Novel Writing Month authors add a few more words to their count

Thursday, November 29, 2007 | 9:53 p.m. CST; updated 5:03 a.m. CDT, Friday, July 18, 2008

COLUMBIA — National Novel Writing Month is drawing to a close, and the city of Columbia is ranked 317th in the world in words committed to the page. Fulton is ranked ninth.

The month-long effort, shortened to NaNoWriMo, challenges writers around the world to compose a 50,000-word novel ends Friday, leaving some writers feeling a great sense of triumph. Writers “win” by completing the challenge within the month.

As of Thursday evening, Fulton is ranked ninth in average words per individual with the average falling at 42,676. The region’s total word count is 810,852 words.

Columbia’s average word count per person is 18,807 placing the region in 317th place. The total word count is 714,685.

Carolyn Branch participated in the Fulton region this year while Christian Young was a part of Columbia’s group of writers. Branch and Young had different experiences this month, but both authors write year-round and reflected on the month as a generally positive experience:

Q: Did you win NaNoWriMo this year?

Young: I probably won’t be cracking 50K this month. I had surgery the week before the break, and Percocet is apparently a natural enemy of the creative process. I am, however, continuing work on the piece and want to finish it so that I can edit and polish it in hopes of publication.

Branch: Yes.

Q: Have you won NaNoWriMo in the past?

Young: I’ve finished NaNoWriMo three times, yes.

Branch: Yes. This my third year. 2005 — “Missouri Compromise”; 2006 — “Growing up together”; 2007 — “The sanity of strawberries.”

Q: How would you describe the 2007 experience?

Young: 2007 has been good overall, though I’m a bit disappointed in how I tripped over my feet because of medical issues. I was initially looking like I’d finish early — doing 2,000 and sometimes 3,000 word days. I’ve learned a lot, though. This year’s big challenge wasn’t volume so much as plotting failures and real life logistical concerns.

Branch: Great fun. I was a little calmer this year, I think, and able to enjoy it. With two years experience, I knew I could do it and knew the kind of adjustments I would have to make to my schedule. I planned for some days off work to write all day. The Callaway group is full of enthusiastic, supportive and talented people and our weekly “write-ins” were always a creative boost for me.

Q: How do you adjust to the pressure being off when December comes?

Young: For me, the pressure doesn’t go off. I write recreationally and am trying to get published year-round. NaNo’s a great structured activity, and one that’s near and dear to my heart, but I’ve gotten to a point that sometimes writing 1 to 3K words in a day isn’t a total aberration.

Branch: December brings its own pressures, and they are totally unrelated to writing. I take a December break to enjoy the holidays and spend time with my family. In January, I will be writing again every day but at a less frenzied pace.

Q: If you could do anything differently, what would you change?

Young: I’d have either prepared myself more or chosen a project I’m not as emotionally attached to. While the mantra is quantity over quality, I got to a point where I looked at my draft and realized I wouldn’t want to do an edit if I didn’t overhaul some things. In the end, my personal feelings won out over the exercise.

Branch: If National Novel Month could be January instead of November, it would make more sense for me. Thanksgiving is a traditional family time and that makes it especially difficult to demand to be left alone, especially if you are a wife, mother and grandmother. But I understand that many NaNoWriMo participants are students, and Thanksgiving means time off from class for them.

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