For about as long as he can remember, 14-year-old Dawud Ghazaleh and his brother have waged war against alien invaders and other sci-fi threats while playing outside their Apex home. So he had plenty of material to pull from when he decided to write a novel last fall.
As if writing a book wasn’t challenge enough by itself, Dawud gave himself just one month to do it – starting and finishing in November as part of NaNoWriMo, National Novel Writing Month.
“I really like to try new things and something that’s different, so I decided to try it out,” said Dawud, who heard about the annual Internet event from a guest speaker at St. Mary Magdalene Catholic School, where he’s in eighth grade. “Once I started it, I really was interested. And I really had a lot of fun with it, so I continued from there.”
NaNoWriMo’s Young Writers Program allows students to set their own word count goals, so Dawud set out to write 3,000 words about Zore, a military commando charged with exploring a mysterious spaceship that has shown up in human territory. But he met that goal easily, so he adjusted it to 7,000 words. At the end of the month, his book, “Infiltration,” clocked in at around 10,000 words.
“There was no point that I was afraid that I wasn’t going to reach my goal,” he said, “but there were some times where I was stuck, and I really had to think about how I would get through one of the scenes, or how I would write something in a way that wasn’t confusing. And sometimes it took me a couple days to find inspiration to write through that.”
But he found inspiration enough to last the entire month – and beyond. When November was over, NaNoWriMo’s Young Writers Program encouraged participants to revise their novels and, if they wished, submit them for publication. Through a NaNoWriMo partner, Dawud received five printed copies of his book and now has a listing on Amazon.com, where anyone can buy a paperback or e-book version.
“It feels really awesome” to have that listing, Dawud said. “I feel very famous whenever I can search on my name and my book will come up.”
Dawud gave one printed copy to a friend for his birthday, and another copy went to his St. Mary Magdalene writing teacher, Karolyn Emore, who helped him edit the book earlier this year.
“He is an amazing writer,” Emore said. “He just has a knack for character development and for story development in terms of how to entice the reader into reading more.”
Part of the recipe for Dawud’s success, she said, was his dedication to the project; it’s a trait she’s used to seeing in him.
“Anything that we do – whether it’s a research paper or poetry or a fairy tale or the novel that he wrote – he just takes it to heart and gives more than 100 percent and just goes with it,” she said.
Dawud said he hadn’t done much writing outside of school before NaNoWriMo, but he reads a lot. His favorites include the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy and the “Ranger’s Apprentice” series. He has always jumped at the chance to express himself through creative writing in school.
“I think my favorite part about creative writing is how you can choose what happens,” he said. “I like making up my own stories. I like to dream and really just create my own universe.”
He has much more universe to explore in his “Mission” series, he said, revealing that plans are already in place for a sequel to “Infiltration,” which he hopes to write this summer.
“A lot of people are asking already,” he said, “and I really want to start that project because I think it’ll be a lot of fun.”