It's that time of year again. NaNoWriMo. For those not in the know, National Novel Writing Month. The goal: write 50,000 words of a novel from November 1 to November 30. The prize: a chance to say, "I wrote 50,000 words of a novel in 30 days--what did you do?"
It may seem silly for me to enroll in NaNoWriMo when novel writing is, you know, my job. I had even started a new manuscript a couple of weeks ago, only to put it down after 20,000 words in so I could mentally prepare for the novel I've been "saving" for NaNoWriMo. That's even sillier, right? Add to that the assertion I made a couple of years ago: "I'm never doing NaNoWriMo again!"
So what's behind my decision to do NaNoWriMo again?
Let me start with why I made the previous assertion in the first place. Writing 50,000 words of a novel--in any stretch of time--is an impressive achievement. Writing 50K in 30 days is especially impressive for people who have full-time jobs and families. (Me? I don't even have a cat.) My writing process consists of me writing on the fly with little to no preparatory outlining/organizing. I get the words on the page and figure out what they mean and where they go during the revision process (which, for me, is the blood, sweat, and tears of writing). Sounds like a good fit for NaNoWriMo then, right? Just bang the words out and worry about it all later.
Except here's the thing: When you're constantly thinking about word count, the words you "bang out" tend to be, well, wordy. In short, my NaNo novels were the ones that needed the most editing and re-writing. They contained more passive voice, more redundancy, more drawn out description than when I'm less concerned about making a word count (although I do usually set word count goals when I draft, even if just a few hundred words at a time).
Ordinary World was a NaNo novel. So was Adulation. (She Has Your Eyes may have been as well. Or maybe I simply wrote during that month. Would you believe I can't remember?)
The pressure of the NaNo challenge can also cause writers to break out in spontaneous weeping, excessive caffeine ingestion, and the accumulation of a really big pile of laundry. And for what, again? What do we win?
Well, for one thing, NaNoWriMo typically brings writers together. For the most part, writing a novel is a solitary act. Sure, I'll report my daily word counts on Facebook and Twitter, and read the comments from my fellow writers ("Shut up"), but it's not the same as knowing that a group of people, collectively, are participating in the same insanity as you are at the same time. Participants across the country form writing groups where they can gather in one place for the sole purpose of writing. They share word counts and receive cheers and notes of encouragement from strangers and friends. Some even post excerpts of their work as they go along. I get to be simultaneously competitive and supportive.
But here's the main reason why I'm doing it: Process.
Earlier this year my brother Mike started blogging about making an album (he's since put the blog on hiatus, and I miss it!). I loved it because I somehow felt part of the project, even though, like me, he doesn't like to share the content. I thought it would be interesting for me to blog about the process of writing a novel (without revealing what the novel is about), yet I worry that doing so will somehow interfere with the creative part (Mike had those same worries).
There's something special about witnessing a project develop from start to finish. When I saw The Social Network for the first time, I felt as if somehow I had been part of its being born solely because I'd witnessed Aaron Sorkin share stories about the writing, filming, working with David Fincher, etc. Maybe, if I document my process, readers will feel the same way should this book be published (which is the greater goal). Maybe they'll be surprised to learn what's involved. Maybe it'll somehow ruin the magic for them, like watching how sausages are made.
I must really be nuts, however: write 50,000 words of a novel--and a weekly blogpost about the process--in 30 days? To say nothing of the fact that I'll be making at least two trips to NY, possibly three?
What can I say? It's my job. Beats workin' for a living.
A couple of weeks ago, Suzy Turner was kind enough to host me on her Fiction Dreams website. I had so much fun answering her questions that when I found out she had just released her first chick lit novel, titled Forever Fredless, I decided not only to repay her kindness by hosting her on my blog, but invited her to answer the same questions she challenged me with!
Here are her responses:
Q: Do dreams inspire your writing? What did you last dream about?
A: Totally! I have the most way out dreams and I always write them down. I've got some fab ideas... the latest dream was about a little boy who wakes up to find a young alien watching him. I figured it would make a really fun kids book. Watch this space ;)
Q: When did you first start writing? And when were you first published?
A: I first started writing fiction in my mid-twenties. In fact I wrote a chick lit novel called Molly but it will never see the light of day. It's a bit rubbish! My first published book was called Raven (YA urban fantasy) and it came out May 2011. I've since published six more including my first chick lit novel :)
Q: What is it about chick lit that appeals to you the most? Do you read other genres? If so, which?
A: I've always been a huge fan of chick lit - it taught me a lot when I was growing up, if you know what I mean ;)
To me chick lit should have plenty of love (or the search for love), friendships (perhaps the most important aspect of the genre), fun / comedy, heartache. I want to feel so many different emotions whilst reading it.
But I do read other stuff too - I LOVE YA urban fantasy, dystopia and steampunk. But I'm always willing to give any genre a go. I've been known to read horrors, thrillers, sci-fi, crime drama. I guess you could say I have eclectic tastes!
Q: What's the title of your latest book? Can you tell us about it?
A: Forever Fredless is my first proper Chick Lit novel. Here's a brief synopsis:
Kate Robinson has spent the past two decades yearning to find her soul mate, the boy she found and then lost during a family holiday.
Shortly after her twenty-eighth birthday, however, she inherits a fortune from an old family friend and becomes something of an overnight celebrity. Can her new-found fame lead her to him after all this time?
I LOVED writing it!
Q: What inspired you to write it?
A: It was a special holiday my husband and I had with some of our best friends on the islands of the Azores.
Q: Is it part of a series?
A: I only ever intended it to be a stand alone novel but you might see some of the characters appear in other books.
Q: Have you ever spotted anyone reading your books anywhere?
Afraid not! If I did, I probably wouldn't be able to stop grinning for a week!
Q: Who designs your covers?
A: Ravven (www.ravven.com). She's absolutely amazing.
Q: If your latest book was made into a film, who would you cast?
A: Somebody like Emily Blunt would play Kate, and that guy who recently played Superman would be Marc. Oooh yes, he'd be perfect!
Q: What's your favourite Chick Lit book that made it to the big screen?
A: There are so many I loved but The Devil Wears Prada was a pretty good adaptation.
Q: What were the last two books you read?
A: The Howling Heart by April Bostic (werewolves!) and Breaking the Ice by Mandy Baggot (fabulous read!)
Q: Name one female author who you think deserves to be better known.
A: Oh only one? No, I can't do it. I have to name three: Shalini Boland, Melissa Pearl and Poppet. They are ALL amazing!
Q: Where do you write?
A: I wish I could say in my own private enchanted office, but alas no. I usually sit at the end of the dining table under the stairs a la Harry Potter.
Q: When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?
An archaeologist, a dancer and a psychologist!
Q: In the movie of your life, who would play you?
A: Sandra Bullock, definitely. Although I look more like Sporty Spice (I used to get told that ALL the time).
Top drink to make you tipsy? Champagne :)
Shopaholic or shopadon't? Shopaholic but only for bargains... it's got to involve bargains
Sky high heels or closer to the ground? Closer to the ground during the day, heels for a party.
E.L. James or Jilly Cooper? Jilly Cooper. She was my first chick lit love.
Cry baby or tough cookie? Cry baby. I even blubber during adverts!
Exotic beach or enchanted forest? Enchanted forest... sigh.
I'm an author of commercial women's fiction and a writing instructor. My claim to fame: I can say the alphabet backwards.