Retired Lodi Realtor Jim Caughran completed a challenge to write a 50,000-word novel during the month of November for the National Novel Writing Month, then self-published his novel.
NaNoWriMo is a nonprofit organization that encourages people with dreams of novel-writing to achieve their goal within one month.
To complete the challenge, writers must produce an average of 1,667 words per day, then record their final word counts on Nov. 30 into the NaNoWriMo website to be considered a winner.
However, Caughran, 76, was able to reach his overall goal in 16 days — not an easy feat for someone with dyslexia.
Caughran lives in the Lodi countryside on Brandt Road with his wife, two dogs and five cats.
Growing up in southern Missouri, Caughran tended to avoid the subject of English in school because of the challenges of having dyslexia. He didn’t read a single book until he was in the seventh grade.
“I was a kid who took everything apart. It drove my parents crazy,” he said. “For me, clocks weren’t for telling time, they were for taking apart.”
In his youth, Caughran started out working on mechanics, and spent time building and flying radio-controlled model airplanes. When he was 18, he built a rear-engine dragster.
Caughran entered the Navy in the 1960s.
After leaving the military in the 1970s Branson International Plasma in Hayward, a company that manufactured semi-conductor computer chips, hired Caughran as a self-taught electronics engineer.
“It was something that was easy for me. I had a feel for radio frequency and energy distribution, and I just understood how it worked,” he said. “Engineering is a problem-solving job. Some problems are incredibly difficult to understand, but there’s always something new and it never gets boring.”
Tired of the constant travel associated with his engineering job, he retired from the industry in 2003.
His most recent work started in 2006 as a Realtor in Lodi with Century 21 M&M and Associates, where he worked for seven years.
On the side, Caughran was an active member and former president of the Lodi Toastmasters, a group that helps people improve public speaking and leadership skills.
Now an avid reader, having read more than 300 e-books last year, Caughran has his sights set on writing.
“I have a funny mind. I think you screw up one part of your mind and you do something else better,” he said. “As I go to sleep, I think about the character, and when I wake up I’ve got the whole chapter.”
According to Caughran, one of his biggest challenges in writing for NaNoWriMo was navigating the grammar and punctuation, because of his dyslexia and avoidance of studying English as a child.
Ultimately, Caughran was able to finish the 55,000-word novel, titled “No Safe Word: An Adventure in Horror,” after putting more than 600 hours into writing and editing over the course of the holiday season.
He self-published his novel as an e-book on Jan. 8 through Amazon Kindle, where publishing is as simple as uploading a document and pushing a button.
“No Safe Word: An Adventure in Horror” is about an FBI agent who gets captured by the serial killer whom she is trying to apprehend, and her struggle to escape and bring him to justice. The book is not for children or the faint of heart, due to depictions of torture and sexual assault.
Caughran plans to continue writing, and has ideas for a sequel and a separate novel in the works.
“In the back of my mind there’s a possibility for a third, but I’m getting tired of the horror,” he said.