Blake writers sprint to finish novel-writing challenge in one month

Taking on a challenge not meant for the faint of heart, English teacher Monica Saxton and freshman Marcela Jones-Moreno race against the clock to complete 50,000 words of their manuscripts for National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo).

Following the journey of an undercover young female assassin traversing present-day Germany to hunt down a man that grows to become a father figure to her, Jones-Moreno’s young adult adventure novel Parental Bond aims to explore the importance of family through the protagonist’s developing relationship with the man she is assigned to kill. Though the book had only reached a word count of 35,000 by the end of November, Jones-Moreno plans to continue her writing momentum into 2019 and hopes to finish her manuscript in February.

Expanded from a short story Ms. Saxton created in 2013 while working towards her Masters’ degree in Creative Writing, Stilettos and a Switchblade is an adult romance novel centered on the budding relationship between a private investigator skeptical of love and a bartender that’s eager to settle down.

Having almost exclusively written short stories in the past, Ms. Saxton’s experience working on such a lengthy project was a new one. With approximately 13,700 words for her book completed by November 30, she expresses satisfaction with the progress she has made. “I might not [be] anywhere close to 50,000 words, but it’s more that I’ve written for anything else so I’m happy with that,” she says.

Although Ms. Saxton’s work as an English teacher had aided her with her writing in terms of grammar and syntax, she voices that in a way it also hindered her from meeting her word count at the pace she wanted. Stemming from years of grading and carefully editing her students’ work, Ms. Saxton must overcome her tendency to prioritize revising her work before writing in order to churn out the pages for her novel fast enough for her liking.

“The perfectionist in me wants everything to be right as I go forward, but with NaNoWriMo, I’ve had to get myself out of that mindset and not care about whether my [writing] makes sense at first,” she adds.

One major obstacle NaNoWriMo participants must also conquer is finding the time to write on top of having busy schedules. For Jones-Moreno, that means adjusting her schedule to prioritize writing while still juggling her babysitting duties as an older sister and side passions like boxing, drawing, and making music.

“It can be challenging to work all of that into having a few hours to yourself for just writing, so I’m learning to [manage] my time wisely,” says Jones-Moreno. “If I’m going to write a book, I have to set a timeline for myself so that I don’t waste too much time dilly-dallying.”