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The stories behind the stories

December 12, 2014

By now you have eaten your last leftover turkey sandwich and Thanksgiving, not to mention the month of November, is a pleasant memory.

IMG_0561A group of dedicated writers only put the nail in November’s coffin the evening of Dec. 7, 2014, at the Thank God It’s Over party, a celebration to mark the end of National Novel Writing Month.

NaNoWriMo challenges participants around the world to write 50,000 words (about 175 pages) between Nov. 1 and 11:59:59 p.m. on Nov. 30. The novel can be any genre, in any language. There is no prize for winning except for bragging rights. In fact you have to buy your own “Winner” T-shirt. So why do it? For many people who have always wanted to write a novel, NaNoWriMo is the kick in the pants they need to get going. The community that grows around the effort gives encouragement and the deadline provides motivation to persevere. For many, it’s such a satisfying experience that they participate every year.

In our “home” region of Corpus Christi, Texas, US, 107 novelists participated and wrote a total of 2,612,025 words. Not everyone “won” NaNoWrimo but in this case winning isn’t the point. What’s important is giving it a try and giving it your all, writing despite holiday dinners, house guests, bouts of the flu, writer’s block and sheer exhaustion. The stories behind the stories often rival the actual novels for drama and suspense.

NaNoWriMo 2014 winner David Carpenter’s project was “The Empyreal Queen.” David says, “I hit 50,000 words by the end of November, but I’m guessing it will take more than twice that to finish it. The second half of the story line and character arcs need a lot of work.” His project started out as a picture, a visual art prompt posted on the web site I09. “The artwork depicted a young man wearing clothes suggestive of a desert caravan, kneeling in front of a robotic pack animal, rifle in hand. David says, “It’s the kind of picture that conjures up images of adventure and derring-do, so I took the prompt and wrote a 200 word story about the character and situation depicted. I enjoyed writing it, so I decided to make it the starting point for my NaNoWriMo effort in November.” David considers the project as homage of sorts to another author that he admires, Andre Norton. “It’s a nod in the direction of an author whose work was a big influence on me in the early part of my life,” he says.

IMG_0596Deborah Gatchel attempted NaNo a couple times several years ago. This year her husband decided that she should participate. “I have been working on a trilogy, but thought I needed a break from that series, so prepped for another book that I had on the back burner,” she says. “Then, 12:01 a.m. Nov 1, I decided to go with the final book of the series. The first two weeks I did well, keeping ahead of goal most of the time and was at 25k on the 15th. Then I had to be out of town for my girls’ tournament. I came back with a migraine, so, in one and a half weeks, wrote 200 words. I got back to writing on Thanksgiving Day. I wrote the remaining 25k in four days. I met some great people during that time as we hung out together on Facebook doing writing sprints and cheering each other across the finish line. I managed to finish with two hours to spare.”

NaNoWriMo isn’t the only writing that Deborah does. Her short story Glitter and Glue ” made it to the final selection round for an anthology, “Chicken Soup for the Soul: Hope & Miracles.”

Stacey Tuley worked on “Lessons from Loss.” The book’s synopsis describes it best: “Life has a certain way of slapping us in the face when we least expect it. In the midst of these dark seasons, our inherent nature drives our wayward quest to understand the unfathomable cruelties of our world. We search without resolution for the reasons behind our anguish. If we don’t embrace some hard and seemingly unfair lessons, chances are we will not endure well. With the well being of ourselves and those we hold dear at stake, we are given no choice in the matter. We can’t undo tragedies, we can’t bring back loved ones that we have lost, we can’t always reverse the illness that we find ourselves and our loved ones in the midst of. So what do we do?” Stacey says that in her writing “I am sharing my experience, strength, and hope so that perhaps it may help on your life’s journey. The events of 2004 drastically changed my life personally, as well as my family’s life. We will never be the same. Our journey of healing and restoration continues, but with each challenge we look to God, our constant, faithful, and steady source of strength. Praying that you are strengthened on your journey and that you will be equipped to handle what life throws your way as you embrace these lessons from loss.”

NaNoWriMo projects will not necessarily see the light of day. There’s absolutely no guarantee that the novel will ever be published. A NaNoWriMo novel isn’t even long enough to interest most publishers. Although there have been successful novels that are roughly 50,000 words long, most commercial novels run from 65,000 to 100,000 words or more.

Many writers, however, continue writing long after NaNoWriMo is over and do go onto share their writing. All three of my published novels, “The Lost King,” “The King’s Ransom” and “The King’s Redress” began as NaNoWriMo projects. For NaNoWriMo 2014 I wrote 50,896 words toward Book Four in that series, working title “The Redoubt,” and hope to have it finished and between covers by Summer 2015.

Think you might like to stop talking about that novel you’ve always wanted to write and actually start writing it? Target NaNoWriMo 2015 or consider Camp NaMoWriMo held in April and July. Visit and for more information. I’ll see you there.

5 Comments leave one →
  1. April 29, 2015 4:03 am

    Hello Ms. Deborah,

    I hope you are doing well. I’m not sure whether or not you are the same Deborah Gatchel who wrote the wonderful story “Glitter and Glue,” from a recently published book by the Chicken Soup for the Soul series, Hope and Miracles. The story, however, touched my heart and soothed my soul in a very positive way.

    Best wishes,
    Hamza Hassan
    Saudi Arabia


    • April 29, 2015 2:13 pm

      I’m not that same Deborah but she is in my writer group and you’re right. She’s an astounding writer. I’ll pass along your compliments.


      • April 30, 2015 1:11 am

        Sorry, Deborah, for confusion and misunderstanding. Thank you so much for your help to forward my email to her. In the meantime, I sent a message to another lady who has the same name to her LinkedIn page and I’m just waiting for her response. I will let you know.


      • April 30, 2015 6:59 am

        No problem at all. I passed your comments on to Deborah and that made her day.


      • April 30, 2015 7:24 am

        Thank you so much, Deborah, for your kindness.


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