Welcome to November! Snow is beginning to brew on the horizon, and Thanksgiving and Christmas are fast approaching. It’s a hectic month for all, but some fearlessly dare to make it even more chaotic. November is also National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo for short. Many brave writers take on the challenge of writing a total of 50,000 words—that’s about 1,667 words a day, for thirty days! Here at Writers & Books, we love supporting those writers who take on this intense task, especially when two of them are our very own staff! Sarah Brown, our Literary Operations Fellow, and Emma Lynge, part of our front desk staff, have both decided to be part of NaNoWriMo.
They’ve spared a few minutes from their frantic writing to answer a few questions about their journey so far!
Have you ever done NaNoWriMo before?
Sarah: Nope! I’m a first timer. In the past I’ve always been too busy with school to sit down and write over 1600 words a day for the entire month, but now that I’ve graduated I decided that this was the year to jump on board. I started the month without a single idea or concept planned out but felt really up to the challenge to make something happen during the month.
Emma: I’ve done NaNoWriMo in some capacity every year since 2011—although I almost always come to the table with a project that I’ve previously worked on and want to finish. In some respects that makes me a big fat cheater, but I’ve always thought that NaNoWriMo is more about getting people to actually sit down and write than rules-lawyering. In fact, my novel this year is actually the same novel I worked on in November of 2013, which was also the only year that I came into the month starting a novel from scratch.
Does the fast-paced, constant daily writing style work for you?
Sarah: Yes and no. I would be lying if I said I hadn’t really struggled with it at times, taking hours and hours a day to reach my goal word count. Despite that, I’ve met or surpassed the 1600 words every day so far! It’s early in the month of course, but I’m hoping it will only get easier once writing this much becomes a real part of my daily routine. Luckily I have a great support system of people who are really encouraging me to write and keep at it! Overall, I’d say it works for me in the sense that I’m producing a lot of material, which is sometimes all you can ask for as a writer.
Emma: I think NaNoWriMo is good for writers because it gets us back into the swing of writing every day, even when we might not feel like writing. I don’t know if I could keep up writing this much every day, all the time, but I think it’s important to break the idea that real writers only write when inspiration strikes. It’s a creative endeavor, but it’s also hard work, and it’s important to develop that work ethic.
What time of day do you write best?
Sarah: Anytime when I have at least a few uninterrupted hours in a row. I tend to be a night owl, because there’s less to distract me, but that’s not really easy to do when I have to work in the morning. So it usually turns out being the late afternoon into the evening. Or really whenever I can!
Emma: Any time of the day except the morning. Other than that, I’m all over the place! Usually most of the words get written in the late afternoon.
What’s your strategy?
Sarah: I’m relying on my stubbornness to get me through the month. I don’t let myself stop writing for the day until I’ve written at least 1600 words. Some people write less during the week and more on the weekends, but I just know I’ll get stressed if I get behind. I am determined to finish, and that somehow has become my strategy. It’s working well so far!
Emma: Well, I initially set my wordcount-per-day at a slightly higher limit of 2,000 so I could give myself a couple of safety days towards the end of the month, but that’s been surprisingly difficult to keep up with! I usually try to write as much as I can past the 1,500 daily minimum. At this point I’m also involved in revising what I’ve already written from 2013—so even though I came into the month with 43,000 words down, I’ll still keep just as busy as everyone else!
Does your novel have a title yet?
Sarah: Ha! It doesn’t even really have a plot yet. Nor do I know my main character’s first name. When I said I came to the table with nothing, I really meant it.
Emma: It does indeed! It’s called “The Midnight Game.”
Can you tell us a bit of what it’s about?
Sarah: The protagonist is a photographer, a really devoted single father, and an extremely eccentric human being. He’s really quirky and fun to write because anything weird can happen and it’s extremely fine with him. It’s set in a little town, and the neighborhood and neighbors in general are going to play an important role I think. Like I said, I don’t have a ton decided for certain yet, but I definitely have some ideas I’m playing around with and a picture of where I want things to end.
Emma: “The Midnight Game” is a mystery novel set in a small, sleepy town in Upstate NY. The main protagonist, a sixteen year old girl named Ren Hatcher, is a self-proclaimed daredevil and thrill seeker who stumbles upon something bigger than she can possibly imagine, and in turn learns a few things about the uncertainty that comes with growing up. Meanwhile, the life of a cheerful real estate agent named Frederick Reed is turned upside down—ever since coming into contact with the abandoned house at the edge of town, he has been losing time, waking up in strange places, and experiencing nightmares—or are they memories? It’s ultimately a spooky story about the things that really happen in a small town when the lights go out.
What’s your biggest writing distraction?
Sarah: Probably music, honestly. Sometimes, music is awesome and helps me focus really well and get a lot done. Other times, it distracts me and I want to sing along and then I don’t get anything done. I’ve tried all types of music too, and it’s always the same story.
Emma: Definitely Facebook, tumblr, and other social media. Luckily I installed some anti-procrastination extensions on my browser, so it limits the amount of time I can spend on those websites per day. Other than that, it would have to be my dog. It’s hard to write when an 80-pound yellow lab puppy wants to climb onto your lap!