Hey all, when I found out that Voyager author Glenda Larke was tackling NaNoWriMo this year, I asked her on to the ROR blog to discuss her experiences. One of the most common myths about NaNoWriMo is that it's not possibly to produce publishable books at that kind of writing rate (50,000 words in a month).
Thanks for joining us, Glenda! We'd love to hear about other NaNo experiences in the comments.
from Glenda Larke
To tell the truth, before this year the whole idea of writing a novel in a month seemed rather ridiculous. I never needed an incentive to write, completing 50,000 words in a month was easy and for me, that number or words was nowhere near a complete novel anyway. My shortest published book is 120,000 and the longest 183,000 words.
Why I decided to do NaNoWriMo
I am getting older and things change. You know those stories about folk over 60 who start looking for their car keys, only to realise they haven’t watered the indoor plants so they go into the kitchen to get the water, where the cat is asking to be fed…and so on until at the end of the day, they still haven’t looked for the car keys? Well, I found that was happening with my writing. I was getting too easily distracted. I’d start writing, then remember an email I had to answer, a blog I wanted to read, a phone call I had to make, a bill that had to be paid…and somehow another day passed and the book was not getting written, or at least not getting written fast enough.
So I decided to try NaNoWriMo to keep me focused. I set a personal goal of 2,000 words a day in the hope that I would get 60,000 words done. Every time I have paced myself with another writer in the past, it seems to have worked, so I had high hopes.
Why would it work for me?
I can’t imagine why it should work, as I am not a particularly competitive person. I suppose it’s the idea that someone else out there is actively interested in seeing me succeed. With NaNoWriMo there are a whole stack of folk out there watching – all those writing buddies for a start, plus the readers watching my word count on my personal blog. What a blast of an incentive. I think it must be a matter of personal pride. You know, “Waaah! If I fail, everyone will know!”
Definitely every time I started to drop below 2,000 words a day, I felt guilty and resolved to do better. When I didn’t write for three days in a row, I received messages of encouragement. I’d look at my online writing buddies – many of them with young families and/or fulltime jobs and I’d wonder how they could achieve more words a day than me. Yep, shame worked too…
Does it make things easy?
Nope. Easier, yes. Things still happened to distract me: visitors at weekends, some questions from the proofreader about the book coming out in March, a request from my agent that involved two days work on an earlier trilogy about to be published in German. Painters came to paint the outside of the house. The kitchen sink started leaking. The thunderstorms this monsoon season are daily occurrences, and necessitated unplugging the computer. I had a dental emergency. There was a long meeting I had to attend about some work I am doing in the non-fantasy world that ended up taking one whole day.
But I wasted less time on other things because of NaNoWriMo.
What didn’t work for me about NaNoWriMo?
The philosophy behind NaNoWriMo is that you just write and forget about revising. The aim is to get those words down on paper. That doesn’t work well for me. I can’t start cold each morning. I have to get back into the atmosphere of the story, to pick up the flow, which means reading what I wrote the day before. Alas, there is no way I can do that unless I correct the most egregious mistakes too. And so an hour or two of the writing day is used up, sometimes longer. If I didn’t do this, I’d spend that hour trying to get myself back into the mood of the story anyway. So I ignored the NaNoWriMo advice.
I am also a person who has to go back and insert stuff when I realise that something is missing in the plot a few chapters back. I disobeyed the advice not to do this too. If it works for me, why not? Probably not advisable for non-writers trying something new, though. The biggest “rule” I disobeyed, I guess, was the fact that I wasn’t beginning a novel at all. I already had 62,000 words written and now have another 55,000 to do. NaNoWriMo covered the middle.
So, was it a success for me?
Absolutely. Maybe not as big a success as I'd hoped – my final total was 53,220 words – but it kept my fingers pretty much glued to the keyboard for one whole month. And Stormlord’s Exile, Book 3 of the Watergivers, now stands at over 115,000 words.
One of the best things, I haven’t even mentioned – that was turning up to two of the NaNoWriMo writer get-togethers at a local Kuala Lumpur coffee shop. I met new people, including two school-age teenagers (who both succeeded in reaching 50,000!), made new friends and was inspired by their enthusiasm. Malaysians wrote over 2.5 million words, for an average success of 28,966 thousand words, the latter figure pretty much average for most groups around the world.
Will I do it again?
Sure – if I am at the first-draft stage of a novel when November rolls around. See you there? Oh, and right now, if you want to race me over the next 55,000 words, come over to my blog Tropic Temper and let me know.
Coming September 2009 (Australia) March 2010 (UK/US): THE LAST STORMLORD
March 2010 (Australia) STORMLORD RISING
Glenda Larke is the author of:
The Isles of Glory trilogy:
Book 1: The Aware
Book 2: Gilfeather
Book 3: The Tainted
The Mirage Makers trilogy:
Book 1: Heart of the Mirage
Book 2: The Shadow of Tyr
Book 3: Song of the Shiver Barrens
and writing as Glenda Noramly: Havenstar