Getting the words out

HOUGHTON – Paula McCambridge found out about the National Novel Writing Month from some friends a few years ago, and in 2012, she decided to take a shot at it for a very simple and succinct reason.

“I want to write the Great American Novel,” she said.

The non-profit National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo as participants call it, officially starts Nov. 1 and ends Nov. 30.

McCambridge, who is a former Gazette staff writer and Houghton resident now living in California, said last year she got right into the writing.

“I started right on the 1st,” she said.

The goal of NaNoWriMo is for participants to write a minimum of 50,000 words during the month. The people running the event suggest participants try for a goal of about 1,700 words a day, which McCambridge said can be challenging.

“That’s a lot of words,” she said.

However, McCambridge said she persisted, but on some days she wrote fewer than 1,700 words, and on other days she wrote as many as 3,000 words to catch up.

“There’s no way to slack off,” she said. “You just have to keep on top of it.”

McCambridge said the people running NaNoWriMo provide online “pep talks,” which she said are helpful.

“They were actually very encouraging,” she said.

At first, McCambridge said some of her friends were taking part in NaNoWriMo, but they eventually dropped out.

The novel she wrote for NaNoWriMo in 2012 is called “The Porch,” McCambridge said. It’s stories of the lives of people who interact on the porch of a house. Some of the characters in the story are inspired by people she knows.

McCambridge said she wrote fiction before taking part in NaNoWriMo, but in a less intense way.

“I write short stories,” she said. “This was the first time I’ve written a draft of a novel.”

She finished her novel-writing effort with slightly more than 50,000 words by the Nov. 30 deadline, Mccambridge said. Because of that, she was acknowledged as a “winner” by NaNoWriMo and received a PDF winner’s certificate.

“Once you pass 50,000 words, you’re a winner,” she said.

McCambridge said she isn’t participating this year in NaNoWriMo, but she’s working on what she wrote last year.

“I still want to get it published,” she said. “I’m editing it. I’m reconsidering the tone.”

According to the National Novel Writing Month website,, the event started in 1999 in the San Francisco Bay area by a group of 21 people who did it “Because we wanted to make noise. Because we didn’t have anything better to do.”

In 2012, according to the website, there were 341,375 participants from countries all over the world. There were 3,288,976,325 words written, which was an increase of 7 percent from 2011.

In many communities, the NaNoWriMo has what are called Municipal Liaisons, who act as a host for local events relating to NaNoWriMo, and the ML in Houghton is Rebecca Frost.

Frost, who is a seeking a master’s degree in rhetoric and technical communications at Michigan Technological University, said this year will be her fourth consecutive time taking part in the NaNoWriMo. She heard about the event when she was an undergraduate at Kalamazoo College in Kalamazoo, Mich.

“My best friend told me she was getting into it,” Frost said.

However, at that time, Frost said she chose not to take part. She started her grad work at Tech in 2008, and in 2010, she decided to get involved with NaNoWriMo, but it wasn’t her first effort at fiction writing.

“I was always writing on the side,” she said.

She wrote her first novel when she was 15 years old, Frost said. It involved a princess.

“It’s very Disney,” she said. “It’s very cute.”

Frost said her first NaNoWriMo novel was about an alternate Earth inhabited by gargoyles, fairies and witches.

“The story revolves around an all-powerful witch,” she said.

The story also has a serial-killer vampire, Frost said. Her next two novels involved a female thief in a medieval setting, and a dystopian future where a newspaper is sent back in time to warn people about a pending plague in the hopes they can be prepared for it.

Frost is set to go with her next NaNoWriMo effort on Nov. 1.

“This year I’m writing about (a female) anti-Christ,” she said.

As the local ML, Frost said she’ll be hosting write-ins at 7 p.m. Mondays at Cyberia Cafe in Houghton where participants talk about their novels, including problems they may be having. In the past, those write-ins were sparsely attended some years, and some years they were very-well attended.

“Last year we had a whole bunch of people,” she said.

Besides the online pep talks, Frost said the people at NaNoWriMo will help people interested in getting published.

“They provide novel after care,” she said.

Frost said a daily goal of 1,667 words by participants was suggested by NaNoWriMo because in 30 days it adds up to 50,000 words, but it’s understood not everybody will be able reach that daily amount.

“It’s normal to have some awesome days and days when you say, ‘I don’t want to write this at all,'” she said.

Frost said in all four of her NaNoWriMo efforts she finished with more than the 50,000 word minimum. In 2010 and 2012, she wrote 120,000 words and in 2011, she wrote a whopping 180,000 words.

“That’s 6,000 words a day,” she said.

Frost said new this year with NaNoWriMo is an Overachievers Section for those who surpass the 50,000 word minimum.

“It’s acknowledging we’re all different,” she said.

Frost said she obviously wants to get her work for her degree at Tech published, but she has no interest in getting her fiction published.

“For me it’s more the fun of writing,” she said. “It’s really exciting and energizing to have other people writing with you.”

McCambridge said taking part in the NaNoWriMo isn’t only for people who want to make a living as a writer, but it does require serious effort.

“I think anyone can do it if they’re diligent,” she said.