Arts & Culture News

Every November, a Writing Group Is Making Published Authors Out of Locals

Author Krystal Craiker with her books, which she says she finished thanks to NaNiWriMo's writing sessions.
Author Krystal Craiker with her books, which she says she finished thanks to NaNiWriMo's writing sessions. Michael Dunn
Although they often write in self-imposed solitude, this month, scribes will have a chance to get ... well ... Zoom together for some all-nighter writing sessions.

November is National Novel Writing Month and NaNoWriMoers nationwide will be jotting down 50,000 words before the clock strikes midnight on Nov. 30.

“I had been creating worlds and stories and characters inside my head for as long as I can remember,” says Krystal Craiker, who thought about several characters for nearly five years before giving NaNoWriMo a try. “I decided to finally turn it into a book. I didn’t really have a plot. I just had a fantasy world and a couple of characters.”

Craiker grew up in Mesquite, went to school in Arlington and has lived in Dallas proper for over a year. An avid reader who had a poem published by sixth grade, she studied anthropology and archaeology before earning a teaching certificate and becoming an instructor at an at-risk high school in Irving. Although she loved teaching, Craiker says she “wanted more freedom and creative freedom,” so she started freelancing as a writer. With more time on her hands, she also joined a NaNoWriMo group.

“It’s the first time I’d ever actually completed a book,” she says. “I had little dabblings, little dabbles of stories here and there, but nothing I had ever really committed to.”

Since then, the 30-year-old has written a trio of adult fantasy novels, Scholars of Elandria, which she describes as gateway fantasy.

“They’re shorter,” she says. “They’re bite-sized. They’re more focused on the story than lots and lots of world-building and lots of description.”

“The community is where NaNoWriM0 is at ... All these people working toward the same goal as you and you just bounce off of each other’s creativity.” – Novelist Krystal Craiker

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Craiker, who started freelancing professionally in 2016, gave novel writing a try after attending a panel discussion in 2013. There, she says people kept saying they wanted to write a book and asking the panelists what to do. Several authors suggested NaNoWriMo. While Craiker didn’t really have time to write a novel, at the time, she says she did spend some time trying to find her personal voice.

“When I wrote my first book, I had set up, like, this really cute office,” she says, describing a writing space complete with a comfy chair and a desk by a window. However, an undiagnosed case of fibromyalgia made it difficult for her to sit for extended stretches of time.

“I wrote my whole first book pretty much on my couch with my two dogs next to me,” she says. “Pre- COVID, I loved going to cafes and stuff like that to write.”

Craiker’s also an avid cook and baker, who loves board games and hanging out with friends, but her biggest hobby, she says, is volunteering for NANOWRIMO helping to keep writers informed and motivated.

“The community is where NaNoWriM0 is at,” she says. “All these people working toward the same goal as you and you just bounce off of each other’s creativity.”

Local freelancer Casey Lynne, 24, says she had heard about NaNoWriMo while in college, but last year was the first time she actually sat down and completed the process. The result was a complete first draft of her fantasy novel Wander which she says follows “a rebellious prince who sees injustice in his city and wants to rectify it in the way that he is able to.”

Craiker says it’s important for writers to keep a steady pace and not worry about keeping up with other people.

“The most important thing, I think, is to lock up your inner editor,” she says. “It’s just about getting words on the page. If you’re constantly going back saying, you know, I don’t like that [and] I don’t like that. You’re never going to finish a book.

“You want to write a book for a reason,” she continues. “That story wants to be out in the world.”
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