Lewistown woman writes a novel every November

Charlie Denison

LyndiaSue Smitman has written eight novels in nine years – all during the month of November.
Photo by Charlie Denison

Imagine writing a novel.

Now imagine writing a novel in a month.

Can you?

Such a challenge may sound overly ambitious or downright impossible, but, for Lyndia Sue Smitman, it’s November.

For eight of the last nine years, Smitman has written a novel in November.

“I started in 2009,” Smitman said. “My daughter had done it and she challenged me to do it with her. She thought I’d really like it and she also needed the encouragement.”

With a little help from a novel-writing online community; nanowrimo.org, she’s accomplished this seemingly insurmountable goal year after year.

NaNoWriMo (short for National Novel Writing Month) is a non-profit organization providing structure, community and encouragement to help people find their voices. NaNoWriMo sets the writer up with a profile and makes the writer part of a large network of participants throughout the world. According to nanowrimo.org, there were more than 384,000 participants in 2016, and the number continues to rise.

In order to assist, the site makes it easy for writers to find other writers with similar interests.

This is especially nice for someone like Smitman, who has multiple passions and multiple locations of interest, be it Hawaii, Montana or Seoul, South Korea.

“My daughter got me into Korean pop and Korean dramas,” she said.

Through the years, Smitman’s novels have taken her all kinds of places: the beaches of Hawaii, alternate dimensions, the mountains of Montana and elsewhere. She stretches herself and lets the characters tell the story.

Every book is a journey, and she can’t stop taking trips; she’s addicted.

“I can still remember my very first one in 2009,” she said. “I wanted it to be a non-fiction book at first, about my three granddaughters. It was all about having a tea party with them. I was about 10,000 words when when my granddaughter told me not to use real names, so I scrapped it completely and – in two days time ­ I’d rewritten what I had, and it just kept flowing.”

Smitman said she’s perhaps proudest of that first book because of what it says about her granddaughters.

“It will be their legacy,” she said.

From there, many of Smitman’s novels have stuck to the Christian and/or contemporary romance genres, but she’s also dabbled in fantasy.

“The year I wrote a fantasy was so amazing,” she said. “I can still picture the scenes and everything. I was so caught up in it.”

That’s what Smitman has loved about the novel writing process: her creativity can take her wherever it wants her to go.

“There are no restrictions,” she said. “I put the words down and the characters come to me. They create their own identity.”

Smitman can’t believe what she comes up with sometimes.

“I wrote about a father who is attacked by a mountain lion and killed,” she said. “It was all about the daughter having to come back to her faith and belief in God after the Lord allowed for her father to die that way.”

This was a challenging scene to write emotionally, but Smitman put herself into the shoes of each character. She could relate, and that’s what makes writing a powerful experience for her.

“I’ve been hunting in the mountains and have encountered places where I know mountain lions are around,” she said. “I know what it feels like to be in the mountains and feel uneasy, so I knew what the character was going through before he looked up and saw the mountain lion ready to pounce.”

This was the first death she’d written.

“It was pretty traumatic to write,” she said, “but I just let it flow, not knowing where it will take me.”


A new purpose in life

Smitman said she couldn’t be happier about her decision to sign on and challenge herself. She’s more into it than her daughter is now, but it’s still something they try to do for each other and continue to support one another.

Although she’s written eight novels already, Smitman is seeing no signs of slowing down.

“I’ve never even had writer’s block,” she said.

In 2016, she didn’t participate in NaNoWriMo, but that’s because she was too busy moving with her husband from Hawaii to Lewistown. She got back to it this fall and is already looking forward to next November, as ideas and characters never end for Smitman.

“Every November I realize there is a story to be told,” she said, “and that story only I can tell.”

Smitman encourages other writers to give it a try, as NaNoWriMo has given her the freedom to express all her creative thoughts, and for this she is forever grateful, as it’s given her a new direction for her life. In the near future, she hopes to begin editing the stories she’s already written while also moving forward with future projects.

“We all have a creative spirit within us,” Smitman said. “This is what NaNoWriMo brings out, and it’s beautiful.”







Excerpt from “The Ink Spot” by LyndiaSue Smitman


“He had placed me in a room in a castle and it had light, not a harsh light nor a normal sunlight or even manmade light; it was light, everything about the room was light. In this room was a table and on the table was paper. Also I was very happy -- more like joyous -- he said he would give me the ink and I was to start writing what he was creating in my mind. I remember that much. I remember also that I was very excited as I remembered the vision.

I had to wait until he told me to begin; there was a certain time and it would be in two days time. I remained in the room; quite content and not knowing what nor how it would begin, I sat.”




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