Congratulations, National Novel Writing Month Winners

Here we are, one short month after our Kickoff Teleclass and we’re ready to celebrate two members of the Write Directions community and their fledgling novels.

After enrolling in our fall workshop, “I have a Great Idea for a Book — Now What?” Jim Skyrms and Bill Edwards both signed on to write a full 50,000 words during National Novel Writing Month. A bit exhausted and behind on their holiday shopping, both have rejoined us in December as NaNoWriMo winners. Could we be more proud?!

Here are their experiences in their own words.

Jim Skyrms

Jim Skyrms, NaNoWriMo Winner Why would anyone try to write 50,000 words of (reasonably) coherent fiction in 30 days? And why, for goodness sakes, in November when the weather gets unpredictable and unpleasant, and your holiday obligations just keep popping up and sucking away at your time.

Here are a few reasons:

Writing is a very lonely vocation; NaNoWriMo is a community activity. It’s not required that you write with other people, but I would recommend it. There’s a certain power in knowing there are two or three or ten other people in the same room who have undertaken the same ridiculous challenge you have. That’s not to mention the 2,038 people writing novels in Maryland this year, or the more than 400,000 people writing all over the globe. That’s a lot of solidarity. Embrace it.

Writing is good for the mind and soul. Your word count has nothing to do with whether you should consider your efforts successful or not. Creating a story that has never been told is a powerfully creative and affirmative act. Whether you write 60,000 words in November or only 2500, you’ll end up with something entirely new that you created. In many cases, it will be the most creative thing you’ve done in a long time.

Then there’s the deadline. Thirty days. 720 hours. That deadline is a scary thing.  But when you need to get that last 400 words for the day it’s a lot easier to force your butt into the chair at 11:30 at night when you’ve told everyone you know that you’re writing a novel in November. You deserve a Medal of Valor just for coming clean about that.

Participating in National Novel Writing month is exhilarating and frustrating, exhausting and energizing, very challenging and lots of fun. It reminds you of the power of deadlines and frivolity of planning just exactly how you will meet those deadlines. It reveals the very real weaknesses in the things you think you do well and surprises you with things you never thought you could do.

Everyone—no exceptions—should plan to take the NaNoWriMo challenge at least once. You won’t believe what you can create.

Bill Edwards

Bill Edwards, NaNoWriMo WinnerI’ve been interested in becoming a published writer for decades, but, like many, my progress has been in a “Start…Stop (Real Life Matters To Contend With)…Restart…Rinse…Repeat” cycle. I had written some small works over the years, even sailing along with one story as a true “pantser” (I knew what my story was about and I didn’t need no stinking plotting as a guideline). Sure enough, Real Life derailed the train, and the stories were never completed.

Over time, I figured out it wasn’t that the “writing train had been derailed” but that I did not understand what I was doing; I didn’t know how to write, let alone the “why” of writing and how to plan to write. In my mind, A Great Writer had all of this figured out. I bought books on novel writing (because I was going to be a Novelist!), plot and structure, and writing “blockbuster” plots, and I scanned each edition of Writer’s Digest for hidden pearls on how to just Get Started, for Heaven’s sake!

Then a series of events occurred that were more fortunate than I realized. First, I heard of National Novel Writing Month, recommended to me by an author friend. My first attempt at NaNoWriMo was not a rousing success, but it gave me hints on how to get started, how to plan and recognize my progress, and other details that I didn’t know existed. Then I enrolled in a series of writing classes held by Beth Conny ( so that the actual business process of becoming a writer was explained. Over time, and with Beth’s support, my confidence in writing grew. When NaNoWriMo came around again, I was much more successful in polishing my craft. I’m not a Novelist, but I am a Writer!

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