By: Irisa Lee & Arti Patankar
In the November issue, the Smoke Signal featured several MSJ students who participated in National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) in which writers have one month to write a 50,000 word work. We spoke to them, as well as alumnae participants, about the subjects, genres, and inspirations of their novels:
“First one was a fantasy about peasants who revolt magic-using nobles, second was a loosely connected novel with a common theme of being nicer to people … it’s about people who see too many problems and become kinder by accepting these problems. This year’s novel is a loosely connected novel taking a new perspective on the biased symbolism of light and a largely-flawed world reflecting that symbolism.” –Alex Chen, 11
“[My NaNoWriMo novel] was called “To Kill a Songbard”. It was about a mischievous traveling bard who would evade execution and an empire’s worth of guards for his own gain. Eventually getting himself wrapped up in a small group of adventurers trying to save the world, and ruining his perfectly reasonable self-centered life.” –Alex Hancock, 12
“My first novel that I wrote for NaNoWriMo in 2011 was a science fiction work about a group of space commandos getting trapped on a freaky planet ruled by a primordial being called Sandman. I’m not very fond of it personally, and I usually consider my first work to be my novel I wrote from December 2012 to April 2013. It’s about 74,000 words or 200-250 pages long. After reading the James Joyce novel, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, I was inspired to write a bildungsroman about a very bored young man who drops out of college in pursuit of adventure. The story involves him driving around the country, meeting people and having absurd conversations, and it kind of reads like a confessional journal by a semi-literate adolescent who’s overdosed on Nietzsche and Faulkner. I’d originally intended for it to be a bleak novel which didn’t have any great change or silver lining, but it came out being a lot funnier and more bittersweet.” –Kushal Chatterjee, 12
“I’m basically rewriting and continuing a story that I started in junior high with a group of friends. It was a role-playing fantasy with a jumbled medieval setting, but the characters and personalities were distinct because different people wrote each part.
Last year’s was using that old story as the legends of a modern-day fantasy (slightly styled after The Dresden Files). This year I’m continuing the story, because a lot of last year was trying to follow the legends and connect them to the modern characters.
I’ve thought about going back and finishing the legends, but it’s interesting to leave them be.” –Darren Li, 12
“My novels have included storylines like one dealing with fate, time theory and the afterlife, and another with a main character whose every subconscious wish came true. I tend to add a little element of fantasy because it gives me a bit more to write about and removes me from the real world, which can make binge-writing for NaNo a surprisingly liberating experience.” –Lucy Shen, Alumna
“My novel in 2009 was–embarrassingly–a love story between a criminal and a terminally ill woman; my novel in 2011 was a fantasy/sci-fi novel about a school full of kids with superpowers. Not very original, but definitely fun to write, and complain to friends about.” –Leena Yin, 12