National Novel Writing Month began in 1999 with just 21 participants. Since then it's grown to more than 200,000, including two regular members of Houston Press's Gothic Council, Sarah Fanning and Carmilla Voiez.
The rule of the contest are simple. You have from November 1 to November 30 to turn in 50,000 words through the contest's website. Whether that constitutes a completed novel or simple the beginning of a larger work is up to you. 50,000 words may seem a bit short, but it easily puts you in the same category as the Great Gatsby, Brave New World, and the Hitchiker's Guide to the Galaxy. Some big sellers have come out of the annual event, including Sara Gruen's Water for Elephants and Erin Morgenstern's the Night Circus.
Voiez herself has been launched into publication from NaNoWriMo (an acronym we mistook for the latest Coldplay album). Her critically acclaimed book Starblood, a violent and bloody tale of the demon Lilith coming to Earth to wreak sexual havoc, was her first entry in the contest in 1999. Last year she used the contest to pen the second part of her trilogy, still awaiting editing for publication, and she'll finish the trilogy this year.
"It's broken my dry spell," said Voiez. "I've been suffering from depression this year and with my meds and the stress I'm under I haven't written in months. I decided I had to do this and I'm delighted I did. Writing is great for my mental health."
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Voiez's enthusiasm from NaNoWriMo convinced fellow Gothic Council member Sarah Fanning to join in. Fanning has an English Literature degree and employees her writing skills on behalf of the federal government. Fanning attempted to participate in 2010, but failed to meet the 50,000 word mark. However, this year she feels much more confident in the endeavor.
"I love watching my story transform from a loose outline into a real narrative, rough, though it is," said Fanning. "I also love discovering new characters that invent themselves out of thin air as I write. It is magical. It also gives me a real sense of accomplishment."
Her tale also takes a distinctly dark and paranormal path. It's the story of a ghost that comes to the aid of a woman trapped in an abusive relationship.
Both women realize that the purpose of NaNoWriMo is to jumpstart the creative process by providing an air of competition to aspiring writers. Their novels will be put aside for a while once the November 30 deadline is met in order to give some space and perspective before editing and submitting to publication. For Voiez, it's likely that we'll see her books available for digital download soon from Stone Circle since her initial novel was so well received. We hope that Fanning will also be able to find someone willing to distribute her work upon completion. In the meantime we continue to follow her words at the blog Night's Plutonian Shore.