By Josh Deakin
There are other Maine authors than Stephen King. A new author is born every day and the National Novel Writing Month challenge brings the best out of them. The challenge has garnered a massive following by writers from all over, all trying to do the unthinkable: write a fifty thousand word first draft of a novel in one month. Many begin the challenge each year and the numbers gradually taper off until only a few stand with a complete first draft of a novel in hand.
National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo, has become a yearly tradition for local author Dave Barrett after learning of the challenge back in 2007 on the radio. “It seemed like an interesting challenge. Since then, the only two years I’ve missed are years where I was in the middle of getting a book ready for publication and couldn’t focus on two different projects,” he explained.
When sitting down to write, Barrett’s main goal is always to write a story that he would like to read. “One of my earliest ‘book memories’ is my mom reading Tolkien’s ‘The Hobbit’ to me before bed and I’ve been a fantasy junkie ever since,” said Barrett. Every story he’s written in his career has been either fantasy or science fiction. “I confess that there’s a certain appeal to being able to just ‘make stuff up’ and call it magic!”
While other writers of fantasy and science fiction like Isaac Asmimov and H. Claire Taylor are drawn on for inspiration, the biggest influence on Barrett’s writing is the roleplaying game Dungeons and Dragons. “I typically approach my stories the way an adventure is designed: a series of ‘encounters’ that are part of an overall narrative,” said Barrett.
While Barrett consistently participates in the NaNoWriMo challenge, he typically only writes during that month. “It is pretty time consuming and between work and family, it’s not easy to find time to sit down and write. It’s possible that I may begin working on the new series this summer if I get the world building infrastructure finished up. It’s amazing what a global pandemic does in terms of turning a busy schedule into a not-so-busy schedule,” Barrett elaborated.
When it comes to his creative process, Barrett refers to himself as a “pantser.” “I tend to write by the seat of my pants. I have a general idea of what the major plot points are, but beyond that, I pretty much make things up as I go along,” said Barrett. This aligns well with his Dungeons and Dragons influence as players of the game may be able to relate to his “spur of the moment” writing. “Even in the years when I’m most prepared I find that I’ve only really planned out perhaps twenty thousand of the words, with the remaining 30 having to come to me spontaneously,” said Barrett.
Barrett has no shortage of ideas to be able to continue to participate in the NaNoWriMo challenge. “I’ve been playing around with an idea for a new series that will also have fantasy elements, though it will be set in modern times,” he explained.
With NaNoWriMo just around the corner, Barrett is currently prepping for his next project. “I’m honestly curious about how these next books will go; I’ve never started thinking about a writing project this early and I’ve definitely never done this much planning. I’m even working on an excel spreadsheet with columns for multiple books and where I want meta plot items to happen within them. Wish me luck,” explained Barrett.
Dave Barrett is an independent author through and through and speaks very positively of physical local bookstores. In particular, he spoke very highly of local bookstore The Briar Patch in downtown Bangor. “Not only are bookstore employees amazing at suggesting the right book for the right person, if there’s one thing that the pandemic has shown us, it’s that small businesses live pretty precariously. As an independent author without a marketing budget or easy access onto store shelves, ecommerce sites have to be my primary outlet. I never buy books from Amazon. Anything I want I can have special ordered within a few days if it’s not already in-stock, and the pricing is often no different than the big chains,” said Barrett.
Currently, Barrett is knee-deep in planning his next project. While we all wait for his next project, his previous work is available for purchase. “My [Young Adult] portal fantasy “Fun and Games” series is complete, so if you’re looking for a fun summer read, pick it up!,” said Barrett.