” He stumbled around, trying and failing to find Brooke. Trapped in a prison of grey, he tripped on a rock jutting out from the sidewalk and crashed to the concrete. Brooke flicked her hand, and the fog solidified into a blanket of ice, sealing the hired muscle inside.”

Intrigued? So was I. Want to know what happens next? You’ll have to wait until the end of November, when the novel from which this paragraph was excerpted is complete.

November is National Novel Writing Month, where more than 300,000 people around the world pick up a pen or sit down before a keyboard and commit to writing a full-length novel before Dec. 1.

All eighth-grade English students at Kenilworth Junior High Schol in Petaluma now participate in what is fondly referred to as “NaNoWriMo.” The goal for adults is to complete a 50,000-word novel in a month. Students participating in the Young Writers Program get to set their own goal.

lance writing 1Thirteen-year-old student Lance Sunshine, whose writing is quoted at the beginning of this post,  set his word count goal at  25,000, and as the end of the month approaches he’s spending upwards of three and four hours a day over his Thanksgiving break to meet the goal and finish the novel.

He estimates he’s about 60 percent of the way to his 25,000-word goal and that he’ll need to write about 1,5000 words a day between now and Dec. 1 to accomplish it.

But, he doesn’t seem to mind giving up his holiday free time to do so.

“It’s a lot of fun,” he said.

Sunshine has always loved reading fantasy novels as well as writing. He chose to write a fantasy novel because  “you can write whatever your  imagination wants you to write. The stuff I can’t do in real life that I think would be cool, I put that in the book.”

His novel tells the story of four students who each have a secret power: Control over one of the Earth’s four elements. The four learn about each other’s abilities by accident at school one day. Then, they have to  team up to evade a nameless corporation that knows about their powers and wants to apprehend them.

Sunshine and his classmates spend October preparing to write their novels, planning out their characters and plot lines under his teacher, Laura Bradley’s,  guidance.

Now, Sunshine feels like he’s getting acquainted with his characters.

“They’re still kind of emerging, but I think I know them pretty well.”

Sometimes, he suffers from every author’s dreaded nemesis – writer’s block. At that point, he turns to tools his teacher taught him, like changing locations in the house, taking a break or re-reading his story.

Here is an excerpt from Sunshine’s work-in-progress. Check back at the end of the month for an update on the action. And, if you know a student with a great NaNoWriMo story, send it my way.

I gazed at the other battles, watching my comrades defend themselves against their massive opponents. Some of them were two against one; George was somehow holding his own against two colossal henchmen, and Flynn was surrounded by a ring of fire as he tried to separate to his two assailants. Brooke was lucky – she only had one foe to worry about. Otherwise, it would have been over for her a while ago.

            She controlled water – the problem was, she didn’t have any water to work with. The ocean was far enough away by now that she couldn’t really reach it with her power. All that she could do now was try her best not to get hurt.

            Except now, as I was watching, something flashed through her eyes – a little gleam, a spark, an idea. It was like seeing a light bulb flash above a cartoon character’s head. She reached out to the water in the air, and it responded. The mist that had obscured our attackers in the beginning now began to spiral towards Brooke’s opponent. It swirled around his head, stealing his vision. Tendrils curved around his body, circling his form and covering his entire body. A few seconds later, he was just a vague outline in a tower of gloom.

            He stumbled around, trying and failing to find Brooke. Trapped in a prison of grey, he tripped on a rock jutting out from the sidewalk and crashed to the concrete. Brooke flicked her hand, and the fog solidified into a blanket of ice, sealing the hired muscle inside.

            Brooke blew a tuft of hair out of her face and glanced towards me. “I wish I had thought of that before.”

            Then she too glared at the other skirmishes, assessing Flynn’s and George’s battles. George was tiring slightly, but he still fought back with glancing blows of his own. Flynn, though, couldn’t take it much longer. He really was in a dire situation; under attack from two giants, it was a miracle he had survived this long. Brooke and I shared a look and raced towards his fight.

            I sped forward, gliding inches above the ground. The air gave me a boost, sending me faster, faster, faster. I stuck out my foot, and it slammed into a thug at thirty miles an hour. He let out a satisfying “AAGH!” as he was launched into the air, and smashed into a wall. With a little push from the air, of course.

            He laid there for a few seconds, long enough to convince me that he was out for while. I turned my attention back to the remaining goon, who was now defending against an onslaught of mist and fire. As I watched, Brooke and Flynn got steadily closer and closer while the man began to retreat. Finally, his back was against a wall. Flames burst to life in a semicircle around the man, blocking any escape. Unfortunately, this also restricted the Brooke’s fog, and she couldn’t pull the same trick she had with her first enemy. I saw that Flynn and Brooke were beginning to get frustrated. So, before anything bad could happen, the wind picked up and launched the man into the air. Soon, he was just a speck soaring away. I imagined I could hear the splash as he plunked into the ocean.

            Flynn and Brooke stared after the man for a few moments, shocked and confused. Then I marched into their line of sight.

            “Well? In case you couldn’t see the fight or hear the grunts of pain, George is still fighting over there. So I suggest we go help out.” And I started towards George, hoping the pair behind me would follow.

            I quickly gauged George’s fight – who was winning, where I was needed. George was doing well, but not well enough. He was slowing down, and his opponents were taking advantage of it. Soon, it would be over for him.

            I figured surprise was the best tactic. The thugs were getting cocky, seeing George begin to wear down. They thought that there was no way they could be defeated – at least, not by George alone. So I leaped into the air and began to lift upwards. I looked down, deciding where I should hover and how high to go. I chose a spot and waited… then dropped.

            I fell onto one of the goons, wrapping my legs around his shoulders and using my momentum to throw him to the ground. He was knocked out cold, and I enjoyed his partner’s expression for a moment. Then, a pillar of stone rocketed out of the ground and hurtled him into the air. The column raced after the thug, and I thought that it was going to land on top of him and crush him. Seconds before impact, though, morphed into a cage and slammed down above the unconscious body of the man.