By Myra Saturen
February 10, 2014
Whether it was writing a 50,000-word novel in 30 days or signing a publishing contract for a series, NCC student writers have winning words.
Write a 50,000-word novel in 30 days? Four students in Beth Wheeler's creative writing class took on this adventuresome challenge, posed by NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month), an annual contest held every November, sponsored by Swoon Reads. To give an example of a 50,000-word novel, think of Stephen Crane's The Red Badge of Courage and Nicholas Sparks's The Notebook.
"We wrote memoir, short stories and poetry in the class," says Wheeler. "Some of the students shared with me that their short stories were parts of larger pieces, so I encouraged them to start or finish a novel."
Among the "Wrimos," or contestants, were Neil Streibig, Rahgnar Schick, Elizabeth Lewis, and Margaret Harris. Lewis, who wrote 55,820 words, was counted a winner for reaching the contest goal. Actually, she overtook it.
Inspired by "Beauty and the Beast" and Jane Eyre, she set out to put onto paper a story she'd been imagining for years. Her gothic novel, For Love of the Thorn, is about a 16th-century French girl whose tale includes a castle-dwelling beast, haunting experiences, abduction, and the heroine's quest to save her father from a malevolent spell.
"The 50,000-word challenge was what a great motivator," she says. Whereas before entering the contest, she used to start and stop, Lewis proceeded in forging ahead as a contestant. "The point was to just write and get as far as you can without worrying about mistakes on the way." To achieve her objective, she made the novel-writing part of her homework, measuring her words every day. Talking about it to Wheeler, who is also a winner, was also helpful.
As one of the winners of the contest, (All contestants who wrote at least 50,000 words are named winners.) Lewis is eager to edit her novel so that it will be publication-ready. Then she will seek a venue for her book. A writer since childhood, she plans to keep on writing and to pursue a doctorate in English.
Below is an excerpt from For Love of the Thorn.
"The stout old merchant stood a long while outside the towering iron gates. They were rusted over having long sat in disuse, and entangled with withered vines, as was the narrow road that lay beyond them. He tried to shake the gate loose but the growth was not easily disengaged, he considered returning to the road, but the sound of a wolf calling to the rising moon made him return to his efforts with greater vigor. Eventually he was able to open them just enough to squeeze himself through, and start up the long drive."
Macy Stom, a theatre major at Northampton Community College, will become a published novelist this spring under the pen name J. Alton Mast. Her book, Deamon Theory, is the first in a five-part series of the same title for young adults to be published by Ink Smith Publications. Stom describes the series as "post-apocalyptic" in theme. "The book is about a 17-year-old girl who finds herself on earth after the 'Rapture,' meets others in similar circumstances and tries to save humanity," she says.
Stom began Deamon Theory as part of the National Novel Writing Month contest in 2012. With 75,000 words, she was a winner of the contest.