November Is The Time To Write

National Novel Writing Month Set To Kick Off

Posted: October 30, 2013

Sam Strong, a local aspiring novelist, was submitting stories in contests before most children can read and write. Now, Strong plans to participate in National Novel Writing Month. (Photo by Courtesy Photo)

Aspiring novelist Sam Strong was submitting stories in contests before the age at which some children can even read or write.

“I entered a story writing competition for Reading Rainbow at age three,” she recalled. “I didn’t win, but that’s where it all began.”

Strong, who is currently employed by The Valley Wine Cellar in New Market, writes everyday, but has never quite managed to complete a novel. With the tasks of everyday life such as school and work always serving as distractions, she says it’s been hard to make writing her first priority.

Come November, that’s about to change.

November 1 marks the start of the 14th annual National Novel Writing Month, an event that challenges participants to complete a 50,000 word novel in 30 days. As one of an estimated half a million participating writers, Strong says she’s ready to commit herself fully to the project.

“I’m taking it seriously and I’m going to get it done,” she said firmly.

   A self-proclaimed “huge fan” of the zombie genre, Strong plans on writing about the zombie apocalypse, but with a slightly different twist — she wants to tell the story through the eyes of a child.

“I noticed in all the [zombie] movies and books there’s usually children there, but it’s not their story,” she remarked. “I want this to be a child’s story.”

While Strong hopes to eventually get her book published, fellow NaNoWriMo participant Kelly Giles says she’ll be working on her “Jane Austen knock-off” primarily for personal satisfaction.

“NaNo is interesting because I can’t think of anything else like this in writing or the arts,” she said. “It’s like a marathon …  you want to do it for the sense of accomplishment and your own development.”

For the second year, Giles — a librarian at James Madison University — has organized two group write-ins at campus libraries. She encourages local NaNoWriMo members in need of motivation to take advantage of the opportunities, and points out that both locations offer quiet spaces, on-site coffee shops and numerous laptop outlets.

Although Giles has been participating in NaNoWriMo for the past five years, she says she has yet to reach the 50,000 word goal, and jokingly calls herself a five time loser.

Yet each year, her word count has increased.

“What’s helped me [improve] is to think of it on a chapter by chapter basis,” she revealed. “Don’t think of it as an entire novel at once — think of it as writing one chapter at a time.”

Contact Katie King at (540) 574-6271 or

Get Inspired

■ Started in 1999 by a small group in California, NaNoWriMo now has participants all across the globe.

■ More than 100 NaNoWriMo novels have been released by traditional publishing houses.

■ Water for Elephants, a NaNoWriMo novel, made The New York Times Best Seller list and became a major motion picture.

Want To Write A Novel?

■ Sign up for NaNoWriMo at

■ Attend the write-in from 2-5 p.m. Nov. 9 in Room 109 at James Madison University’s Carrier Library.

■ Attend the write-in from 2-5 p.m. Nov. 17 in Rose Library Room 3311.