In an effort to psych myself up for NaNo, I asked a fellow writer and friend (from over the pond in Ireland) about her experiences as a first time NaNo’er last year. Grace Tierney, self-published author, gave great tips and thorough answers to my questions on the planning, procrastinating, plotting and persevering through National Novel Writing Month.
So thorough, I’ll post one question and answer per day:
Q: Did you go into NANO with a plot, story idea or outline?
A: Yes, and no. I began NANO 2007 with a rough plot (ie. One paragraph and a
core idea) for a book called “Beachwalkers”. Then, on November 3rd I got an
amazing email from a guy who’d edited a local charity anthology book of
personal essays about where I live in aid of a local community hall. I’d
been included in it (for no fee). It turned out that unbeknown to me, in
his day-job he was a non-fiction book editor for Poolbeg Press
(www.poolbeg.com). In it he told me he’d checked out my website from my
writer’s biography at the end of my submission. He’d clicked onto the page about
books I dreamt of writing where I’d posted a few book blurbs (literally one
paragraph summations of what I’d like to write). He’d passed them on to his
colleague, the fiction book editor. She loved one of them in particular
(“The Morning After Service”, a humour/chick-lit novel set in contemporary
Ireland) and wanted to know if she could see some chapters.
Just one glitch, I hadn’t written more than one scene plus that blurb ie.
about 2,000 words. I didn’t have any chapters to show her.
I had a major panic, bounced the idea off my husband, and decided I couldn’t
pass up a chance like this. So I ditched “Beachwalkers” and dug out
everything I had on “The Morning After Service” and checked the Poolbeg site
for their submission guidelines. Which is where I hit obstacle number two –
they wanted a detailed outline and synopsis and writing resume, plus 6
chapters. The works basically.
Funnily enough I am a detailed outliner when it comes to non-fiction, but
I’d never written a fiction outline, writer’s resume or synopsis in my 7
years as a part-time writer.
I spent the next 10 days (yes, we’re up to Nov 13th in NANO-land now and I’m
getting fraught every time I get an email from the NANO team) writing the
outline. I aimed for just 3 lines for each chapter and tried to inject a bit
of conflict now and then throughout the book to keep readers interested.
Character details kept popping into my mind but I didn’t want to think about
them too much in advance so I just dumped them into a characters.doc for
later use. Then I wrote like crazy for the last half of November and
totalled out at 19,000 words which impressed me hugely even though it wasn’t
50,000 words. I swore I’d never approach NANO again without my outline
written in October. (see below on how that worked out in 2008)
Come back tomorrow for a continuation of this interview.
In the meantime, check out more by Grace Tierney:
“The Writing Contest Expert’s Guide to Fiction Contests” – more than 200
contests for flash fiction to novels
“Positive Thoughts for Writers” – Helping your Writer’s Soul Every Day of
Available now at www.lulu.com/gracetierney and www.gracetierney.com