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One month, 50,000 words -- can you do it?

Kenny Kemp
Karan Ireland sets to the NANOWRIMO task with her dog Hopper. "It's really basically a memoir about my coming of age and going out on my own out West."

Find area writing sessions here

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- For veterans, the nickname is NANOWRIMO, which translates into National Novel Writing Month. That would be November, and the motto of the international effort's website is: "The world needs your novel."

Whether that's true or not, NANOWRIMO each year attracts a couple hundred thousand wannabe and practiced novelists looking to at least give it a go. The goal is to produce a 50,000-word novel by the time the clock runs out on the month.

There are official group efforts to bolster people's novel-writing chops -- the downtown library has group-writing sessions with other branches and organizations also stage events (see sidebar).

The Gazette scrounged up some 2013 NANOWRIMO participants to gauge the nature of their involvement, their past success -- or utter failures -- and what they're working on this year.

SUSAN MAGUIRE:

YEARS INVOLVED: "Personally, this is my second year. But there was a three-year gap of laziness in between. So, I'm back and ready to write."

PAST EFFORTS: "My first book was a 'Nano' book as we call it. It was just published last year, but I wrote it in 2009. You write 50,000 words in a month and that's what I did -- I wrote 50,100 words, I cut it close. But the book ended up being 65,000, I did a first draft and it was very rough. And a lot of stuff changed."

Her 2009 book was a romance novel titled "Kentucky Home" and she wrote and published it under the pseudonym 'Sarah Title.' "Just to kind of keep it from my professional writing life -- I publish in library journals. I'm a librarian."

CURRENT WORK: "It's actually a sequel to it. So it's another romance novel. It's just going to be the love story of one the main character's siblings -- his brother. That's kind of a thing in romance series."

TITLE: "I don't know yet. I have to wait until I get a little more done."

WRITING STATUS: "I'm trying. And I'm very far behind. But I'm gonna try to do it."

P.S.: "It forces you to sit down and work. It allows you to dedicate time to writing that you normally would be -- I call it 'making excuses.' Are you going to cook a fancy dinner or work on your book? By carving out November as the time you're going to get it down, you can say, look, we're getting takeout because momma's gotta write a book."

***

KARAN IRELAND

YEARS INVOLVED: "Probably twice -- I didn't do it last year.

PAST EFFORTS: "One year, I wrote for a week solid. And then it kinda' petered out."

CURRENT WORK: "It's really basically a memoir about my coming of age and going out on my own out West. I've written about 4,000 words."

TITLE: "Working title (which I hate): 'A Cigarette Girl and a Crazy Mama.'"

WRITING STATUS: "I might not be your best interview because I've been failing miserably. My odds? Ugh. You know what -- 100 percent. I don't know what to say anything different than that. Because I want to do it."

P.S.: "On the one hand, it's an impetus to write. You're doing it with a group, you've got support. On the other hand, if you divide it into a daily word count in your head and you fall behind a few days it can get overwhelming." ***

BILL LYNCH

YEARS INVOLVED: "This is my third."

PAST EFFORTS: "I was successful once -- the other one wasn't quite a success. If it's by number of words, sure, I was successful. "Fraggle Love" was the name of the successful one. The measure of it is whether you finish and not whether anyone would ever publish it. You'd have to be pretty disturbed. It was a Muppet Romance novel. There was the cheap complaint that it wasn't 'porny' enough... It was a joy to write something that bad -- on purpose. Probably a dozen people have looked at it. No one has claimed to have actually gotten all the way through it, which is probably a good thing.

"Last year, I got about 30,000 words and just kind of ran out of steam."

CURRENT WORK: "I am writing a comic piece about adventures in talk radio. It's a novel. Takes place in 1994, so its kind of historical fiction from a not very interesting point in time -- '94 was the year Kurt Cobain died, Ted Nugent was a jerk and Rush Limbaugh was growing. It was a crappy year. It was just a very weird time."

TITLE: "News, Talk, Weather."

P.S.: "I try to put it in at least an hour a day. It's easier to put in more time on the weekend. It's pretty profane at this point. It's kinda' based on my first year in radio and the people I worked with were the foulest-mouth bunch I've ever worked with. It was a pretty wild time."

***

ANNA DICKSON JAMES

YEARS INVOLVED:  "This is my second year."

PAST EFFORT: The first year, "I completed it with a novel I was really pretty proud of. But my computer busted before I ever backed it up and it's gone. It got some really great response - I was proud of it. People said it was funny. And I'd never written like that before. I sent them excerpts, so I have a couple excerpts. By and large, it's gone. But that's OK. You cry from it and let it stop you or move on."

CURRENT WORK: "I'm gonna do sci-fi. It's pretty heavy on the science, I'm going to try it. Who knows if it's going to be good. I love science fiction. It's a lot of what I read for fun. "Enders Game" by Orson Scott Card is one of my favorite books of all time.

TITLE: "I don't have one yet, at all, which is disturbing to me. I usually have my title early."

P.S.: "Whether you come out with a novel you can sell or that's going to be considered a success or not, the experience is incredibly valuable. The value is in having written it. You're not going to have a finished product. That's what's great about it -- that you don't have to write something great. You just have to write -- then you fix it from there. You fix all the errors and mistakes and the things you let by."

Reach Douglas Imbrogno at douglas@cnpapers.com or 304-348-3017.


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