7 January 2013
NaNoWriMo – Good or Bad?
A couple of months ago (it must have been November by definition) I came across an anguished tweet from author J.A.Bennett. While taking part in NaNoWriMo she had suffered part of the collateral damage that goes with having children as somehow the little blighters had conspired to erase her whole day’s output of 2000 words. Ouch! Fortunately I’ve never had that happen to me as I was sensible enough to have had children before computers were invented. However, I was still able to sympathise with her and asked if, when NaNoWriMo was over, she’d like to come on my blog and share some of her experiences with us. I’m pleased to say she agreed so here’s what she was able to tell me.
NED : How long have you been writing?
JAB : In a serious capacity, for the last two years. But I’ve always enjoyed writing.
NED : So, not that long then. I’ve heard of NaNoWriMo (as I suspect most of us have) but I’ve never been tempted to have a go at it. What made you take up the challenge?
JAB : In October of 2011 I was having a major writing slump. It seemed like everyone on Twitter and the blogosphere was talking about NaNo. I wasn’t going to do it because I didn’t think it would be possible for me to write that fast, but when November 1st came I thought I’d just try and see if I could hit the word count requirement. I did, and I also well exceeded it. I continued to write that way for about a week to see if I could keep it up when I decide to join the challenge formally. After that, I knew I wanted NaNo in my life for 2012 and beyond.
NED : Clearly, NaNoWriMo isn’t just about the one month of writing. Here you’re telling me you practised the year before which sounds eminently sensible. What about other forms of preparation? Did you do any other planning in advance?
JAB : Tons! My goal this year was to write 60,000 words so I made sure to plot. First I used James Scott Bell’s Ten Scene Model. Then, to make sure the plot was solid, I used the 15 beats mentioned in the screenwriting book Save The Cat. I also use an extensive survey (with personality tests) to figure out how to portray my Main Characters. I also write the first chapter several times to make sure I get a good feel of voice before I dive in.
NED : I’ve heard of people who simply plough into it and see what happens but you must have had a story in mind before you set off.
JAB : I had this idea about a girl who caused natural disasters everywhere she went. Then I expounded on that with the premise that she could learn to control those powers and become a hero rather than an accident-prone mess.
NED : And did this play out as you expected or were there any surprises along the way? Did your characters behave?
JAB : It seems like no matter how much plotting I do, I always find myself surprised with the finished story. The end goals are the same, but the story twists and turns in ways I didn’t plan – which is actually one of my favourite things about writing.
NED : How often do we hear that! I don’t think I’ve ever known a plot go exactly as it was supposed to – characters always seem to have minds of their own. And if that wasn’t enough, you also had to contend with losing part of your output. How difficult was it to cope with?
JAB : It was just one of those things. But overall, it was a lot harder for me in 2012 than it was in 2011. I think I expected too much of myself and I got bogged down with the numbers. On three different occasions I lost 1000 plus words and had to start over. Somehow I still managed to finish, but I banged my head the entire way. Now I’m giving the novel plenty of time to breathe so that I can fix it without any of the angst I felt during NaNo.
NED : That sounds wise – I’m sure giving it some space will only do it good. Did you manage to get it finished?
JAB : It is completed, but it ended by being only 50,000 words which is too short. When I go back to polish, I’ve decided I’m going to add chapters from the male Main Character’s perspective as well. That will make it longer and have a stronger plot-line. Because the guy has a story too, and in the current novel it isn’t being told.
NED : Yes, I can see how that would work. It might also help to broaden your readership. Has it got a title yet?
JAB : Right now its title is STEALING THE STARS which I think is maybe a little too girly, so I’ll probably revise it again.
NED : And what are your plans for 2013?
JAB : This year I plan to not only polish that book, but write and polish two more. Then, in 2014, I’ll be looking for an agent for each one of the three as they are all in different genres. So publication is still a ways away, if ever.
NED : And I thought my plan for 2013 was ambitious! Well, I wish you the best of luck with it and we look forward to reading STEALING THE STARS in full at some point soon. Meanwhile, you’ve been kind enough to let us have a taster and the first chapter is now available on The Weekly Read. Many thanks for this and for your tips.