Seventy-two Columbia Falls Junior High School students put together more than 600,000 words in novels this November as part of a global writing project.
As part of National Novel Writing Month, students around the world learned the elements of novel-writing, planned their story and put together more than 343 million words.
The goal for each student was to put at least 10,000 words into their computer beginning with the novel’s “set up” followed by the “rising action” that leads to the “inciting” incident, or climax, followed by the “falling action” that leads to the novel’s concluding resolution, according to English teacher Rubianna Masa.
Genres ran the gamut from realistic fiction to fantasy and science fiction, she said. Students filled out questionnaires in a text provided by NaNoWritMo Young Writers Program that helped them choose characters and compose their novel in a three-act structure.
Students were able to use nine 90-minute classes at the junior high to get their work done, but many had to work at home, too, Masa said. Students without a computer could go to the public library, but on Nov. 30, the final day, Masa stayed until 5:30 p.m. so students could finish up work with school computers.
Three students wrote 20,000-plus-word novels, and one student had 28,172 words. Masa said. The 35 students who met the 10,000-word goal will get five hardback copies of their work published for free. They can use CreateSpace self-publishing software to make cover art, she said. Next up is revision work. The students will get their books before June, Masa said.
Steven DeCamp said he wrote a football story in which the main character’s parents die and the coach adopts him, but they have a falling out after an argument.
“Four years later in college, his team goes undefeated,” DeCamp said.
Kendra King wrote a realistic fiction novel about a family in Washington that’s “spiraling down” because the mother has died. Then a brother gets involved with a bad guy that leads to drugs, drinking and gambling.
“The main character, a 15-year-old girl, shoots the bad buy in the heat of the moment,” King said. “Nobody finds out because the family comes together and makes it look like a suicide.”
Cody Casazza wrote a sci-fi tale about survivors after aliens have invaded Earth. The main character, 14-year-old George, manages to kill one of the top aliens but is later killed.
“It was a sacrifice,” Casazza said.
In his realistic fiction novel, Jayden Decker has a bear attack his main character, 32-year-old Kendra, while she’s in the Rocky Mountains with her husband and two children. Decker has been hunting for two years and is familiar with the subject matter.
“They eventually track down the bear and kill it,” he said. The bear ended up a trophy mount.
Kade Johnstone said getting 10,000 words on the computer in one month was harder than he thought. He conceded he’s not great at keyboarding but “sometimes it went really fast for a moment, like 10,000 words in a second.”
Ryan Kjensrud said the speed of his input depended on his mood. He said the planning was difficult as he kept changing ideas, but it got better once he stuck to one idea. His novel was a mystery that depended on clues that tied together.
Owen Shipp said writing his novel wasn’t so difficult, as it moved from humor to melancholy to adventure with small climaxes.
“It had more than one happy ending,” he said.
Masa started her teaching career 12 years ago in School District 6 as a paraeducator. She taught English for several years at Helena Flats and then returned to Columbia Falls to teach three years at Glacier Gateway Elementary School. She now teaches eighth-grade English and seventh-grade title literature.
She’s a member of Authors of the Flathead and found out about the NaNoWritMo Young Writers Program online. Masa has written a young adult fantasy novel and said she wrote 30,000 words as part of the program this November.