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 http://rachelcotterill.blogspot.com, and I’m serialising the first novel from my new fantasy series online at http://www.charanthe.com. Away from writing, I’m on the Ravelry forums for knitting & crochet.

Dawn: I am a member of Forward Motion www.fmwriters.com. 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), fanfiction.net (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, (http://www.flickr.com/photos/emiey/) where I post my photography, mostly of my dolls. I have a livejournal and am an active member of denofangels.com.

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.

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