2014 Winner of the NaNoWriMo Polly Prize: My NaNoWriMo Journey

by Smriti Verma, Age 16, India, LTC Insider Plus+ Member

“This is the most wonderful thing which has ever happened to me, and I cannot describe how lucky I feel. NaNoWriMo has been great this year, considering the fact that I haven’t been writing much. Winning the NaNoWriMo Polly Prize is much the cherry on top. I only hope that my first draft, or as Laura calls it, my lump of clay, is something worth moulding!”


Smriti Verma NaNoWriMo Polly Prize Winner 2014

Smriti Verma won the 2014 NaNoWriMo Polly Prize with this well-written essay.

I begin this essay keeping in mind the brute fact that honesty is the best policy, and that I may as well describe my tumultuous NaNoWriMo journey as honestly as possible.

The vigor, the lethargic times, the days when your brain refuses to work, and the days when it is spitting ideas left and right––there’s more to NaNoWriMo than simply writing. It is an experience, a whole in itself.

I started NaNoWriMo with an ambiguous idea––the novel, called Aves, was to be a modern adaptation of Pride and Prejudice. I had always been a fan of Jane Austen, wanting to read into the irony and the satire. However, on the third day, I was faced with not one, not many, but a sea of dilemmas––it was hard to adapt the storyline to present times, to present norms of society, and I found myself more brainstorming than writing.

So I ditched this idea and went for another one that had been swimming in my head since I had begun to read writers like Aldous Huxley and George Orwell. The gist of the idea was to drive home the belief that society and the world can never be perfect, that society takes pride in its imperfection. I begun the novel somewhat reluctantly, since the ideas I had––dystopia, female protagonist, rebellion––felt all too familiar to the plot of other novels. However, I didn’t let the fear get the better of me, since the words were mine and each sentence I wrote had been carved out of my own fine grey cells.

I had once read the most wonderful of quotes by Robert Frost: “No tears in the writer, no tears in the reader. No surprise in the writer, no surprise in the reader.” It stuck with me, and I sought to make my novel as fast-paced and thrilling as possible.

The following goes the synopsis of my 52,186-word novel Aves:

In the era of Worldly Peace, the State is the all-powerful instrument through which the oligarchy rules the global community. Characterized by liberty, sovereignty, and peace, and a fundamentally incorruptible government, the oligarchy governs the masses using subtle tools of economics, persuasion and education. Crime and war have been erased from the individual psyche, the act of individual thought is termed a disease, and its implementation is ensured through systematic use of fear. Clear of the burden of bloodshed and beliefs, the people consider themselves to be happier than ever before. Or are they?

Aves Murray is one of millions of school-going teenagers. Plagued by the act of free-thinking, obsessed with her mother’s mysterious history, and attempting to find answers in poetry, she is anything but ordinary. Slowly grasping the true nature of the society she is in, her circumstances lead her down a road she never saw coming.

I stalled during the beginning of my novel, and let other things distract me. The push I finally got to get writing was from the fact that a manuscript consultation was up for prize and I needed that to start sprinting. It was a golden opportunity, and one that may not be up for grabs ever again. Now there wasn’t a question of whether I wanted to complete my novel or not, I simply had to, and to achieve this end, I started working upon my ideas.

I learnt that while writing a novel, you cannot simply sail through it. Earlier, I used to write whenever, whatever I wanted to. But I did not get much writing done using this method. Now, I understood the importance of outlining the plot––of setting down in stone the plot of each chapter, and the thoughts of my characters. It helped to get an idea of the main theme of my novel, the general outlook. And most of all, It helped me to refrain from brainstorming each time I hit a wall, or had to fix a plot hole.

NaNoWriMo has given me back my desire for writing. To be honest, I had not written properly for a year. It taught me how to juggle school work and exams and writing––and how to adhere to a proper schedule if you want to be a writer.

I had subscribed to many writing websites that promised to help me through NaNoWriMo. But I realized that these emails promised much but did not deliver––and I needed to stop obsessing with such websites and stop getting distracted over and over again, and get writing instead. This realization helped me achieve much in terms of my writing goal.

As the days passed by, I saw I was doing much better with my writing goal than I had anticipated. I began to love my novel, and to love what I wrote. I ceased talking too much to my friends––they did not mind, because I had told them I needed to finish a novel by end of November. And the sense of closure I got while writing the last line––it was worth it. As of this moment, it gives me great satisfaction say I have a novel––a whole, complete novel––in my folder on the desktop of the computer. Knowing this fact is exhilarating.

I could go on endlessly about how I would benefit from this manuscript consultation. I remember finishing my first novel in 9th grade, the sense of happiness it gave me, but the fact remained that there was nobody to comment upon it, its flaws, its loopholes, the good parts and the bad ones. The years following, I sought writing opportunities on the Internet and a whole lot of them are lying at my feet, this being one of them.

This manuscript consultation would be a huge boost for me as an author. My perceptions do not allow me to objectively read my work, it blurs it instead. I want to be aware of the parts where I went wrong, or where my writing faltered. I want to know the perspective of the readers, to put myself in their shoes. I want to know whether the story is original or not, whether it would sell if I were to publish it one day. And finally, the fact that I would win a manuscript consultation with a published author––something that sounds too good to be true as I am writing it now––the bestowal of this incredible honour upon me would be a stepping stone for me as a writer.


Smriti writes, “I am a 16 year old writer from India, who cannot get enough of mind-blowing plots, and hence, choose to write one myself. I’m a fan of Austen, classics, sweaters, brainstorming, and books in general.”


One comment on “2014 Winner of the NaNoWriMo Polly Prize: My NaNoWriMo Journey

  1. Sana

    After reading this I feel like we have so much in common. I too have been stalling in my novel, struggling to write with my hectic schedule. For this reason, I feel a sense of pride in your accomplishment. Congratulations!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes:

<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>