In November, Ball State English kicked off its first ever National Novel Writing Month competition amongst its faculty, students, friends, and alumni. Our writers warred against each other at weekly Monday Write-Ins, pushing their word counts higher than ever before. Weekly word champions were announced via Twitter.

Cumulatively, our 20 participants wrote a combined total of more than 350,000 words.

What about the overall winners? In our initial blog post, we stated that there would be two winners:

  • the first to reach 50,000 words
  • the person to write the most words overall

With NaNoWriMo officially over, we are pleased to announce those winners.

Ball State English is pleased to crown Alyssa Nobbe and Carie McMichael our NaNoWriMo champions!

During the month of November, Alyssa was the first to reach the 50,000 word goal! Alyssa is an Elementary Education major with a minor in Creative Writing here at Ball State, and is originally from Brownsburg, Indiana.

Photo provided by Alyssa Nobbe

Photo provided by Alyssa Nobbe

Carie McMichael wrote the most words overall, pushing her word count over 53,000! Carie is a junior creative writing major at Ball State, and is originally from Greenfield, Indiana.

Photo provided by Carie McMichael

Photo provided by Carie McMichael

Following their victories, we asked Alyssa and Carie a few questions.

So, ladies: what’s your NaNoWriMo process?

Alyssa: If anyone has participated in NaNoWriMo, they may know about the terms “planner” and “pantser.”

Planner: a writer with an outline and character sketches, who knows exactly where their novel is going before November 1.

Pantser: a writer who goes “by the seat of their pants,” often with no outline, and only a brief inkling of where the novel is going

I find my process is a weird anomaly somewhere in between. I get a basic idea outline formed and then go for it. I always make sure to play music going with the story as well.

Carie: I’ve participated in NaNoWriMo in previous years, but I have never completed the 50,000 word goal, not even close. I would always cop out around 10,000 words. This year, I was determined.

Per the rules, I did not actually begin writing until November 1st, but in the week prior, I planned everything, from plot to characters to timeline, so that I would know exactly what was going to happen from the first word to the 50,000th word.

The more you plan, the less likely you’ll find yourself sitting blank-faced in front of the word processor, at a loss for what’s going to happen next. When that happens, your word count gets off schedule, first for one day, then two, then three, and before you know it, you’ve abandoned the NaNoWriMo challenge.

How did you find the motivation to write 50,000 words?

Alyssa: I truthfully have a hard time every now and then with motivation. Actually, the motivation that came to me during NaNoWriMo was through determination to prove to myself and others that I could do it. Since school work had bogged me down so bad, I was thousands behind. A couple of people began talking as if they thought I was already done for.

So the moment I turned in my last project of the week, I made it my mission to not just conquer NaNo, but also to win the competition.

I sat every day in the Cup in my little corner and typed like crazy. Even when I was blocked, I forced myself to write, whether it was crap or not. When I was only five thousand away from winning, an excitement formed and I decided that I was not going to sleep until I finished my word count.

I went to bed at four in the morning, feeling prouder than ever before.

Carie: In order to reach the goal in 30 days, you have to write 1667 words every day, but I also had a plan for the hectic life of a student, in case I needed to study, or I needed a writing break to hang out with friends. I tried to come as close to doubling the daily word count each day, building in days for myself where I would forget to write or where life would get in the way.

I was able to write about 53,000 words by November 30th, but the novel is not over yet. I want to have it published, so I’ll continue to work on it until I think it is worthy to send out.

Do you have any tips or tricks to offer future writers?

Alyssa: Never give up, of course, is the best advice. Nothing is impossible.

Something I learned was this trick of finding your writing spot. I went every day to the Cup in the Village, even though I never really went to coffee shops before, mostly because I hate coffee. I would buy a Chai latte and sit in the coffee shop every day. I ended up befriending everyone at the Cup.

Finding that spot of mine formed a secure spot that helped me push through. The people who were regulars and those who worked there provided my mental breaks along with my needed encouragement. Without them and my writing spot, I don’t think I would have been able to do it.

So, other than “never give up,” I would suggest that writers find their “nest of writing,” so to speak.

Carie: My advice to writers, especially where NaNoWriMo is concerned, would be to Never. Give. Up. Keep pushing through the daily word count, because when you complete NaNoWriMo, you’ll have a body of work you can revise to your heart’s content. If you complete your work and send it out, publishers or magazines may reject you, or they may publish you. If you give up, or you never try, you will never know.

As long as you keep trying, you will never know defeat.

Thanks, Alyssa and Carie. Congratulations!