Earlier today we opened our People of NaNoWriMo series with the planners. Now, strolling in at the end of the day…the Pantsers.
Last November (my first NaNoWriMo), I went in all organised with a plan and carefully calculated daily targets and a shiny new notebook. I clocked up a few thousand words before I trailed off and quit. The problem with daily quotas, for me, is this: If you miss a day (and you will if you’re also studying, working, eating and breathing), your goal of 50,000 words disappears so far into the distance that it looks impossible. I am unfortunately afflicted with perfectionist tendencies, so the idea of not ‘winning’ NaNoWriMo was so paralysing that I just gave up. But that is exactly why I feel like NaNoWriMo is such a useful process: It obliterates perfectionists. It gets us writing. It doesn’t care if you’re writing stock characters or terrible dialogue. You just write. I’m trying again this year. I don’t have a plan. I don’t have a plot. I expect to be overwhelmed and terrified. That, I think, is how I will succeed this time.
Her website is at kaitlynplyley.com
I did NaNoWriMo in 2010. My plan was to string some existing short story drafts together and then add 50,000 words on top of that. I’d never had a proper writing routine (and still don’t) but I had to be disciplined for NaNoWriMo so it could work around my part-time job. I set word count targets for each day – lower targets for days I had to go to work and higher targets for my days off. I wrote solo, even though there were opportunities to attend write-ins. I wanted NaNoWriMo to help kill writer’s block, and it did. It allowed me to lower my standards and focus on producing. As I expected, the resulting “novel” wasn’t publishable – it was more like a month-long brainstorm to see how far and how quickly I could stretch my mind. The chapters of my slapdash draft were so tenuously linked that they worked better as short stories, and so I’ve since pulled ideas from the draft and plugged them into new stories such as Civility Place, which will be published in The Sleepers Almanac No. 9 next year. The first line of my NaNoWriMo masterpiece says a lot about how little I expected to achieve: “Unfortunately, this is not the grand opening of a translation of a great Russian novel about infidelity and farm ploughing methods in the nineteenth century.” I may not have written the next Anna Karenina but NaNoWriMo brought me one step closer to the liberation of my imagination.
More of Julie’s work can be found at jylkoh.com
An American friend introduced me to NaNoWriMo in 2006. Scared by the enormity of 50,000 words I didn’t even sign up and eked out 26,000 words, continuing a novel I was already working on with support from my writing group. This year I’m brave enough to commit. I hope to attend the NSW Writers Centre events for positive peer pressure, plus I’ll attempt to compete with my prolific partner. He has already pooh-poohed several of my best ideas (“All you have is act one. What happens at the end?” “I don’t know yet!”) but I find the NaNoWriMo way—writing it out and leaving the finer details until the next draft—is liberating and good for momentum. I don’t suffer from writer’s block so the key thing will be to avoid getting sidetracked by non-NaNoWriMo ideas and, since I write as my day job, to assign time for this specific project, a speculative fiction or fantasy novel. I expect I’ll get close to 50K this year, especially as I’ve dropped two days from my part-time job, with most of my best work done at night… and most of my best sleep after 3am.
Her blog is at adelineteoh.com
Name: Maria Lewis
Location: (Newtown) Sydney, Australia
1. Have you got a plan or are you flying by the seat of your pants?
Last year, which was my first time participating, I came late to the metaphorical party and smashed out It Came From The Deep in 14 days, which was great by the end of it but a nightmare in the moment. I had a rough idea of what I wanted to write because I had been thinking about it for a while, yet no ‘plan’ as such. This year I’m trying to be a lot more organised – which isn’t hard in comparison. I have a chapter by chapter plan with key plot developments outlined.
2. Do you have any writing routines? If not, what are you plans during NaNoWriMo?
Like most of us ‘aspiring author’ types my writing routine is manic as I try to fit it in around full time work and other commitments. That is to say, whenever I have a free moment I run around the house flailing for five minutes or so before settling at my desk and writing as much as I can for as long as I can.
3. What expectations do you have for the month?
Caffeine. Sleep deprivation. Tumblr procrastination. Steve Buscemi eyes. In that order.
4. Do you know what kind of book you’re going to write yet? If so, what it’s going to be about?
I’m writing the third installment in the Tommi Grayson series, which is the book I’m currently represented by an agent for (the first being Who’s Afraid? and the second Who’s Afraid Too?). At first I was hesitant to do this, since last year my story was a self-contained tale that begun and ended within the pages of It Came From The Deep. It wasn’t a series, hence an easy entry point for interested readers. Yet since NaNoWriMo is such a brilliant opportunity to motivate yourself to smash out a meaty word count, I figured why not continue with characters I’m already very familiar with? Plus, I’ll get brownie points from my agent if I can finish Who’s Still Afraid Last Summer? (inappropriate working title) in a month. Fingers crossed.
5. How are you going to find the work/life balance?
Poorly, most likely. As a professional journalist who’s required to write for up to 12 – 15 hours some days, the very last thing I’ll want to do after a horror shift is write. BUT that’s why you have your NaNoWriMo peeps, who are all fantastically encouraging on Twitter and through the blog. Basically I mooch off their enthusiasm.