NaNoWriMo Q&A

Hat tip to regular Write Anything reader and contributer Benjamin Solah for kicking off this NaNoWriMo meme. Benjamin has posted his own answers, with links to other participants, on his blog, so please click through and have a read of those responses. Now, on to my own answers (oh, and I get my double bonus points for this pic, right Ben?)


Me at my desk with my PowerBook, my writing software, my notepad and pencil, my coffee mug, and my writing buddies

When and how did you find out about NaNoWriMo? How did you go?
I first heard about NaNoWriMo in November 2006 as I was studying for a PhD at the London School of Economics. I began to subscribe to the weekly NaNoWriMo podcast, and decided that it sounded like a fun idea but (a) it was already one week into November, so too late to start, (b) I had enough to do writing up essays on my dissertation subject, and (c) nobody could write 50,000 words of a novel in only a month… So that first year I left it. Come 2007, I was already reading the Write Anything website, found out more about NaNo through them, and had committed to taking part – just as I was appointed Sunday writer for the site. My timing is great…

How many times have you done NaNoWriMo?
Still a relative newcomer. I’ve only been participating since 2007, so this will be my third.

How many times have you won? If you haven’t won, what was your best result?
I won in 2007. Staggered over the line on the last day at about lunchtime, and promptly cracked open a bottle of champagne. I’d taken a few days off work so that I could finish up! Last year didn’t go so good…

How did you go last year?
I gave up during the second week! I’d got behind badly, there were things happening in my life that needed to be my priority, and I just couldn’t focus on it. Think I got to about 10,000 words or so. I shall return to the idea I had in the future though.

Where do you write and with what do you write?
Mostly at home in the evenings after work. The first year I did NaNo though I took myself off to the atrium of my office and wrote on my laptop – it was quite open though, and I was something of an object of curiosity to my colleagues!

Originally I only wrote on my computer, but I’m moving back to longhand. I write on pretty much any paper I can find (though I have a liking for Black n’ Red A5 hardback notepads), with a mechanical pencil. When I move back to my computer (a PowerBook G4) I write using Scrivener, a wonderful bit of writing software that combines planning and notetaking with a full screen simple text editor, then pulls together your work and outputs it formatted for novels, screenplays etc. Very useful, very quick, and probably the best writing software I’ve used. Mac only I’m afraid, and it isn’t free, but it is well worth the money.

How do you find time to write?
Ha! I don’t know – who has free time? I’ve been off sick for several months, so theoretically I’ve had nothing but time, but haven’t been able to write much of anything in that time.

Really, it’s all about finding the time. When I return to work I’ll have an hour’s commute each way. Part of the reason for switching to longhand is that it is easy to write that way when travelling. Lunchtimes I can grab 30 minutes or so for writing. Then at home if I turn off the TV then I have time. It’s all about creating the time by being discriminating about what you choose to spend your time on.

Are your partners, friends and family allies or enemies?
Definitely allies. Most of my friends know I’m a writer, and the times I write the most are not times when they make demands on me anyway. And my wife is incredibly supportive, as well as having a good eye for detail and picking up on mistakes I’ve missed.

What are you strengths and what do you use to help you get to the end?
Ideas and ability. I’m not normally short of an idea for the story, or the ability to take a situation and turn it into a story. And, although sometimes I doubt it, I can actually write. That’s always an advantage in this sort of venture…

What are you weaknesses, obstacles and challenges that hinder you from finishing?
Procrastination and distraction. I’m like a magpie, the next shiny object to pop up will make me flock towards it and abandon whatever I was doing. I’m not terribly self-disciplined, though I think I’m getting better. The big temptation is to be lazy, to sit in front of the television with the computer and say I’ll write. No I won’t, I’ll half-watch whatever is on the TV, and mess around online. Turn off the TV and shut off the computer – that’s the only way I’ll get things done. There are only maybe 5 or 6 shoes I genuinely make an effort to watch, and with the advent of timeshifting schedules, online catch up services etc I can say “I will write at these times, and watch these shows at these times”, and make my own schedule, not the one dictated by others.

Do you plot/outline/plan or do you write by the seat of your pants? How much do you plot or how unprepared are you?
I’m a pantser – I start with an idea, and let things grow organically. In my first year of NaNo I used the Snowflake method, but in actually writing the story I deviated wildly from what I had sketched out. I found the method good for getting a handle on my characters, but not much use for plotting. I take the characters, take a situation, and see what they do. I didn’t plot at all for the second year, I just let it ocme, and that’s what I plan to do this year.

Do you participate in the real life community, go to write ins and meet ups in your area?
In the first year I went along to the launch party for London based Wrimos, but that was it. I didn’t the second year, and I have never been to a write-in (although this year I may, we’ll see). I participate more in the NaNoWriMo regional forum and specific interest groups, but even that I’m going to scale back this year as a part of my mission to be less “always on”.

What are your writing aids? Special snacks, music, totems, rewards or punishments?
Coffee. I have an oversized mug, and it’s my writing mug. The message on it is “Careful of what you sad and do, I’m writing a novel and it might include YOU!”. I also have my two NaNoWriMo mascots, who you can see in the picture at the top of the page. One is a plush Cthulhu, the cutest way to succumb to the gibbering insanity, and the other is a Beanie Baby called Creepers, a plush skeleton with glow in the dark robe. Cute, yet disturbing – both of them. Given my interests, you can see why they were bought for me! In terms of rewards – a day off every week or so if I’ve kept ahead of the word count, and a bottle of something nice for completing it!

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