December 2008


I think many people don’t realize the potential of the written word. I am not referring  to books or any literary production such as shorts stories and poems, but to the little messages we’re used to exchange on a daily bases. E-mails, forum replies, msn… we now write more than ever and have a great deal of options to choose from. I myself make use of these facilities. And yet, I know two types of persons: the ones who I get the feeling I’m talking face to face to them, as they’re so expressive on their messages, and the ones that make me feel uncomfortable, for their words lack the spirit that is part of them – a spirit I can clearly sense when we’re talking and their eyes meet mine. Online, there is no visual contact, no voice tone, no facial expressions; you must rely on what you have in order to establish an effective communication. And you only aid are words.

If put into good use, words can be extremely useful and make a great difference. A written message lasts longer than an oral one, and so your messages can bring happiness, comfort and hope, as many times as your readers will want to read them. The contrary applies as well: write a rude, hurtful message and the reader will feel bad, because words can carry a lot of emotional charge, as much as you would like to embed with them.

You have a powerful weapon at your disposal. Use it wisely.


On another note, I hope everyone has a bright joyful year 2009. I will continue what I’ve started in this year, and that includes this blog. However, the posting periodicity isn’t exactly part of my resolutions: I’ll write in here when I feel like, when my heart tells me to. That can be once every week, twice a day, but never less than once a month, that I can garantee ;)

My NaNoWriMo interviews are still in progress: in the meantime, I have received a new batch of replies and those will form my third and last post of the general interview series.



I’ve had several ideas for new posts and, yet, none have come forward as a reality. It’s something that affects me greatly: I plan my posts for so long that it is extremely difficult to me to press that “publish” button. The same applies to all my writing: most of it stays in my mind as I perfect it in a complete mental, cerebral way, until I realize I have a notebook and could probably use a little jotting down things.

It is an issue that NaNoWriMo corrected. For that month, I may not have written every single day, but I did get used to put down whatever was in my mind. The quantity was there, but how about the quality? I’ll be judge of that, since I’m the only one with access to my story, of course ^^

I had more to say about the subject, but I best resume my normal activities. Expect more interviews and posts from me in a short period!


I’ve been sick. Nothing too bad, though, just a flu that disabled both my taste and smell senses. However, I tried to enjoy the experience, as far as one can enjoy being sick. How come so? Because one of my characters will also be catching a flu somwhere in the story and the disease will stick with him for a considerate time. I wouldn’t want it in any other way. This character’s persona practically scram to me: “Make me sick!”. He is of a robust nature, and yet I made him go through this little incident because I felt like. After all, characters are just like regular people. They can and will get sick once in a while.

That’s something that botters me a bit. When I read a book, how come the characters never get sick? Their fragility is most of the time psychological, never does the body behave in the way a normal body is supposed to behave. For the contrary, it always presents itself healthy and vigorous. Well, your characters have the right to be ill. And if the story extends for a long period, the more likely is that your character will fall to some physical sickness.

Here’s some points to consider.

Snow and fire – If your character’s going on a trip to a place with extreme temperatures, that will take its toll on their body. This character of mine I’ve been refering from the beginning has little resistance to cold and he’s a bit “manly”, causing him to ignore his wife’s advice and not wearing enough warm clothes, which will lead to a nasty flu.

Prudent characters will pay attention to the weather in order to prevent sickness; less wise characters will suffer more. Also, unless you are talking about a sorcerer with some powerful protection spells, don’t expect to send your characters to the Winter tundra/blazing desert with their regular outfit.

Fever makes you dull. When someone contracts an infection, they’ll develop a fever. Fevers are relevant to your character’s jugdment, speech and actions. They make your movements slower and you tend to sleep a lot. You can’t think straight. A warrior with a fever will have less agility and has to compensate in battle whether by retreating to the back row or by requiring extra help from his comrades, for example. Most likely he will be a nuisance and has to take some time out to rest.

Recovery time – You cannot have your character going through a potentially fatal disease and then have them return to normal within two days. Allow them a decent recovery time which you may use to focus on another situations/characters. An average flu will likely take two weeks to get better and a poisoning two or three very bad days following a week’s recovery. Also, beware of the recovering conditions. If your character won’t be able to recover on a comfy bed with some sort of accompaniment, it’ll take a lot more to get back to good shape as the body as to work harder to be healthy.

Medicine and healer’s experience – What’s your character taking for the disease? Remember that not all medicine/potions have to be extremely effective and some may even not be the best for your character. The healer’s experience adds to it, as they’ll be of better help if they’re more experient and used to treat that particular disease.

Relapse – If the illness is indeed serious, chances are it can strike again, specially if it’s not conveniently treated on the first occurence. Lord of the Rings hobbit Frodo Baggins never fully recovered from his injuries in Amon Sûl, which led him never to be fully healthy again. Although I would like to focus in sicknesses more than physical injuries, the principle still applies. Just think of a virus that never leaves the body or a chronic illness.

When you are creating a new disease for your character, take your time on answering the following questions:

  • Name of the disease?

  • Origins?

  • How do you catch it?

  • Is it a common or a rare disease?

  • How long until you realize you’re sick?

  • What are its symptons?

  • Is it treatable or does it disappear naturally?

  • Is a special artifact/medicine necessary to the healing process? Why?

  • How does the society looks at people with this disease?

  • Who is more likely to catch it? Does it affect specific classes, etc.?

Do make your characters sad when they’re sick and do make them immensely happy when they start getting better. That’s what’s happening to me ;)

Six days later, second part of interviews is launched. This is good stuff and there’s lots of interesting, thought-provoking answers.

I will now start my other kind of interviews, the ones that require a bit more work as they’re more ellaborate both in questions and answers. I still don’t know how many interviews will be made using such method, but two are on its way and five more at least are being planned.


Special thanks to the interviewees: Nilynrae, Davina, Amanda, Carla, Melissa, Lydia and Rodwen =)

1. Please give us a quick introduction of yourself (Name, age, location, job, etc. You can tell as little as you want, though.)

Nilynrae: Well I go by the name of Nilynrae on most forums (it’s drow language for ‘herectic’s tear’.. i just liked it). I’m fast approaching mid thirties (eek!), living in Wales and working in Energy Management. When I’m not writing, I’m usually either studying or dabbling in computer art.

Davina: My name is Davina, I live in southern England and I’m thirty years old. I work for a large cinema chain.

Amanda: My name is Amanda Mayberry, I am 15 but was 14 when I wrote my story. I live in Walla Walla WA. My job is to go to school so nothing to exciting their.

Carla: My name’s Carla, but I go by Melamin all over the Internet. I’m 25, and a University student from Montreal, Canada, studying Linguistics.

Melissa: My name is Melissa Gilbert and I am 31 years old. I live in Chicago Heights Illinois.

Lydia: My name is Lydia, I’m 15, and I live in central US.

Rodwen: My user name is RodwenofRohan, you can call me Rodwen. I am 21, live in Texas, and am a college student currently.

2. How long have you been writing?

Nilynrae: Writing novels since Nano 05. I thought it sign up and see how difficult it actually was to write a first draft. Generally writing little bits and pieces (poems, shorts, character pieces) since around the time I started live-roleplaying (around 1994).

Davina: I’ve been doing it off and on for several years , but nothing very serious to be honest. I did a BA (Hons) in Journalism but didn’t do that well and had to find other work to pay off my debts so I left my writing having lost all confidence in my ability. I started a couple of novels, but I never really finished anything as I never really had the time to write it all down and I didn’t have the equipment. When I bought a computer with my mum in 2002 I decided it was time to put up or shut up: If I wanted to be a writer, I kinda needed to start writing, to paraphrase William Goldman.

Amanda: I have been writing for fun for I think four years but never got past writing the first twenty pages for a book.

Carla: Quite honestly, I’ve been writing for as long as I can remember. I definitely got serious about it in high school (thanks to some very encouraging teachers I will never forget), but even before that I was writing stories in journals and notebooks.

Melissa: Wow that is a hard one. As long as I could remember I have been writing. I’ve had short stories and poems I’ve written in the past.

Lydia: I’ve written for…well, quite a long time I guess. I’ve only gotten more serious about it in the past few years though.

Rodwen: I have been writing since I was a kid, but only writing stories for the past year or so. My NaNo novel is the first novel I have completed.

3. When did you first heard of NaNoWriMo and how?

Nilynrae: A friend told me about it around the beginning of 2005. I don’t know how she heard of it but I’m very glad she shared the link with me. I think she wanted someone to share the pain with. ;)

Davina: I was a bit of a Harry Potter fangirl (still am, I suppose!) and I was reading one of the threads on Fiction Alley in 2002 (?) when I read about it. I followed the link and it intrigued me so I decided to start ‘The Whitehall Vampire’. I never finished it though. I just ran out of inspiration , but I liked the characters so I decided to give them another chance.

Amanda: I heard about NaNoWriMo in 2004 when my brother did it for the first time, he told my family all about it.

Carla: I first heard about it last year, midway through November. A few of my fellow blogging friends were participating in it. At the time, I didn’t understand what it was about and didn’t really bother looking into it. This year in September, a good friend I happen to have met in class saw how much I was focusing on my writing and told me about NaNo.

Melissa: I believe it was maybe a month before November started. I write lenses over at squidoo and one of the lensmaster (ealkat) asked if anyone else was doing it. It looked interested so a couple weeks later at least, I signed up.

Lydia: I heard of NaNoWriMo in 2006, not long before it was due to start. It was on some forum…I’m not part of it any more I don’t think. Someone had started a thread for those planning to do NaNo, and I thought it sounded like fun.
Rodwen: I heard of NaNoWriMo last year on the website, which has a strong NaNo group.

4. Would you mind giving us a short description of your novel?

Nilynrae: This years – well it’s sort of an ‘Aliens’ meets ‘Firefly’ meets ‘Invasion of the Bodysnatchers’ (with a little ‘Dog Soldiers’ thrown in) style affair. At least, those are the influences this time around. I wasn’t going to take part seriously this year due to other commitments but I came back from a Firefly event where I dressed as a Reaver and couldn’t help but write something!

Davina: Basically , it’s a sequel to ‘The Whitehall Vampire’ set in 17th Century France. Jonah has been turned in to a vampire, but he works as an agent for Charles II. He gets sent to investigate the Affair of the Poisons and reunited with Eve who has to rejoin the court at Versailles and spy on them. The murders and intrigues soon start to rack up and both realise they are in over their heads as they uncover a Satanic conspiracy.

Amanda: My novel is about a Fairy girl who makes a mistake when she is a maid for the Shape Shifter king, Verndure. His son and only heir died as an infant so Delphina goes out and finds a random baby to take his place without telling anyone. When the boy grows older Delphina is horrified by her mistake for the boy, Ishkerof, wants to start a war with the Avians even though they have a peace contract. Delphina puts herself on a journey to solve her mistake and fails. The first war causes a second one as well. Delphina tries hard to fix her mistake but it is already too late to repare all the damage…

Carla: It’s a fantasy/steampunk novel that starts off as a rather typical hero’s journey where a small band set out to save their world from the growing darkness seeping in through a rip in the earth.

Melissa: How do I explain my story? It’s a bit off the wall. It’s a mix of science fiction and fantasy. You got starships and then you got planets and then the main character of my story starts out being human/vampire but later in the story she finds out that she is not human/vampire but she is vampire/witch. This is more than meets the eye. There is no blood sucking like most people would think when it comes to vampires. I think at this point its more a revelation type of story than anything. The characters learn who they are and so on.

Lydia: My novel this year takes place in the fantasy world I’ve been working on building for a while. It deals with espionage, politics and princess that aren’t quite as bratty as they seem. And fireworks.

Rodwen: Not at all. My Novel, “In the Land of Fae”, is based on the idea that Faeries are real, but in hiding. In the book, I find a faerie, Araenna, while on a trail ride with some friends. I rescue her from a spider web and take her home. After winning her trust, she tells me her story, and about the Land of Fae.

5. Did you use NaNoWriMo to develop and old idea or did you imagine the story as you were writing?

Nilynrae: At first I wasn’t “playing”, then I was going to NanoRebel and write some non-fic. I completely winged it as I went along because I needed a story to write. Something with characters and plot. New ideas formed whilst I was writing but I pulled those out and into short stories of their own during the month.

Davina: At first it was just a vague idea for a sequel: ‘Wouldn’t it be cool if Jonah tackled that case?’ I was interested in the Affair of the Poisons having read about it in some biographies about Louis XIV who fascinates me. I also loved the relationship Jonah had with Eve and wanted to continue it in a new novel.

Amanda: I wrote the story as I went but I vaguely based it on a poem I wrote about a month before November.

Carla: I used NaNo to work on a story that’s been in my head for 8 years or so. It had begun as a fully different concept, but as I was brainstorming in October after signing up for NaNo it turned into this hybrid of what it used to be. More urban/dark with a fun mix of magic and technology. The world history and politics changed significantly, causing the plot to take different turns, only the characters remained relatively similar to the original idea.

Melissa: This is based off a star trek simm I was in some years ago, but its far more than that as I have added more and changed a lot of things including technology and the planets that surround this story. Its mostly based around one planet, but in the original simm, there was not a second planet at all which I added in. The main character is my very own character that I ran those many years ago.

Lydia: I had wanted to do a story using a few elements that got tossed into this one for a while, but as I plotted it drew away from what I originally had in mind. I like this though. I don’t want to change it from what it’s become. I can’t really work without a plot, although I think my story is still plenty spontaneous.

Rodwen: A bit of both. The story had been floating about in my head for six months or so, and I had outlined the basic plot. As I wrote, however, the plot was pushed away, and the story seemed to take a life of its own. New characters were added, some were dropped, and chaos ensued.

6. Did you take the opportunity to try out a writing genre you weren’t used to, or maybe used new techniques?

Nilynrae: One of the shorts was a YA fantasy… couple of years back I tried urban fantasy, last year plain fantasy. Speculative fiction is very much my genre but I like to think outside of that somewhat and mix themes/change genres from time to time.
I used write or die as well but not for all of it… it did net me around 15k but I also enjoy taking things a bit slower once I had the word count and knew that I had enough time left.

Davina: Not really, I always wanted and was aiming for a historical Romance with elements of Mystery and Supernatural. I did use the ‘Phase Outline’ as detailed by Lazette Gifford on the Nano boards and I can singlehandedly say that her advice probably was the reason I won and managed 96k in the end. I knew exactly where I was going at any part in the chapter because the outline I’d worked out was so detailed. I read a few books on scriptwriting which helped. I was used to doing chapter outlines and synposes for my stories anyway. Although mine still needs tweaking.

Amanda: I wrote in the same genre I always do but I wrote in third person enstead of trying to do both first person and third person like last year since that did not turn out well.

Carla: Well I’ve always been writing in the fantasy genre, but this novel definitely took on elements that I had never tried before. I normally don’t write about technology, world politics, and epic battles but that’s how this novel turned out. I’ve had to do a lot of research and have a long list of books to read in the near future to see how authors actually deal with these things.

Melissa: No.

Lydia: I didn’t get myself to write a new genre this year, but I did try something a little bit new…I was writing with three first person POVs, but to ease the transition between them, I had a fourth person who had written the book taking the bits from my three character’s personal accounts. So it was kind of like it was “abridged,” though I never wrote the parts between. I got the idea from the book “Princess Bride” by William Goldman.

Rodwen: I tried writing fantasy for the first time, but it is the genre I read most often, so I mainly stayed in my comfort zone. As far as new techniques are concerned, I used Write or Die several times in the final days, and found it helped immensly.

7. Were there any moments you feel like giving up?

Nilynrae: Not so much giving up but I did think that I might not have time. I don’t quit though and resolved to keep at it. In the end I churned out double what I had expected to and ended up with 100k. Which, considering I wasn’t going to even start, is not bad!

Davina: To be honest , I enjoyed writing the story so much I didn’t really. I got into the characters and the plot so much I didn’t want to give up. I was lucky enough to have organised some time off from my job, so it didn’t matter if I stayed up till 5 or 7 in the morning to finish a chapter. Which I did, more than once.

Amanda: I can’t say I ever felt like giving up since I had to prove to everyone that I was no quiter when it came to writing. I have always been inspired to write even when I have writers block.

Carla: Surprisingly enough, no. Nearly right from the beginning I found myself ahead on the daily word count (my initial goal was to get ahead before school work began to pile up). The further ahead I was, the more determined I was to setting higher and higher goals until I hit 50k half way through November. I went into it not really expecting to win, but determined that I wouldn’t just give up either.

Melissa: I never give up.

Lydia: Not this year…I managed to avoid writer’s block and being too busy. I did feel bad because I had one friend who had her story plotted and ready and was so excited about it, but when November came around, she found herself too busy to find even one moment to write. Another friend of mine would probably have won, but she lost half of her file, never to be seen again. It helped me be spurred on to win for them though.

Rodwen: Several. I was falling behind from the very beginning, because of a nasty cold, and there were three streches of days when I did not write at all.

8. What major difficulties did you have to face during NaNoWriMo?

Nilynrae: I had a number of other commitments that leaked a lot of time away (although they weren’t things I was prepared to stop doing). I see friends on Tuesdays/Thursdays, work full time, was investigating a new study path at the same time and help moderate an online forum. All things which were not droppable without upsetting either myself or friends.

Davina: One of my major difficulties I found was incorporating the research while sticking to the story I wanted to write. As I did more reading and research I realised that I would have to tweak events and timelines to get an effective story. There was also an expanding cast of people who needed to be incorporated. The story quickly became more complex than I originally thought it would, to be honest.

I did feel bad about stretching the truth in some respects to suit my story. For instance, Minette didn’t actually die of poison as in the novel. There is strictly no proof that Athenais was involved in Satanic rituals. Angelique de Fontages wasn’t poisoned, she died of a miscarriage. And the events of the story happened over a long period of times : nearly twenty years! But I had to make the decision to alter events as I saw fit to make a compelling story that I would want to tell.
Some of the events that happened according to the research were a bit OTT and I seriously wondered about toning it down as I thought no one is going to believe that in a story.

Amanda: The difficulties I faced were trying not to move to fast in my story and stopping late at night to go to bed when I was on a roll.

Carla: Mostly just trying to balance all my assignments and exams while writing the novel. And because I would write in spurts of 5k to 10k some days, I would go a couple days too burnt out to write anymore. Also a lot of carpal tunnel flare ups and back aches :)

Melissa: I did have some writers block but I always got through it.

Lydia: I probably had an easier NaNo than most, since I’m homeschooled, easily getting rid of anywhere I’d have to be early in the morning. That does mean that I’m at home with things to be done left and right. But isn’t it like that for everyone else?

Rodwen: Finding time to write. We have one computer in the house, and eight people wanting to use it.

9. Did you have any support from your friends and family?

Nilynrae: My hubby is the biggest supporter of all. I think he hopes that I’ll rake in the cash one day. ;)
He brought me constant cups of coffee or tea (and always seems to know which and when!) and cooked me dinner. Didn’t once complain when the house got messy and tidied up behind me, leaving out any books I’d been reading…
Friends were also understanding and encouraging.

Davina: I mentioned it occasionally at work but I was pretty much on my own as far as real life was concerned. My Family didn’t know anything about it, and that suited me just fine. They would have thought it was a frivolous way to pass my time when I should‘ve concentrating on more important things.

Amanda: My family gave me a ton of support and my family did not complain about me being on the comp all the time so that was nice.

Carla: I’m amazed at the support I received. I had a lot of friends sign up for NaNo after I told them about it, so there was a large network of friends for support. I also had my cousin join up and we ended up talking on the phone almost every night with an update on our word counts and the status of our novels. With a couple of exceptions, those I spoke to (who were not participants) found it amazing that I was doing this and are all eagerly awaiting to read it if I’ll ever allow it :)

Melissa: My friends. None of my friends were doing nano this year but they loved hearing how far I came along while I was doing this.

Lydia: My mom helped me out a lot, offering me her tea in the morning when she got up (I would have already been up several hours writing), and asking me if I had my words done. She’s a great coach.

Rodwen: Yes. My parents, although they did not understand why I wanted to write a novel in 30 days, were willing to let me try it. Several friends kept encouraging me, as well as bugging me for excerpts.

10. Did you ever felt you were writing without adding nothing relevant to your story? Did that bother you?

Nilynrae: Sometimes I wondered what the heck I was writing, yes. I don’t think this year’s story was all that marvellous but then I know that’s to be expected. Most of it was relevant but there were a few parts that weren’t. I stopped letting it bother me once the words were on the page… it all counts and the word count is what’s important for Nano.

Davina: Well ,because I’d planned exhaustively before that start of NaNo, this wasn’t a problem. That outline was and still is the bible as far as the story is concerned. I also knew that I was going to go back and subject the book to an intensive edit so any major plot holes would be solved.

Amanda: I unintentionally made everything I wrote revelant because it just fell into place that way but I would not mind if it had been differently no.

Carla: All the time! And yes, it drove me crazy! The beginning was especially bad, I felt like it was going nowhere and was completely pointless. Once things picked up it got better, but there were so many scenes that I felt were completely irrelevant. Every time I got that feeling I wanted to delete what I had just written and just change direction, but I focused on the word count goal and just kept writing no matter how bad it was. I figured I can always rewrite it later :)

Melissa: A lot of what I wrote seemed like crap. I know this is only the first crap but having all of this in there is good so when I do edit it, I can see if it goes together or not.

Lydia: Hmm…I think I managed to stay fairly relevant this year, but I remember last year I would write off on tangents and random things. Once I had my characters have some really stupid weird tournament between themselves, but it was a lot of fun to write.

Rodwen: I assume you mean ‘without adding anything’… I can’t think of a time, per se.

11. In what ways did you connect with your writing buddies?

Nilynrae: In the past I’ve moved around a fair bit but this time was the first time I got to be in the same region as last year (England:Elsewhere -> England:London->Europe:Wales) and it was nice because I started to recognise a few people from last year. That helped a lot. I went to weekly write-ins and two TGIO parties, posted on the regional forum quite a bit and swapped the odd Nanomail.

I try to mail a couple of new people a year with encouragement and some of the Nano folks on my list are either from my Region, people I’ve contacted randomly on Nano or are from other forums online and we’ve decided to get together and try Nano.

This year, I tried the ‘adopt a newbie’ approach which was really good too. I made friends with someone in Canada and we Nanomailed each other a lot.

Davina: My main writing buddies were on the Nightwish boards, actually There were a whole bunch of us writing and I used to share snippets of what I had been writing. I also used to write on a LJ group devoted to Nano and I used to post bits on there. My stuff used to stick out a mile , because I seemed to be the only Historical Romance writer on there!

Amanda: One of my writing buddies was my brother, one my best friend, one I know from, two of them became my friends of the forums and three or four were a little more random.

Carla: Most of my writing buddies were friends I knew in person. So there were a lot of MSN, emails, and blogging discussions going on between us to encourage each other. It was definitely the main topic of conversation every time we spoke.

Melissa: I didn’t have any.

Lydia: I just love the community here. We’re all in the same boat really, even if we’ve set different personal goals. No matter what, we’re all trying to do something insane. We have to balance finding time for our writing every day with the rest of the world banding together to keep us from finding that time. And everyone just wants to help. It’s like there’s no way not to connect.

Rodwen: Email and NaNo mail.

12. Was your novel finished with NaNoWriMo?

Nilynrae: Thankfully yes! This time. I did NOT want a repeat performance of last years. Last November, I left with an 105k document and wandered off to Nanofimo then… and then JanNoWriMo followed after that. Last years took me 10 weeks in total (155k) and I didn’t want to do that again.

Davina: No. Not even half way through. Currently I’m at 101k and still not even half way according to the Plan. This is going to be an epic.

Amanda: Sadly my novel was not finished, but I did finish the first part with 67,300 words in November.

Carla: Not at all. I estimate that it is about half way through and so am focusing on finishing it through the month of December.

Melissa: Nope. I think I need 50,000 words or less to finish it up. I won’t know until I finish telling the story.

Lydia: I did manage to finish it this year, and it was a great feeling. Not only did I hit 50k, I wrote an entire novel!

Rodwen: Yes, much to my surprise. I actually concluded my novel at 49,500 words, and had to write an extra scene!

13. What have you learned from this experience?

Nilynrae: Not everything always works… it’s Nano. That’s okay.
I CAN write short(ish) stories.
I underestimate myself too often.
Focus and determination is a wonderful attribute to have.

Davina: Umm, I need to work on someting less epic? On a serious note , I should have done more research prior to writing as there was a couple of times I had to interrupt my writing to find things out. I needed to find out who was going to be in the novel as the extra people was a bit annoying especially when I was meant to be writing.
I also found it hard to visualise Versailles and Saint-Cloud and I couldn’t get a very clear image of the palaces so that became a bit vague.One of my major regrets is that I’ve never actually been to Versailles! I just had to press on and if I found thorough later research that I’d messed up I’d just had to rewrite it. The important thing was getting the words out rather worrying what was Louis XIV’s throne room was called in the heat of writing.

Amanda: I learned that if I am persistant that writing a book is a lot easier than I thought last year. I have also found that my grammar and such has improved along with my writing style.

Carla: That the more I force myself to write in the beginning, the easier it comes later on. That I actually have something to say, and that I can actually accomplish goals I set out for myself if it’s something that I really care about.

Melissa: That it is possible to write a novel. What I learned from nano, I can take and do other times of the year and come up with some great stories.

Lydia: Even though I won last year…I’ve learned that if I can manage to focus, I can get a lot of writing done, apparently more than if I don’t focus. I’m just always amazed at how much fun NaNo is every year.

Rodwen: To never give up, no matter how challenging the problem may be. 50k words in 30 days seems impossible, especially for a chronic procrastinator who had never finished a story, but look at me now!

14. Will you be revising your novel?

Nilynrae: I have no plans to do so currently as I have other work that feels “better” to me. I’ve only just started on some 2006 stuff. If I ever do, it’ll probably get cut down into a short novella/long short story.

Davina: Yes, judging by the plot holes that are still there. I find it quite hard to write in a linear fashion anyway, so although I won, frankly ‘The Poisoned Veil is a bit of a mess!

Amanda: Of course I will, I am hoping to eventually get it published sometime in the future.

Carla: Definitely. I will probably make that my goal through 2009. By the end of 2009 I have myself set on having a full rewrite of the novel.

Melissa: Definitely. I plan to finish it up in January.

Lydia: I’m planning on it, since I want to take up that CreateSpace offer. But first I have to take care of last year’s NaNo. I hadn’t even read it until the first of December.

Rodwen: … … … yes … … … um … … … if I can motivate myself to re-read it.

15. Did you resort to the forums?

Nilynrae: Oh yeah. Loads! I love the bustle of the Nanoforums during Nanowrimo. It’s a hotbed full of prompts, ideas, cheerleaders and typos… what more could you ask for? :D

Davina: The forums were very enjoyable. It was really interesting to find out what other people were writing, and everyone was very encouraging. It was great to be able to bang on about your novel to like minded people. If I had tried that in real life I ‘m sure most people would have just glazed over.

Amanda: Sometimes I did but too overly so.

Carla: I tend to be rather shy in online forums, but I started posting in some threads through the second half of November. I followed the conversation in my region’s forum, but only posted very rarely.

Melissa: Yeah I used the forums when I can. There was some great information out there. I used the shoutout forums quite often.

Lydia: Mostly to chat with people and help other people out with their novels, and to get help whenever I needed it.

Rodwen: All the time, although ‘resort’ seems to be a bit harsh. I used the forums as a distraction, and a chance to connect with my fellow NaNoers. I enjoyed the playful banter that went around, and appreciated the help when I was stuck on several points.

16. What were your first thoughts and actions after winning?

Nilynrae: First thought: relief
First action: going to make my own darn coffee! and one for the hubby too!

Davina: To be honest, I just kept on going. I did post a congratulatory post on the LJ group and I rewarded myself with a pizza and watching a film. It gave me something to work towards. Although I passed by the 17th , I want to pass my word count for this year and I also want to finish earlier. Just my little competetive streak coming through!

Amanda: I was very happy and I bragged to my brother who was more than 10,000 words behind me.

Carla: My first reaction was to collapse in bed. I had spent that entire weekend spitting out school assignments and somehow at the same time wrote the last 15k in those two days. My back was aching and I was drained and exhausted. It was only the next day when I started getting messages from friends who saw my word count that it hit me. I just felt an incredible sense of accomplishment and pride in myself, not to mention a huge rise in confidence.

Melissa: I was like oh my god. I did it. I was relieved and happy.

Lydia: “I did it again!” I was just excited to do it. Then I played “Still Alive,” the credit’s song from Portal. The first few lines: “This was a triumph, I’m making a note here: HUGE SUCCESS.”

Rodwen: My first thought was “Wow. I actually did it!” My first actions? Pushing my swivel chair away from the desk and spinning until I was dizzy. True story.

17. What sentence of your novel contained the 50000th word?

Nilynrae: “After all, we still have the INTACOM online and that would have surely one of the first things to go.”
It’s part of a news report that is speculating of the target of an attack. INTACOM = the target’s INTelligence And COMmand network.

Davina: Do you know what? I honestly can’t remember.

Amanda: No idea, I wrote 67,000 so I don’t have a clue.

Carla: Nothing exciting: “She remained by his side until the Dunes of Abbadon began to rise up in the far off horizon.”

Melissa: It was in the last paragraph.

Lydia: “After I got the basic scales finished, I moved on to other exercises.” Very exciting. Basic was my 50,000th.

Rodwen: “If Creator planned for us to meet this one time, then, surely, He will allow us to see each other again, if not in this world, then in the next.” My Faerie friend is telling me farewell.

18. Did you feel it was worth it?

Nilynrae: Oh sure. It always is. Even if you came out with total junk, you’d at least know what doesn’t work and what does. Nothing is ever completely pointless!

Davina: Of course! I doubt I would have ever stirred my stumps to write this story if I hadn’t had the impetus of NaNo. I was also a bit of a perfectionist and took ages over things. At the moment I’m writing a Harry Potter fic which has taken ages precisely because I’ve been agonising about are they in character? Is this any good? Let’s wait for my beta’s opinion. Hopefully this will motivate me to write a bit swifter and have faith that what I’m writing isn’t half bad.

Amanda: It was way worth it, I feel as if it gave me a little boost of confidence, writing about something you want to is always worth it to me.

Carla: 100% yes. It gave me a huge boost in confidence, which is something I was unfortunately missing as this was a tough semester in school. There were also a lot of personal things going on with my family and so NaNo became a way of escaping it all and focusing on something for me, instead of constantly focusing on other people.

Melissa: Yes. I have always wanted to write a novel and this gave me the push I needed to do it.

Lydia: Of course. It was awesome.

Rodwen: Absolutely.

19. Are you planning to do NaNoWriMo next year?

Nilynrae: Always. If it’s running… I’ve donated as much as I can so come on people if you can and you haven’t!

Davina: Oh yes, I’m utterly addicted now! I even think I know what it’s going to be although it might change. Let’s just say I think something modern is in order. I’m also signed up for NaNoFiMo, MiniNaNo in March and I’m seriously thinking about JulNoWriMo as well.

Amanda: Oh you bet! I love it sooo much. The pressure does wonderful things to my ability to write.

Carla: I have no clue what I’ll be doing next year but I have every intention to be participating in NaNo for years to come.

Melissa: Yes, definitely.

Lydia: Why wouldn’t I? NaNo is one of my favorite things to do now.

Rodwen: Of course! I already am planning the novel I will write.

20. In what other projects are you involved?

Nilynrae: I’ve recently started a science fact blog & a writers forum. I’ve written an unofficial players guide website for a reasonably sized online gaming community (and have been moderating their forum for 3+ years). I’ve also sometimes active on various astronomy/science forums.

Davina: I have a whole bunch of interesting projects and stories I’m working on! As I said, I write Harry Potter fanfic so there’s a collection of ideas I want to get rolling. In addition to ‘Notes on a Scandal’ which is an AU 50+ chaptered fic about Hermione Granger and Severus Snape, I also am planning another one called ‘Dead Men tell no Tales’ which is going to be more of a AU Wizarding political thriller type thing.

I was working on a novel called ‘The Rival Nightingales’ which I was meant to do at the same time but ultimately I decided to concentrate on ‘The Poisoned Veil’. This is all about the true rivalry of Francesca Cuzzoni and Faustina Bordoni and how they competed to be the ultimate prima donna of the18th century London stage. That’s going to be my priority for next year.

My big work in progress is another epic called ‘Dischord’ . I think the best way to describe it would be ‘Jilly Cooper with added headbanging’ and it’s set in the Rock and Metal world about a rock star who goes missing right before his World Tour.

I have an LJ but frankly , no one ever visits. I try to blog but I don’t think I’m that great at it. Nothing much really happens in my life. I need to make more of an effort with it.

I post a lot on the Nightwish forum, being a bit of a fangirl, and the Ultimate Metal forums as well.

Amanda: I get on and well other than NanNoWrimo that is just about it.

Carla: I write my own blog: which is more of a personal blog and a way I stay connected with friends. I also joined a few forums this past week that are continuing similar writing goals like NaNo, one in particular being

Melissa: Oh my. I am in so many things its not even funny. I star trek simm on multiple sites. I run two websites of my own. One is star trek related and the other has many of my little projects on there. That one has my blog, offers webhosting/bloghosting, I make forum skins and themes and offer them for free or low priced. I write on squidoo and hubpages. I use photoshop quite often for the many things I need to use it including make forum ranks, banners, signatures and avatars.

Lydia: I have my own blog, mostly writing related, and I’m currently editing last year’s NaNo, and I think I have a few unfinished stories lying around. I know I have one I had to leave off for NaNo, I suppose I should pick it back up again.

Rodwen: I am involved in a website for NaNo members, called NaNoCritics, that is a writing-sharing site. I also am a new member of Script Frenzy, starting in April, put on by The Offices of Letters and Light, the people who do NaNoWriMo.

Finally! The first batch of interviews arrives. I’m thrilled that the idea I started planning three weeks ago is slowly materializing itself.

Huge thanks to Rachel, Dawn, Nina, Sarah, Emily, Neil and Tash on this first post of its kind. I enjoyed very much reading your words and now I’m sharing them with everyone else so you readers can have an idea of what NaNoWriMo meant for some of its entrants.

1. Please give us a quick introduction of yourself.

Rachel: My name’s Rachel Cotterill, I’m 25 and live with my husband in a pretty stone cottage in the Cotswolds (UK).

Dawn: My name is Dawn Meadows. I’m thirty-six years old and live in sunny Southern California. I’m a stay-at-home mom with five energetic children.

Nina: My name is Nina, I’m a 14-year old high school freshwoman in New Jersey, USA. I have no job, really, unless you consider “Student” to be a job. I live with my mom; my parents are divorced and I haven’t met my dad since I was… three? Too early to have any real memories, anyway.

Sarah: My name is Sarah W (we’ll leave it at that until I get published lol); I live in British Columbia, Canada. I’m 16 years old and work at good ol’ Tim Hortons, though I’m hoping to get a job with the newspaper to help advance my writing.

Emily: Hi, I’m Emmy. I’m a freshman in high school who loves ball jointed dolls, dark fairy tales, manga, theatre and vampires.

Neil: My name’s Neil. I live in Brighton on the South Coast of England. Work as a computer programmer.

Tash: I’m Tash, I’m fifteen and live in the UK. I’m at school, but missed most of it in November for health reasons which gave me more time for writing!

2. How long have you been writing?

Rachel: All my life! I used to fold up sheets of paper and make story books when I was at primary school – then I got my hands on a computer and I haven’t looked back!

Dawn: I’ve been writing since I was eleven years old. Mostly poetry and my first attempt at a novel when I was fifteen. Once I got married, at nineteen, I put aside my writing. It wasn’t until my husband suggested, two and a half years ago, that I take it up again that I did.

Nina: For about 4 years.

Sarah: I first started writing when I was very little, but fell for a writing school scam that pushed me away from my pencil and paper for quite some time. Luckily a friend of mine showed me a wonderful piece of fanfiction and I started to write that kind of thing. I only just branched out into original fiction a little while ago. Thank you friend for getting me back into writing! XD

Emily: I don’t really remember, to be honest. But in second grade was when I first really got into ceative writing. I wrote this long story about two girls who lived in a forest. One fell into a river and got captured by the bad guy who lived in the castle on the top of the mountain, and the other girl had to go on a big quest in order to save her.

Neil: About a month. Actually I wrote a short story just before Nano as a way of dealing with work related frustrations and tried Nano last year.

Tash: Probably since as soon as I could read. I tried to write my first novel when I was eight – got about a chapter and a half in and gave up – and have been starting novels regularly since then (but never finishing them).

3. When did you first heard of NaNoWriMo and how?

Rachel: A friend mentioned it to me last year, around September – and I just thought ‘why not?!’

Dawn: I heard NaNoWriMo when a couple of my online friends in a fan fiction forum were discussing it and trying to decide if they wanted to do it. That was in October of 2007.

Nina: I heard of NaNoWriMo on November 1st, 2008 from a friend that posted it on her facebook status.

Sarah: I heard of it last year but didn’t look into it, and after that it slipped my mind completely. I only heard of it again on the day it started from my english teacher from last year, who’d decided to participate. I thought ‘hey, why not!’ and went ahead and did it on short notice and stuff.

Emily: Last year, near the end of November is when I heard of it, though I had seen it mentioned in passing beforehand.

Neil: A friend of mine mentioned it and talked about her story and then I found other friends seemed to be doing this as well, so I thought I’d give it a bash.

Tash: Someone I roleplay’ed with told me about NaNo in 2006, but I didn’t even start it that year, because I figured there was no way I’d manage to finish it.

4. Would you mind giving us a short description of your novel?

Rachel: This year’s story is in a near-future science fiction setting – and in the end it came out as a combination of family drama & crime thriller.

Dawn: This years novel is fast paced, romance with an alpha-male and a strong female main character.

Nina: It’s a novel set around the present to near future (haven’t quite decided that yet), where vampirism has essentially spread throughout the world. There are two tribes of vampires, the Lamia-Nor and the Ruith-da, the former being considered more “bloodthirsty” and violent as opposed to the latter, which tends to be more peaceloving and humane – both, of course, nothing but stereotypes. War breaks out, for the first time in almost two thousand years, and Visucius (the main character) faces that and other problems, such as discovering a new ability that is generally shunned in the vampiric community and rifts between himself and his sire that continue to escalate throughout the story.

Sarah: Robots have taken over the world, a group of people want to stop the leader (who’s human and controlling the robots), assassination goes horribly wrong, MC captured and slowly turned against her friends, she ends up killing everyone (including herself).

Emily: Ringo hates her father with a passion. So in the summer of her 15th year, when he goes on one of his frequent business trips- that often go longer then he had intended- she boards a train that she rides to the very last stop, not knowing where it will take her.

Neil: It’s a near future cyberpunk wannabe story. Actually it turned out to be more high tech thriller. It’s about two geeks, one a free runner the other a computer genius meeting someone with proof that the American president killed her predecessor. There’s also a huge business conspiracy from the cartel that runs the media and has substantial interest in ensuring the current president remains where she is.

Tash: It’s basically character driven (with, as I discovered a week in, no real plotline), about two guys, a twenty-four year old finance dropout and his psychiatrist, who’s in his fifties and has about nine months to live.

5. Did you use NaNoWriMo to develop and old idea or did you imagine the story as you were writing?

Rachel: I’d had a vague concept for a setting floating around in my head for a couple of months, but until November 1st I hadn’t thought of any characters or plot. I decided to use NaNo as an excuse to explore and find out whether there was a story there that would be worth coming back to.

Dawn: Actually, I had an old idea in mind for this Nano project, but I got three chapters written when the idea for the novel I actually wrote struck. So I had no time for planning or outlining. I just started writing and the ideas poured out.

Nina: I’ve had this idea in my head for a while, but I kept adding new parts that came into my head as I wrote.
Sarah: I had the idea in my head a long while ago, but it was only as developed as ‘girl tries to overtake robots’… so I had the general idea, but for the most part I was completely winging it.

Emily: My main character, Ringo, was a very minor character in a different story I had written. I took her character, fast forwarded around ten years, and wrote about her life then.

Neil: I came up with the idea shortly before and pretty much worked out where it was going as I was writing.

Tash: I came up with the story I ended up doing on around the sixth day, having already fully planned out a crime novel, which I got two-and-a-half pages into and couldn’t do.

6. Did you take the opportunity to try out a writing genre you weren’t used to, or maybe used new techniques?

Rachel: I’ve dabbled in sci-fi before, but this is the longest piece I’ve written in the genre.

Dawn: I write in Young Adult and Romance, but this novel is a little more “racy” than I normally write.

Nina: Nope. I would have needed to do lots of prior planning to pull that off.

Sarah: Heck, I’ve never really written original fiction before this NaNo! So the whole thing was pretty much a new experience and experiment for me. But I like how it turned out, and I think I’ll try writing some more originals in the near future to try to hone my skills.

Emily: Im not sure if it was a new genre I wrote, because to be honest, I have absolutely no clue what genre my novel turned out to be. The one month writing technique really worked for me. I was forced to spend time with my characters every single day, and I really got to know Ringo well. Im finding the editing harder then the writing, because I don’t have the same sense of connection with my story as I did in november.

Neil: No. I wanted to keep it mainstream and something I was familiar with because of the time pressure.

Tash: I wrote in the third-person for one of the first times (with forays into first person for flashbacks), but other than that, I didn’t do anything too exciting.

7. Were there any moments you feel like giving up?

Rachel: No way. I did it last year, so I knew it was possible – so no excuses!

Dawn: No. I was determined and I never once suffered from writer’s block.

Nina: Yes. There were a lot. I did end up giving up around November 21st, but returned to my story two days later (after much complaining from my best friend).

Sarah: I’m sure everyone has these moments, but I didn’t really have too many of them. I think the only time was when I’d fallen behind by a couple thousand, but that just boosted my confidence and stuff and I ended up writing nearly eleven thousand on that weekend. Also near the end ’cause I didn’t want it to end, but I forced myself to do it so I could feel that sense of acomplishment.

Emily: After I wrote my first romantic scene, I was really ashamed of myself. I had no idea how to write a romance; I’ve never been in a relationship. But after some major complaining about it, I just buckled down and continued writing.

Neil: Not really. There were a few days where I felt I couldn’t face writing but that didn’t last.

Tash: Loads. On the sixth day, when I realised I was 8000 words behind and without a real plot. The day after, when I decided to scrap my idea and go back to zero – making me 12000 words behind. On the 15th, when I should have been at 25k and was actually at just over 10k. When I finally hit 25k – with eight days to go. On the 26th, when I realised that, in four days, I’d written just five thousand words – and still had 20k to write…at which point I finally stopped panicking, and got on with it.

8. What major difficulties did you have to face during NaNoWriMo?

Rachel: Really, nothing major. I was ill in bed for three days near the beginning of the month – too ill to write more than a handful of words. That was irritating, but not a major setback.

Dawn: Finding the time. With a large family, I have to stay up late or get up early to be able to write. Also, reducing the amount of time I spent on research. I love to research places and facts, but if I spent too much time on that, I would not have gotten 50,000 words in time. And the editing. I’m an edit as I go type of writer, so it was difficult not to work on the paragraphs above.

Nina: My mom and her constant disapproval of me spending so much time on the computer. School, which has become increasing more annoying over the days. My lack of planning, which ended up in me skipping several sections of the story and just barely getting to the ending… although that’s not so much a major difficulty as just a really irritating wall I kept running into.

Sarah: Difficulties… none, to my knowledge; I balanced it pretty well with school (asside from math, but I’m always horrible with that) and work… nope, no difficulties here!

Emily: I was in a play this fall, and the show was in november. For two weeks, I was at school until at least six at night, a lot of times until nine. The stress of the show combined with homework caused me to miss a few days of writing- I had some days where I only wrote a hundred words or so.

Neil: Just fitting it in with work and various other hobbies and things. I didn’t want to be a lock-in while I was doing this.

Tash: A chronic inability to write. I was diagnosed with depression part way through the month, and was having a really bad time. When I didn’t write, I felt worse, and when I felt worse I didn’t write.

9. Did you have any support from your friends and family?

Rachel: My husband made me lots of cups of coffee! :) Everyone is always supportive of my writing, but I don’t think most people will have noticed anything different in November – just for me, it was more intensive.

Dawn: My husband supports my efforts in writing and my kids thing it’s neat. So, yeah.

Nina: I’ve told most of my friends about it, but there was really two that was there with me through the whole thing. My mom was trying to be supportive at the end, but it was fairly obvious that she just wanted me to get the thing done and over with.

Sarah: I always seem to have support from my friends no matter what I’m writing (thank goodness!), but I think this was the first time my mom was slightly interested in my writing. To be honest, I don’t quite know how to feel about that; I’ve been writing for years and she’s always been ‘meh’ when I showed it to her, but this time it was a completely different reaction…

Emily: My family was fairly supportive, I guess- They were fine with me doing NaNo as long as it didn’t interfere with my school work. One of my good friends did NaNo with me, so at any free time during the school day, we would open our laptops and write. That was a big support for me, having friends that did NaNo with me, because it was motivation. I was always aiming to be ahead of my friend, and that really helped me.

Neil: Friends were certainly available to talk to. Family were supportive but I never quite felt they really got it.

Tash: I was really lucky to have masses of support – my mum and boyfriend were constantly on at me to get some writing done, and even my tutor agreed that, if I wasn’t in school, there was nothing better that I could be doing than writing a novel. Another friend of mine promised he’d make me a cake when I finally reached ten thousand, and would make me a NICE cake at 50k (he’s actually done neither, but it was the thought that counts!).

10. Did you ever felt you were writing without adding nothing relevant to your story? Did that bother you?

Rachel: I didn’t do that – because it would have bothered me enormously, so I would rather sit there and think about what to write, rather than putting down padding.

Dawn: No. I don’t do any shortcuts or funny word tricks to up my word count. If I needed to think about what to write next or take notes, they went in separate files that I did not count for my word count. It what I wrote wasn’t good or not relevant, I would delete it.

Nina: Yes. I felt that way through a good portion of the story. Those are usually the transition sections, and I don’t let it bother me too much, although I did skip one or two of those places and just went on with the story.

Sarah: You know, I actually didn’t; I didn’t wordpad at all. My entire 75028 words are storyline, and nothing but. If I had wordpadded it would have been a much greater wordcount, but yeah… nope, my story’s pure story, and nothing else.

Emily: I definetly felt like that, and i bothered me to an extent, because I knew it wasn’t helping my plot along. But as long as it was helping my word count, it didn’t bother me too much. Im in the process of deleting that part now, though, and It’s a huge pain to re write things. I’m going to try to not add as much filler next year.

Neil: Towards the end. I finished a few thousand words short of 50k, so I added an extra character. I hoped it would add some context but the character ended up boring me.

Tash: I didn’t start writing purely to boost my word count until halfway through the month, when I realised how badly I was doing (not including my utterly pointless ‘hey, wanna hear my backstory?’ section that took up my first 8k and I actually gave up on because it had reached ridiculous proportions). From that point, my characters started going on thrilling shopping trips which were described in great detail, reading parts of wine lists for fun, and telling ridiculous jokes – the longest of which weighed in at 6k, and wasn’t even vaguely funny.

11. In what ways did you connect with your writing buddies?

Rachel: A small group of us had weekly sessions going round to each other’s houses, and we had chocolate as a reward for every 500 words, which is a great incentive! They were great social evenings but also really productive.

Dawn: I have only four writing buddies. We knew each other from writing fan fiction in the same fandom and we connected through our LiveJournal accounts. One of my buddies is a friend that I talk to everyday through IM’s and we kept each other encouraged and used a wordwar widget on our livejournals to motivate each other.

Nina: I didn’t really do that. I ended up staying up late at night sprinting with my fellow Nanoers at one of the aim chatrooms (nanosprints/nanointothenight) during the last two or three days before I finished my novel, but otherwise I kept to myself.

Sarah: I had no writing buddies for this NaNo; I did it all on my own.

Emily: All of my writing buddies I knew in real life, so we would all talk at school. We were all in a play together, so late rehearsals were a great time to sit toether and work and talk about our novels.

Neil: There was a weekly meetup – loftily named “inspirational seminars” run by the MLs. It was a good to chat with other writers and find that other people were in the same boat.

Tash: This year, I didn’t really have any writing buddies (on three, ‘awwww!’), just a few people I occasionally compared word counts with on MSN, which was a shame, cause it would have been nice to talk to a few more people.

12. Was your novel finished with NaNoWriMo?

Rachel: Far from it. I see NaNo as a great excuse to experiment with things I might not have time to fit into my normal schedule, but I don’t expect to end the month with a finished product.

Dawn: No. I got my 50,000 words in time, but the novel ended up being 90,000 words and the rough draft was actually completed in the first week of Decemember 2008.

Nina: Not as a complete novel, but I did manage to write the ending scene at the very end of my 50k. I did skip quite a lot to get there, though.

Sarah: Much to my surprise, it was! I didn’t think I’d be able to reach 50k with the idea, but it ended up going just past 75k.

Emily: It was, and I am really proud of myself. I actually wrote a noel, despite the stress of theare and schoolwork.

Neil: Almost. I came up with an idea for another subplot which I’ll probably add.

Tash: I’m nowhere near finished. Without all the padding that I had to use in NaNo, and with purely relevant stuff included, I’ll need at least another 25-30k to finish, which I hope to do by March or so.

13. What have you learned from this experience?

Rachel: Pacing myself! Last year I finished in 13 days but I was completely burned out; this year I took until the 27th but I still have enthusiasm and energy left over.

Dawn: That I can write a novel off the cuff and still like it and still have it make a sense.

Nina: That I can do it! That my writing doesn’t have to be perfect as long as I get it done. And most importantly, that outlines do everything for a novel.

Sarah: Well, I definately learned that I can write original fiction, and I’m going to continue with that. It also taught me that I can meed insane deadlines if I put my best into it, so unfortunately I no longer have an excuse to not get stuff done on time. XD

Emily: I’ve leanred that I write well in short periods of time, because I really get to be close to my characters. I’ve also learned that I can write long pieces of fiction- I had never even written a 10,000 word story before this.

Neil: That I actually have a novel in me.

Mostly I’ve learned about how to keep a plot moving. Also I’ve learned that if you have a good idea, hang on to it even if it doesn’t seem like it will fit. It might be just what you need at some point.

Tash: What does everyone learn from NaNo? Always back up. Don’t give up. Procrastination, whilst not good, is entirely necessary. It’s possible to spend a month living on quick food and energy drinks. And equally, things like: even when it seems impossible, you can always do more than you think with 48 hours to go; if people see something really matters to you, they’ll support it; “well, I wrote fifty-thousand words in November” will always get you appreciation and attention (and congratulations presents of the chocolate kind).

14. Will you be revising your novel?

Rachel: Yes, in a sense – what I’ve got out of NaNo is a proof-of-concept but when I come to rewrite it I will be starting with a blank screen again. The ideas will go on, but probably none of the words.

Dawn: Yes. I kept notes as I went a long with things that I would need to add to earlier chapters for foreshawdowing. Also, a novel is never perfect with the first draft.

Nina: Yes – eventually. I’m going to wait for the new year to start though.

Sarah: I’ve already started. Though I don’t think I’ll be doing a complete rewrite, I am going through it and editing stuff to get it ready for publishing. Even if it’s only a proof copy for myself, I want it to be in tip-top shape. That and I promised the library a copy…

Emily: Oh, yes. I want it to be the best that it can be. I’m working on revision now, and it is a huge pain, but hopefully it will end up being worth it.

Neil: Probably.

Tash: I plan on finishing it 100% by the end of March, then going back and filling in the gaps, without deleting anything, during May. I’m going to use the CreateSpace offer to print out a proof copy which I’m going to take a red pen to over the summer then, who knows?

15. Did you resort to the forums?

Rachel: For social chit-chat; not for anything to do with my actual novel (no word wars or dares).

Dawn: I used the Nano forums to motivate me to keep writing. Going to the forums and seeing the word count bars of the others and reading what other people were doing and trying to encourage others is a real boost. The trick was to not get so invovled in the forums that I neglected my writing.

Nina: Of course. I was lurking around the forums from the very first day of Nanowrimo.

Sarah: I was on the forums a lot. And I mean, a LOT.

Emily: I went on the forums a great deal. They were really helpful in motivation and ideas. They kept me striving towards my goal.

Neil: I wouldn’t call it “resorting”. The forums were a valuable resource. The plot realism Q&A was great! It’s amazing just how many people know about how to deal with anaphylactic shock. And the plot Doctoring forum was useful. People never seemed to come up with ideas that solved the problem directly but it did point me in the right direction.

Tash: All the time. I did an awful lot of time-wasting lurking, especially on the Plot Realism forum.

16. What were your first thoughts and actions after winning?

Rachel: I poured myself a large amaretto & coke, and texted my other writing friends to let them know I’d done it. Then I went to bed – I finished on a 6,000 word sprint one evening!

Dawn: A quick ‘yay’ and then I thought about how I still had 40,000 words to go.

Nina: (if you pardon the swearing) Holy shit I did it. – I was in shock for quite a while. It took me at least an hour before I could get to bed.

Sarah: My first thoughts and actions after winning… “Wait, what?” she thought to herself, as she stared blankly at the computer screen.

Emily: I told my twelve year old brother, who kept asking me how many words I was on. I felt really happy that I did, but it was sad realizing that my time with my characters was over.

Neil: “Finally! Now I can eat!”

Told everyone on MSN about it, posted on LJ, and decided I’d written enough for that day.

Tash: “Oh no you di’nt!”…”Oh yes I did!”. It was a pretty remarkable feeling, especially as it was my second year taking part, and I’d been certain, until about a day before, that I was going to lose again.

17. What sentence of your novel contained the 50000th word?

Rachel: “He didn’t want her to be unconscious too soon.”

Dawn: Pullman on the other hand got up and shouted, “Sons and Daughters of St. Lucia, I’m coming home, baby!”

Nina: I’m not sure at the moment, as I don’t have MS Word’s handy-dandy word counter in front of me, but I believe it was, “He was possessed, a messenger of Hell.” 50,000th word was “possessed”.

Sarah: “Well… it’s really a long story…” There’s more in the paragraph, but that’s the sentence containing the 50000th word… which would be ‘really’.

Emily: “The train was almost here, and she was bursting with nervousness.”

Neil: “Dunc was sitting facing her occasionally thumping on the wall.”

Tash: “I don’t know,” she admitted. — It’s hardly Shakespeare!

18. Did you feel it was worth it?

Rachel: Definitely.

Dawn: Yes.

Nina: Yes. No doubt about it.

Sarah: YES. Y. E. S. There isn’t a doubt in my mind that this was worth it, and I definately recommend it to anyone; even if you don’t reach the wordcount goal or don’t make the best story in all of ever, it’s a wonderful experience.

Emily: Absolutely. NaNoWriMo was an amazing experience for me.

Neil: Yes. Learned a lot. Met some interesting people.

Tash: It couldn’t have been more worth it. It’s made me feel a million times better about myself, and has given me a project that I’ve really worked on to continue and finish. On top of that, it got me several hugs, two bars of chocolate and some of the nicest words of congratulations I’ve ever heard.

19. Are you planning to do NaNoWriMo next year?

Rachel: I almost certainly will, though I haven’t had chance to think yet what I might write next year. I might consider Screnzy as well.

Dawn: Yes. I even have a novel outline ready to go. It’s a sequel to another novel that I finished writing in October of 2008.

Nina: Yes, if school allows me to.

Sarah: Yuppers, I sure am. And maybe in April and July as well. And in the months in between I plan on doing a mini-nano and get about 25k a month. I think I’m addicted.

Emily: Yes! I’m already starting to think of ideas. :)

Neil: I was planning not to do it this year. I found myself suddenly feeling an urge to do it by the end of October.
Tash: If I can, definitely. This year was a push, because I have 2 exams in January and a lot of coursework due in Nov/Dec, but next year, I’ll have modular exams for all of my subjects which will be ten times worse.

20. In what other projects are you involved? (blogs, sites, stories in progress, membership on forums, etc. Related to writing or not.)

Rachel: I have a blog at, and I’m serialising the first novel from my new fantasy series online at Away from writing, I’m on the Ravelry forums for knitting & crochet.

Dawn: I am a member of Forward Motion I have two livejournal accounts. One for my fan fiction and one for my original work. I enter challenges for fan fiction writing often and I beta read/help to edit for new authors often.

Nina: I have a DeviantArt account (lyris-s), and I have another two stories/novels that I want to start writing as soon as I map them out.

Sarah: I’m involved in a lot of stuff; Control Point (a tf2 community), deviantart (where I post all my art and previews of original stories), (where I post my fanfictions), I’m currently writing a fanfiction novel and its sequel, planning for a new original, doing stuff for my various classes… wow, lots of stuff, I just realized!

Emily: I have an account on Flickr, ( where I post my photography, mostly of my dolls. I have a livejournal and am an active member of

Neil: Trying to come up with a one day Live Action role play event. Keep a blog updated.

Tash: Nothing, really. A friend and I are in the process of adapting a novel to screenplay, which made NaNo really tough – going from writing Name: (adverb) Dialogue to prose is incredibly difficult – but that’s it.

When I first tackled NaNoWriMo (oh, I remember so well, it was the midnight of the 1st November), I had a pretty solid plan: write 1667 words every day. I started right away and then went to bed: when I woke up in the morning, since it was a weekend, I wrote some more. By the end of the first day, I was extremely proud of myself: besides writing 2045 words, which would put me in a comfortable position as it was a number superior to my daily word count goal, I managed to write them all in English, and I had no trouble at all. However, I realized that that was going to be a day in ten, as from that moment on I’d be soaked in tests and oral presentations in college for which I had to study with a minimum of dedication. A few days later and I understood the so-called “conventional approach” wouldn’t work for too long: I just wouldn’t be able to write steadily, regularly.

That was when the second approach took place: the “laziness and make up excuses” approach. Luckily, that didn’t last for long, as I had days where I wrote absolutely nothing and then thought to myself “That’s ok, I can compensate”. Those days were spent studying, but not as much as you’d guess from someone who couldn’t even update a single word into the word count bar. There was a pretty interesting day, too: a day where I wrote about 300 words or so. I stared at that piece and remembered thinking I couldn’t write more on that day: I was officially uninspired. By that time, I was not so sure I’d finish NaNoWriMo, so I just wanted to see how many words would I be able to write in case I’d start writing on a daily bases. 300 words a day was not that bad, considering my daily average is far lower than that. Perhaps sticking with the 300 words would not be such a foolish idea: after all, it was a decent word count goal, one that I could easily attain every day, even when I would be too busy to write.

That thought didn’t stick with me for too long. I desperatly wanted to write NaNoWriMo, and suddenly something very special happened: I stopped thinking about I had just written and instead focused on writing. Just writing, and letting my characters take control. Well, they didn’t wait for a second invitation: they truly started arranging themselves a plot, as I went deeper and deeper into each one’s minds. No more wondering if that scene was truly important to the story, too, or if that scene was emotive enough: I just focused on getting that draft done, postponing my editing urges, and those two factors helped me immensely to come closer and closer to that daily word count I was supposed to be achieving.

I don’t know if I’ve ever managed to have the “correct” amount of words for every day (except when I won), but I do know that, from a very early stage, the calculator was my best friend. I was always checking it in order to see how many words did I have to write the next day. Planning those numbers was important to me.

Eventually, there was a time when I was so behind on my word count I had to take decisive measures. After a careful consideration, I saw I had to write 5000 words every day for a week, seven days that is. It was the final week and I was going for it with all I had: “frantic writing” is the appropriate denomination for this approach. However, Thursday wasn’t a good day for writing and I wrote… nothing. I felt a bit guilty, truth be told but, at the same time, I knew I had three more days to write intensively, so that didn’t bother me that much. After the greatly necessary calculator advice, the final plan was out: 6000, maybe 7000 words every day. I could not afford to rest for another day and the excitment of knowing that, if I sticked to the plan, I would win, made everything more simple. So I wrote, wrote and wrote. I also paid attention to my time: where on the first day I took 3, 4 hours to write 2000 words I was now writing the same amount in one and a half hour, one hour if I was already in the rhytmn of typing as fast as I could. And voilà, NaNoWriMo winner =)

What approach worked best for me? I’ll have to say the last days’ one. Because I did eventually follow a routine and managed to write regularly, but also the thoughtthat I had to write so much in such a short period made me write faster. In opposition, the first days were far more moderate: so moderate that I ended up getting lazy, thinking I could easily compensate on the next day.

As for the second approach, it is not recommended at all ;)

Related posts:

I saw this on Carter’s Little Pill and I thought it was pretty interesting.

Look through this list of banned books. If you have read the whole book, bold it. If you have read part of the book, italicize it. If you own it but haven’t gotten around to reading it yet, *** it.

1. The Bible
2. Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
3. Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes
4. The Koran
5. Arabian Nights
6. Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain
7. Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift

8. Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer
9. The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne
10. Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman
11. The Prince by Niccolò Machiavelli
12. Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe
13. Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank

14. Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert
15. Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens
16. Les Misérables by Victor Hugo

17. Dracula by Bram Stoker
18. Autobiography by Benjamin Franklin
19. Tom Jones by Henry Fielding
20. Essays by Michel de Montaigne
21. The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
22. History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire by Edward Gibbon
23. Tess of the D’Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy
24. Origin of Species by Charles Darwin
25. Ulysses by James Joyce

26. Decameron by Giovanni Boccaccio

27. Animal Farm by George Orwell ***
28. Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell ***
29. Candide by Voltaire
30. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
31. Analects by Confucius
32. Dubliners by James Joyce
33. Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
34. Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway
35. Red and the Black by Stendhal
36. Das Capital by Karl Marx
37. Flowers of Evil by Charles Baudelaire
38. Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
39. Lady Chatterley’s Lover by D. H. Lawrence
40. Brave New World by Aldous Huxley ***
41. Sister Carrie by Theodore Dreiser
42. Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell
43. The Jungle by Upton Sinclair
44. All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque
45. Communist Manifesto by Karl Marx & Friedrich Engels
46. Lord of the Flies by William Golding

47. Diary by Samuel Pepys
48. The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway
49. Jude the Obscure by Thomas Hardy
50. Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
51. Doctor Zhivago by Boris Pasternak
52. Critique of Pure Reason by Immanuel Kant

53. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey
54. Praise of Folly by Desiderius Erasmus
55. Catch-22 by Joseph Heller
56. Autobiography of Malcolm X by Malcolm X
57. The Color Purple by Alice Walker
58. Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger
59. Essay Concerning Human Understanding by John Locke
60. Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison
61. Moll Flanders by Daniel Defoe
62. One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn
63. East of Eden by John Steinbeck
64. Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison
65. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou

66. Confessions by Jean Jacques Rousseau
67. Gargantua and Pantagruel by François Rabelais
68. Leviathan by Thomas Hobbes
69. The Talmud
70. Social Contract by Jean Jacques Rousseau
71. Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson
72. Women in Love by D. H. Lawrence
73. American Tragedy by Theodore Dreiser
74. Mein Kampf by Adolf Hitler
75. A Separate Peace by John Knowles
76. The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath
77. Red Pony by John Steinbeck
78. Popol Vuh
79. Affluent Society by John Kenneth Galbraith
80. Satyricon by Petronius
81. James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl
82. Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov
83. Black Boy by Richard Wright
84. Spirit of the Laws by Charles de Secondat Baron de Montesquieu
85. Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut
86. Julie of the Wolves by Jean Craighead George
87. Metaphysics by Aristotle
88. Little House on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder
89. Institutes of the Christian Religion by Jean Calvin
90. Steppenwolf by Hermann Hesse
91. Power and the Glory by Graham Greene
92. Sanctuary by William Faulkner
93. As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner
94. Black Like Me by John Howard Griffin
95. Sylvester and the Magic Pebble by William Steig
96. Sorrows of Young Werther by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
97. General Introduction to Psychoanalysis by Sigmund Freud
98. Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
99. Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee by Dee Alexander Brown
100. A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess ***
101. Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman by Ernest J. Gaines
102. Émile Jean by Jacques Rousseau
103. Nana by Émile Zola ***
104. Chocolate War by Robert Cormier
105. Go Tell It on the Mountain by James Baldwin
106. Gulag Archipelago by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn
107. Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert A. Heinlein
108. Day No Pigs Would Die by Robert Peck
109. Ox-Bow Incident by Walter Van Tilburg Clark
110. Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes
111. Are You There God, It’s Me, Margaret by Judy Blume
112. The Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling
113. The Merchant of Venice by William Shakespeare
114. A Wrinkle in Time by Madeline L’Engle
115. The Witches of Worm by Zilpha Keatly Snyder

Conclusion: I have a lot to read. I have some of these books at home and it is a shame I still haven’t read them.

Go ahead and take this if you want ;)

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