The ever wonderful Benjamin Solah has thrown out a NaNoWriMo retrospective meme to get the juices flowing in this month of preparation. There are bonus points on offer for an action shot to accompany the answers.
I thought there was only one of me celebrating with a wonderful Annie Evett special cocktail having just validated my word count and received my winners badge, but discovered this one of me having just hit the enter button and grinning. This is what 50,000 words really looks like.
When and how did you find out about NaNoWriMo? How did you go?
My NaNo debut was in 2007. I found out about it through the two wonderful women I was doing The Artist Way with at the time. They said they were doing it and I should do it with them. It was 50 or so days before kick off and I spent a good deal of time going through all the reasons I couldn’t possibly participate (I had a small son, I was single handedly publishing a magazine which was due out in November, I hadn’t written that much since I was 17 etc etc) I began discussing the adventure with my partner and then feeling my way along some story lines. I had only written two short stories since 1999 so it seemed like a rather huge leap of faith. Six days before NaNo started Dave suggested I go with an interesting political character I had written a Fiction Friday entry about … she came with a rather interesting back story and premise … and well I was away!
While Dan and Dali dropped out in the first 10,000 words I made it to the end – just – including Dave being admitted to hospital three nights before Nov 31st with as suspected heart attack. It was the support and love from the Write Anything crew and my own sheer stubborness of not failing at 46,000 words which got me there. It taught me a lot about myself and my writing those final three days.
How many times have you done NaNoWriMo?
Twice now – 2007 and 2008
How many times have you won? If you haven’t won, what was your best result?
I’ve won both times. In 2007 I got 50,300 words. Last year I got around 53,000 words and did it in 27 days because we were going interstate without internet for our neice’s 18th birthday.
How did you go last year?
Last year was a very slow start given I had my bottom wisdom teeth surgically removed under a GA two days before kick off! I also struggled between two stories and was fearful regardless of which story I chose, at the midpoint, where things get tough, it would be the wrong story.
I kept to the word count though in the early days despite the situation with my mouth, not wanting to play catch up. Knowing I had four days less to write, I aimed for 2000 words a day. I hit my stride in the third week when our internet got knocked out and I wrote an amazing 15,000 words in three days in a frenzy in which I came up for air and food occassionally (thank God for the weekend and Kindy!) It was also where the story really took off and I became totally immersed in it. That’s what I love most about writing.
Where do you write and with what do you write?
I do most of my writing at home, but because of the ongoing nature of NaNo and the fact not everywhere I go with my son has a power outlet, I ensured I carried a notebook or paper with me everywhere I went last year. I spent at least one kindy day a week at my favourite cafe Cirque in New Farm writing. It’s the place I go to be devoid of distractions.
I wrote quite a lot longhand on the days when Dylan wasn’t at kindy with my fountain pen which was nice. It was good to write longhand when I was really struggling at one point. Transfering it across onto the computer sucked – but at least I had ironed out the kinks by that stage.
I did a lot of writing in the morning last year and plan to do it again knowing it is my most productive (because I am least prone to distractions then) and also at night when everyone was in bed. In 2007 I almost exclusively wrote at night – giving myself two hours between 9pm and 11pm to get it done.
Everything ends up on my lap top in Word 2004.
How do you find time to write?
I get up early, I go to bed late. I utilise every moment possible when my son is at kindy and the weekends. Last year I missed at least one social outting to stay home and write. It was an awesome afternoon where I spent half an hour writing and then half an hour doing housework. At the end of the five hours the house was clean and I had hit my word count for the day. The great thing about this was (not just keeping my family happy!) something pretty damn foul was revealed to me by one of the characters and mopping the floors gave me time to process his revelation and to be at peace with it so the narrative could move on without being bogged down by my fight against his disgustedness.
Last year I dreamed about going down to my Dad’s caravan on the Victorian surf coast and having a week down there just writing … but didn’t. Dreamed the same thing this year – and guess what? Yeah you guessed right!
Are your partners, friends and family allies or enemies?
My partner and son are allies – though before NaNo starts every year we sit down as a family to draw up some ground rules. The first year I made a pact that if I kept the house clean and tidy, food on the table at sensible hours and the washing done, I could bunk off for an entire day on the weekend to write. While I kept up my end of the bargain I was crap at collecting my day off to write. Last year I just promised that everything wouldn’t go to shit while I wrote – to prove that I could write at novel speed and still be responsible where I had to be.
I think my friends think I am a nutter (those that aren’t writers) and my extended family are all behind me (as far as I know!)
What are you strengths and what do you use to help you get to the end?
My strengths are:
- I always finish what I start now.
- I type fast.
- I don’t procrastinate.
- I love writing and NaNo is like a dream come true.
- I have over the past two years collected and surrounded myself with a wonderful online group of writers who support and encourage me through.
- Last year I created a word limit above the official which always kept me ahead of the game (obviously writing 15,000 words in three days also helped)
- I don’t get repulsed and try to shut down characters who don’t follow the same moral code as me – this is one seriously fast way to shut down your story and get writers block.
- I write every day.
- I utilise all and any free time to write.
- I make writing the priority for November – everything else takes a back seat.
- Having the internet knocked out.
- Ending the days writing with a hook into the next days writing.
What are you weaknesses, obstacles and challenges that hinder you from finishing?
My weaknesses are:
- I get distracted by the internet
- Staying up late
- Not setting good strong boundaries around my writing.
- the fact that I have a family and anything could happen in a whole month – sickness, business trips (as I mentioned earlier, in 07 my partner ended up in hospital with a suspected heart attack which was a curve ball I didn’t need nor could anticipate.)
- this year I have my first publishing project winding up in November – so NaNo will be vying for mental space with that, plus there will be four rounds of Fourth Fiction to also finish in that 31 day period.
- Not writing for a day (I did this in 07) and losing the momentum.
- In 07 I also wrote my story in two parts and started writing the second part late in Week Three and completely lost the momentum and flow of the narrative.
- Deciding WHAT to write – and carrying the fear that I have chosen the wrong story to tell in the pressure cooker of November.
Do you plot/outline/plan or do you write by the seat of your pants? How much do you plot or how unprepared are you?
I don’t plot. I explore possiblities in my head but that’s really it. Every year I go in with a vague premise and a main character but that is it. Last year I tried to world build in August in preparation only to discover I was not just inept at work building (despite having done a two day course on it!) – but also totally resistent to any attempts to do it. I learnt last year that writing and allowing yourself to see the world through the eyes of your characters is the best worldbuilding I can expect to do.
I continue to be intrigued by the snowflake method and depending on which story I choose to tell this year – I might throw caution to the wind and do a little pre-plotting (though the superstitious part of me screams – don’t do it!)
Do you participate in the real life community, go to write ins and meet ups in your area?
In 07 I belonged to the online community set up by Karen of Write Anything (then “Stuff”) on the NaNo forums. Last year I decided to get big and brave (having worked out how to sign up for my actual area) andventure out into the real world of NaNo. I went to the kick off party despite being totally terrified of doing it and having to deal with my pathological shyness without the aid of alcohol. I had planned to go to one of the write ins but Brisbane weather kicked up a mighty storm which wiped out power in half the city and flooded the roads. Having a family is also limiting to the number of night trips I can make out. I missed the wrap up party because we were away. I am planning on getting out more into the local events this year in an attempt to meet and network with more writers in my area.
What are your writing aids? Special snacks, music, totems, rewards or punishments?
Music is my big thing. I inadvertently created a soundtrack for my 07 campaign – with Missy Higgins, Cat Empire and Mia Dyson all having brand new albums out in time to write to. Every time I hear those albums now it takes me immediately back to writing Finding Aphrodite. Last year I wrote to a lot of New Age music by Gabrielle Roth. This year I have been writing everything to the Twilight Soundtrack.
I have also been doing morning pages on each attempt and find it a wonderful, no pressure manner to tease out what’s passed and what’s coming up. Have been trying to get back into the habit of writing them again. And in both campaigns I’ve also utilised the Fiction Friday prompts.
As for rewards – last year I bought myself a bottle of perfume at the end of each of the first two weeks. something I had not done in years, and then the reward system sort of dropped off. This year I’ll consider some things I’d really like to treat myself to and have them as beacons at the end of each week (the new Twilight Movie comes out during NaNo so that will be an incentive!) Punishment never works for me. Guilt of not keeping up to my own standards is probably the worst punishment.
This year I might also buy myself a NaNo t-shirt. I meant to buy one last year and never got around to doing it. Adding to my to do list now!