Want to write a novel? NaNoWriMo & the CA Capitol Book Festival can help

By Meghan Sullivan

Have you always wanted to write a novel? Or are you a writer that needs that little push to finish (or start) a project that has been “shelfed”?  They say there is no time like the present and November is a month dedicated specifically to writers!

National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo ) is totally a thing! Between 12:01 am on November 1 and 11:59 pm on November 30th writers are challenged to take the month of November to write a 50,000-word novel – It’s a great way to push yourself to ‘just write.’

(Image courtesy of National Novel Writing Month)

NaNoWriMo offers a supportive community and lots of local events to encourage you to push yourself to get those words out.  Some fairly well-known books have been published based on first drafts written during NaNoWriMo, including Erin Morgenstern’s The Night Circus and Sara Gruen’s Water for Elephants.  Is that inspiring enough to start writing?

More inspiration for participating in NaNoWriMo can be found at the first California Capitol Book Festival Oct 25-26th.  The 2014 California Capital Book Festival is a free public event featuring prize-winning authors, presentations, children’s entertainers and activities, booksellers, comics and much more.  This weekend join other book lovers in discovering new authors, books, and more at the Sacramento Convention Center.

There will be panels from New York Times best-selling authors and panels about different genres (mystery, fiction, young adult, historic fiction and so much more).  Take it from me; panels with authors are always entertaining. It’s a great chance to interact and learn about their inspirations, processes, and sometimes just humorous anecdotes.  I’ve discovered some of my most favorite novels by attending and being completely amused by author-filled panels at various conventions. Check out the California Capitol   Book Festival agenda to discover more about the different panels being offered.

The festival even features numerous sessions for would-be authors presented by authors, publishers, agents and book publishing industry insiders.  Topics include:

  • Preparing to write
  • Essential writing tips
  • Traditional publishing
  • Self-publishing
  • Selling your book
  • Tales from new authors
  • Joining a writer’s organization

Attending some of these sessions may help you start, finish, and even publish that 50,000-word novel you write next month.  In fact, at a panel on Saturday, you can meet Jessica Taylor and Kelly Loy Gilbert, two authors with novels coming out next year that began as quick and dirty NaNoWriMo drafts.  Kelly Loy Gilbert, who also happens to be on the NaNoWriMo Associate Board, had this to say about her upcoming novel, Conviction, and its relationship to NaNoWriMo:

“Conviction is about a sixteen-year-old boy who faces an unthinkable choice when his father is accused of murdering a police officer. I wrote it originally NaNoWriMo-style–a quick and ugly first draft as fast as I possibly could.  For me, so much of the story comes in later drafts–uncovering the characters, getting to the heart of the story–that I like to have just a rough beginning to work with.  Conviction began as a completely different story, and it wasn’t until I worked through several drafts that the characters’ motivations and the plot came together, and the characters began to explore the things they do now–faith, family, unconditional loyalty.  The first draft of the story is unrecognizable now, but I know it was necessary to build from.”

And that’s part of the beauty and challenge of NaNoWriMo.  You have to learn to turn off your inner editor and just write.  Gilbert has found NaNoWriMo to be extremely challenging (though she participated twice she never actually completed the challenged).  Gilbert has said, “I hate the feeling of writing myself into a corner, or writing exploratory scenes that I know will get deleted eventually.  It’s taken a long time for me to learn that all those parts of writing are necessary, and that the awful first drafts form the backbone of the completed project.”

Meet Gilbert at The Fifteeners panel at the California Capitol Book Festival  on Saturday.

Gilbert said,  “we’d love to see everyone there–it’s an absurdly talented group of writers who happen to be wonderful people as well, and we’ll be discussing our journey to publication and then mingling with attendees (and we might have some advance copies of our books to give away, too!)”

Book festlogo7

Even if you aren’t planning to write a novel, there is still plenty of entertainment to be had at the 2014 California Capitol Book Festival.  The convention floor will have 100+ exhibitors including everything from Barnes & Noble, to independent bookstores, rare book exhibits and sales, publishers with their authors their signing their books and more.  There will also be three themed alleys (Culinary Delights, Kids Alley, Field of Sports, and All Things Pets) with specialized events, exhibits, and activities.  Kids Alley will have some fantastic presentations and readings by children’s authors.  Wells Fargo will have period-costumed actors reading about Gold Rush and stagecoach history and giving away free books. Sounds like a good time to me.

Check out the website for more information about the Festival including information on the numerous authors that will be in attendance, including New York Times Best-Selling authors John Lescroart, Peter Melhman, Brenda Novak, Cara Black, Rhys Bowen, and Teresa Rhyne.  And be sure to head out to the Convention Center this weekend to check out this truly amazing free event.  After all, it’s the last free weekend before you spend a month feverishly toiling away and finally writing that brilliant story locked away in your head. Get out and enjoy it with fellow book lovers.  And let me know if you decide to try to write the novel of the century (or at least of November 2014).



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