair sky pirate, is to be like: ‘you are now the grossly normal Steve from insurance.'"

Jewell, like so many other participants in what’s commonly called NaNoWriMo, has to write Draft One of the entire novel by December 1st. The goal is at least 50,000, or 200 double-spaced pages. So far, she calls her project “a pile of word vomit.”

"But that’s the whole point of NaNoWriMo. You need to have the raw materials before you can sculpt it into anything. If you don’t have the clay, you’re never going to have a sculpture," says Jewell.

There’s no way to know how many people in New England are participating. I spoke via Skype with a few active writers, including Allyson Szabo, a writer from Jaffrey, who’s written novels for NaNoWriMo before. This year, she’s challenging herself to write a cookbook.

"Think less The Joy of Cooking and more The Pioneer Woman’s Cookbook with all the little tidbits and family information that she puts in her stuff," says Szabo.

She says whether she’s writing a cookbook or a novel, having a deadline is key.

"Having that deadline really pushes me to write quickly and succinctly. I find I end up with a lot less verbiage that isn’t necessary. So I don’t write as much that gets cut," she says.

Szabo has even gone on to publish some of her NaNoWriMo projects. She says, knowing the event is coming up every year in November, allows her to plan. She picked out her recipes in October.

Chris DeLoreto says he doesn’t do enough planning. The Peterborough resident says he’s failed four times, but he’s trying it again this year.

"I’ve always been bad at writing every, which is common advice for all writers. Everyone says that. ‘Write every day. Even if it’s just a small amount. Write something every single day.' And I’ve never succeeded at that," says DeLoreto.

Jeff Deck of South Berwick, Maine has participated for 17 years and he’s only failed once. This year he’s writing a romance novel under a pen name. Deck says he finds support from his family and a community of fellow writers online.

"For me it helps to know that there are all those other people out there doing the same thing I’m doing at the same time in November. You can really feel the energy of it, even if you don’t meet up very often with those other people in person," says Deck.

Bookstores and libraries have been hosting NaNoWriMo parties where participants can sit and write together.

And full disclosure! I’ve tried NaNoWriMo before, just once, a few years ago. I got just a little bit more than 50-thousand words down, but didn’t get to the end of the story. I didn’t do enough planning. Next time around, October will be my own unofficial National Novel *Planning* Month.  That could just turn into something big...in November.