As the first day of November passed, junior Donna Craven from Great Bend counted about 800 words already written for her novel; she has 49,200 words and 27 days to go.

It’s the second time Craven is participating in National Novel Writing Month, during which writers take on the challenge of completing a 50,000-word novel in 30 days. Participants who submit their novel to NaNoWriMo’s website by the end of the month can win paperback copies of their novel as well as softcover and Kindle formatted copies.

In 2012 Craden completed a science fiction novel about a mutant girl for NaNoWriMo. This year, Craven is writing about a girl in her first year of college and how she tries to fit in with her new roommate’s crowd. Craven said she found herself mainly writing stories centered on a heroine whom she can easily relate to, and that she came up with the subject by simply brainstorming and writing.

“I’ll picture a scene and think, ‘that’s interesting and that could be an interesting character,’ ” Craven said. “Once I have that scene and that character, whether that’s the beginning of my story or the final scene, everything just revolves up to the point.”

Craven said became interested in writing in middle school. She wrote short stories for class. When she came to college, a friend told her about NaNoWriMo. Once she tried it, she was hooked.

 “It’s just a really fun experience. You have your word goal of 50,000 and that’s your only rule,” Craven said. “So it’s really fun to just be able to have that limitless opportunity with what you want to do.”

To make a 50,000-word novel a reality by the end of the month, she said other commitments suffer in November. In balancing writing on top of 15-hour work week and 15 credit hours, Craven said relationships fall second to writing.

 “Friends, family, they all take a hit when it comes to spending time together, because that time goes towards writing,” Craven said. “NaNoWriMo involves lots of promises to hang out in December after the pressure's off.”

To avoid losing time, Craven said she keeps a notebook or her phone with her wherever she goes so she can work on her novel when she has spare time throughout the day.

 “Ten or 15 minutes can be 100 words if you’re useful with it,” Craven said.

Kristin Soper, Lawrence Public Library events and programming coordinator and 2004 University alum, said the struggle with this event is not only finding the time to write but also allowing yourself to write. Soper is also participating in NaNoWriMo.

 “A big challenge is turning off your internal editor and getting over that block,” Soper said. “If you get behind, you can use that as an excuse to not complete your novel.”

Soper said having a community of writers can help writers finish their novels. The Lawrence Public Library holds write-ins every Tuesday from 6-9 p.m. when participants can work together on stories.

With the help of write-ins and coffee, Craven plans on finishing her second novel in NaNoWriMo. Although Craven will have to sacrifice much sleep during November, she said the feeling of completing a novel is worth the stress and that she hopes to get some of her novels published in the future.

"It’s a huge accomplishment at the end of the month to look back and you have this huge word document filled with things that you wrote,” Craven said. “None of those things existed 30 days ago.”

— Edited by Yu Kyung Lee




Excerpt of Craven’s Novel:


“You can tell yourself that, but I know that you’re hurt, Kyra. You're my sister, I have a sense for these things.” He stood up from the couch and strode over to the other side of the kitchen counter. I couldn’t look away from him without it being a silent admission that he was right, but looking at the pity in his face was painstaking. “I am so sorry.”


I shook my head. “Nothing is your fault.”


“Sometimes apologies aren’t about fault.”


I rolled my eyes as if to brush him off, but had to take a deep breath to steady myself anyway. “What do you want me to say, Ryan? I opened myself up. I shouldn’t have. I just should have focused on school or whatever.”


“He may forgive you. He was crazy about you when he visited over break. I could tell. And I heard him tell you he loved you, Ky. Seemed like he meant it.”


“I can’t indefinitely wait for him, that's just pointless. Love isn't a feeling, it doesn't make someone crazy, that's just naive. Love is a choice, and a choice to continue to choose that person. And the worst part about it is that one day, that person might choose not to love you anymore. They don’t "fall" out of love, that's a bunch of crap. They very neatly step out, and you’re just left standing in the midst of the ruins, watching them walk away. And he stepped out of our relationship."


"He didn't even say why?"


At this I paused. Because he had, for a second, given me the briefest of explanations. The things that's she's mentioned... the things that's she's filled me in on, Kyra. I just can't believe some of them, I don't want to. But it all makes sense. The questions he would ask out of the blue. How she would know details about us before I told her. The smile across her face when she would see us together - was that happy, or smug? "Oh my gosh. He trusted her more than me."




"She did this. She did this, Ryan. She's been playing us all along." Setting us up. All of our dates. Giving me 'advice.' Befriending him, in the process. We both trusted her. "We were just her chess pieces."


"Who are you talking about?"




"Your roommate?"


"The one and only."