Dispatches from NaNoWriMo, Vol. 1

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“Don't think. Thinking is the enemy of creativity. It's self-conscious, and anything self-conscious is lousy. You can't try to do things. You simply must do things.”

Well, Ray Bradbury would be happy to know that month of not-thinking and doing is upon us.

It’s National Novel Writing Month! (NaNoWriMo for short, and NaNo for even shorter.)

NaNoWriMo is a fun (and ambitious) creative writing challenge that launches every November. On November 1st, thousands of participants begin working towards the goal of writing a 50,000-word novel by 11:59 PM on November 30.

That works out to about 1,666 words per day. And with the support of NaNo’s vibrant and encouraging writing community, there’s no time for overthinking – just writing.

Here at FriesenPress, NaNo has become an event our writing community looks forward to every year. And this year, we’re going to share that excitement: we invite you to join us in cheering on and checking in with our intrepid group of NaNo participants as they attempt to write a novel, from scratch, in just 30 days.

We caught up with our diverse group of NaNo veterans, sophomores, and newbies on November 1st for a Day 1 check-in. Let’s get acquainted!


Astra, Publishing Specialist

Why are you undertaking this insane writing challenge NaNoWriMo?

NaNo gives me a socially acceptable reason to be a total hermit and prioritize writing. Having goals (even self-imposed ones) also helps me get a lot of work done in a short time. Drafting a whole book in (more or less) one sitting ensures I keep a clear perspective on the story, accomplish more cohesive character development, and keep my excitement high. I find I typically get the bulk of my first drafting done in November, and then can work on revising, finding beta readers, and pitching during the rest of the year.

It sounds like you’ve done this kind of thing before.

I sure have! I once completed the Three-Day-Novel challenge, and the results of that effort are my adult fantasy novel, First Born, which is included in the Greater Victoria Public Library's Emerging Authors collection. Typically, my novels are too big for 1 year's worth of NaNo, so I often will write the first half one year, and finish the same manuscript the next NaNo. This is my sixth year participating in NaNoWriMo (you'll find me on there as AstraCrompton, if you want to Buddy with me!). This is actually the first year my project is small enough I might actually be able to do the whole first draft in one go!

How’d your previous attempt go?

I've "won" NaNo every year I've attempted, often exceeding the 50k word goal considerably! I attribute this to mulling the ideas over for most of the year before NaNo starts, so when November 1st hits, I'm chomping at the bit to get writing.

Wow! Well done. Can you tell us a bit about this year’s project?

I'm writing another adult fantasy, set in the same world as my previous books. However, this one is a stand-alone, and I'm tackling a different sub-genre than I've written in the past: romance. I'm talking the old-school, Jane Austen or Alexandre Dumas style of romance. Basically, I'm trying to write the kind of romantic novel that I want to read. Briar & Thorn will tackle LGBT themes and explore a character learning how to love and be loved in a balanced and healthy way.

Lastly, is there a GIF that illustrates your Day 1 feelings?

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Ellie, Publishing Specialist

Hi Ellie! Why are you undertaking NaNo this year?

For as long as I can remember, I've identified as a writer. It's recently occurred to me that for that to be true, one has to actually write. So, challenge accepted.

You’ve attempted NaNo before - how did it go?

This will be my third attempt. I crapped out pretty early on the first year (commitment isn't my best quality). Last year, I managed to write every day but I didn't hit the 50k word count. So this year I've created a skeleton of where I want the book to go and have tried very hard to not commit to anything that will take me out of writing for this month. Third time’s the charm right?

Absolutely! Please tell us a bit about your project.

This year I've decided to begin with a small nugget of last year’s fiction attempt:

Audley has always been a bit peculiar. Now, newly thirty and the host of a small (and slightly pathetic) daytime "how-to" television show, Audley navigates adult life as best she can. (Though this apparently requires more than just feeding Kevin, her fifteen pound cat and roommate.)

Her life would be considered average – that is, until she meets two new coworkers: Sarah, a thrill-seeking extremist, and Lillith, her dark and cynical polar opposite. The two take on Audley's mundane life as their own personal project. Audley's life quickly spirals out of control as a dark secret is brought to the surface for the world to see – and the world may not be ready.

Whoa! That got dark. I like it. Is there a GIF that captures your Day 1 feelings?

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Nessa, Publishing Specialist

Hi Nessa! What brings you to NaNoWriMo this year?

I'm a writer and I've always wanted to write a book! I feel this is a really great opportunity to start achieving that goal. I also feel like I have a really great community supporting me and so many resources at my disposal. Those things help make the idea of NaNo much more feasible!

Having never written a novel, what do you expect from the month ahead?

I really only expect that I try my best and write as much as I can. I know finishing an entire novel in a month seems a little unrealistic, but I just hope that I give it my best shot and see where I end up.

Please tell us a bit about your writing project.

I am writing a memoir centred on some challenging experiences I've gone through in my life. I’m really doing this for me, but I also have hope that my story will inspire others who may have gone through a similar time in their life.

Thanks for sharing that, Nessa. Those are excellent reasons to write. One last thing: please provide a GIF that encapsulates your Day 1 feel.

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Jessica, Publishing Specialist

Why are you undertaking NaNoWriMo?

While a novel is a big undertaking, starting it and then sticking with it is an important step. Nano gives writers a manageable and fun goal and timeline, and for me it is very low stakes. Which is great! It means I am completely free to experiment and to "fail", because that is the best way to learn. It's just a great opportunity to get out there, connect with a cool community of writers and have some creative fun.

Have you written a novel and/or attempted NaNo before?

I have never written a full novel. Last year was my first year doing Nano.

How’d your previous attempt go?

It was fun, and I learned a lot. The biggest problem was my characters, who didn't seem to want to do anything! So, that was a big learning experience. I set my goal low (10,000 words) and didn't make it. My final number was somewhere around 6,000. So my goal this year is to beat my word count from last year.

Please tell us a bit about your project.

The project that I am working on this year is a fiction novel. It is sort of a voyage and return novel, set on the Pacific West Coast. It's a serious book with some magical realism elements, and vaguely influenced by Shakespeare's Twelfth Night.

You know the drill. Day 1 GIF – go!

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Best of luck, writers – we’ll check in again soon!

Please leave our participants some encouraging words in the comments section below – they’d love to hear from you!

Interviews by Brian Cliffen, Marketing Specialist @ FriesenPress
NaNoWriMo logo courtesy of National Novel Writing Month.