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NaNoWriMo Writers Discuss Lessons Learned And Future Plans

12/07/2011 05:00 pm ET

November has come and gone, and the National Novel Writing Month participants we've been following are gladly wiping their brows and putting down their pens. Some far exceeded their 50,000 word goal, while others stopped short. Some poured drinks to celebrate, while others remained fixed on the next steps: Editing, and submitting to publishers. All seem glad to have devoted time to such a lofty goal.

Here, they discuss what they've learned and whether or not they'll be gearing up their word processors again this time next year:

Chelsea, Dallas
@VampBookClub
Writing a romantic paranormal book involving mythology

How did you celebrate completing NaNoWriMo?
I made it to the end of the plot, and then gave myself a little time away before diving back in to edit. I used dialogue to get the plot out, so I need to layer in nuance and context.

Also, there was fudge.

How many words did you have completed by December 1?
66,202 words!

What's the last sentence you wrote before the month was over?
"You both are going to be thankful I'm good at research."

What are your plans for your book-in-progress?
I’m roughly 50 pages in to a first read-through and expect to add 7K during this next step in the process. I adore the characters, and want to see where edits and critiques will take them over the next several months.

Did you learn anything about yourself, your writing process or writing in general?
Part of the reason the quicker pace worked for me this time was it allowed me to get the plot on the page. In previous attempts I was so focused on self-editing during the process, I allowed myself to get bogged down in what needed to change. This time I focused on getting the story out, and made notes as to where to go back and edit.

It’s the first time I’ve written this way – and without an outline – and it let me focus on the natural progression of the story instead of the words themselves.

Will you do it again?
Absolutely! This was my second NaNo, but the first time winning. And, yes, winning feels good.

Barry, Colorado
@BarryJHickey
Writing "The Witch With 300 Hats," a YA novel about a pair of adventuresome twins

How many words did you have completed by December 1?
38,402

What's the last sentence you wrote before the month was over?
“He sold his soul to the devil to play the violin. Would you do the same?”

What are your plans for your book-in-progress?
I’ll have a rough draft done by the end of December, then a few months of editing and rewrites before submitting to agents and publishers for consideration. I had a small expectation that a publishing industry player might toss a hook my way during the writing process but that never materialized.

Did you learn anything about yourself, your writing process or writing in general?
I started NanoWriMo without a fully realized game plan for "The Witch with 300 Hats," otherwise I’d have written much more. But what has arisen is a great tale that I will be proud of when finished. The plot, subplots and depth of characters kept growing before my fingers. What started as a straightforward Goosebumps tale evolved into a multi-layered novel. Watch out J.K. Rowling and Stephenie Meyer! The Lemon twins are coming!

Will you do it again?
Probably not. I'm deep in several novel projects already, but it was a good exercise in meeting a writing deadline.

Sonja, Wisconsin
@SJWhipp
Writing a financial crime thriller

How did you celebrate completing NaNoWriMo?
I celebrated by going to a Beirut concert.

How many words did you have completed by December 1?
I made it about half way.

What's the last sentence you wrote before the month was over?
"That did not reflect his personal morals."

What are your plans for your book-in-progress?
I'm going to spend a lot of time editing what I wrote and finishing the story. I made a pretty comprehensive outline, so I would like to finish the story.

Did you learn anything about yourself, your writing process or writing in general?
I learned that when I actually made sacrifices and put time aside to write that I could get a lot more done that I thought.

Will you do it again?
I will definitely do it next year. Each year I've made more and more progress. One of these years I will finish.

Spenser, Kentucky
@feverdreamy
Writing a personal fiction piece about undergraduate English majors

How did you celebrate completing NaNoWriMo?
It happened that there was a local charity drive in which local restaurants were giving 20% of their sales to AIDS research, so I went out with my parents and we racked up a pretty nice bar tab. For charity, of course.

How many words did you have completed by December 1?
50,009 words.

What's the last sentence you wrote before the month was over?
"Even without the rain it would have been too dark to see where the bottle landed, but she still heard it shatter—the sound was like a Chipmunk version of the thunder from above."

What are your plans for your book-in-progress?
I have a bit more writing to do for it, and then it needs some editing, but in the long run I hope to get it published, and I do think it is publishable.

Did you learn anything about yourself, your writing process or writing in general?
Every time I do NaNoWriMo I have to remember exactly how important it is to take notes. It's easy to think, "I created this, I know everything there is to know about this thing I created," but it's easy to forget details and create continuity errors if you don't take notes as you go.

About writing in general: I think I used to worry too much about whether something I was writing seemed "real enough". But, if you're writing fiction, the reader knows it's not "real". As long as the piece has a minimal level of verisimilitude and an internal logic, it'll fly with the reader. "Real" is too subjective to ever match exactly anyway.

Will you do it again?
I thought I was finished with NaNoWriMo in 2009, and here I am doing it again in 2011, so I think there's a good chance I find myself at it again in the future.

Wil, California
@WilJames_author
Writing a YA book about a modern day prince with a dysfunctional family

How did you celebrate completing NaNoWriMo?
I was traveling until December 2, so my celebration was delayed until Saturday. I did a lot of chores that I’d put off, and felt better that my life was organized again and that the place was cleaned up. Then I went out to dinner with a friend and we talked for hours about writing. Now I'm inspired again.

How many words did you have completed by December 1?
41,926. I blogged about my work travel and why I didn’t hit the target, but really, I’m very happy that most of the book is written.

What's the last sentence you wrote before the month was over?
I saw some confusion hit his face, as if he was trying to figure something out. Then, as we all watched, a look of recognition and utter shock became apparent. The man’s smooth and confident manner disappeared.

What are your plans for your book-in-progress?
I fully intend to complete Prince David, Book 2: High Adventure, hopefully by the end of December, and then move on to the next book. My 2011 NaNoWriMo novel is Book 2 of a series. The first, Prince David, Book 1: Enter the Heir, is currently being edited, and I have plans for 5 books in the Price David series.

Did you learn anything about yourself, your writing process or writing in general?
I like that NaNoWriMo ‘forced’ me to push hard in a short period, but I found I was reluctant to compromise quality for quantity. In the end, I’m quite content with what I’ve accomplished.

I have also become more comfortable sharing my work and marketing myself as an author. The initial idea of starting to publish my books, three years ago, was really intimidating and frightening. Now, over 16,000 copies of my books are out there.

Will you do it again?
Positively, yes, with the proviso that I have the time and the creative inclination during the month of November, next year, or the year after, or the year after that...

Lara, New York
@districtbelle
Writing a fiction novel about getting back in touch with her Southern roots

How did you celebrate completing NaNoWriMo?
Treating myself to three Tori Amos shows this past week, planned a nice dinner with my boyfriend, and I'm putting together a girl's karaoke night to celebrate.

How many words did you have completed by December 1?
50,006. I stopped when I crossed the 50k finish since I'd been writing for so much those last two days in order to catch up. I crossed the finish line with 40 minutes to spare.

What's the last sentence you wrote before the month was over?
"I think it was my imagination, but I would have sworn I saw a flash of defiance in her eyes as she scooted into the chair directly across from me."

What are your plans for your book-in-progress?
I want to finish it, since the story still has a bit to go. I plan on going back through and edit it into a better form and see from there. I'd originally wanted to end up with something I could send to agents, but I have an idea for another book and am thinking that one might be better suited for that instead.

Did you learn anything about yourself, your writing process or writing in general?
I learned I can do fiction, which was my main goal, and that I should start working from an outline. I also remembered towards the end when I started writing with music on just how much music influences my writing. I've developed different play lists to fit different moods and branched out to some new artists to hopefully serve as an inspiration to draw from as I continue writing.

Will you do it again?
Absolutely. It's the one time out of the year when writing becomes a social activity for a solid month. I wouldn't dream of passing that up.

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