Lessons You Should Have Learned From Nanowrimo

For me, this year’s first draft turned out to be easier to write than any Nanowrimo novel I’ve written before, and thanks to switching point of view characters and writing the first half twice, it’s also the best written novel I’ve ever come out of November with.

That said, it was absolutely exhausting. So you can expect some awesome, fresh content next week, but for now, I’d like to point you to something I wrote last year: 5 Things To Take Away From Your Nanowrimo Experience.

Please do enjoy the post and feel free to leave your thoughts and suggestions for what I should be writing next here on The Dabbler.

10 Things To Do After Nanowrimo

Winner-2014-Twitter-ProfileFor better worse, novel or no novel, Nanowrimo is now officially over and it’s time to think about returning to your normal life. Or your not-so-normal life, whatever the case may be.

If you’re at a loss for what to do now that you’ve finished Nanowrimo, I’ve got some ideas to help you out:

1. Relax. You probably already spent yesterday doing this, but if you haven’t stopped to relax and smell the roses yet, it’s about time you did. You just spent a month frantically trying to write a novel. You deserve a reward.

Plus, if you live in the northern hemisphere, it’s definitely a good time of year to curl up with a big mug of hot chocolate and catch up on your favourite TV shows.

2. Get some exercise. How often did you get out last month? How much did you walk around? Did you get to the gym or do a yoga routine at home?

If reading this is making you feel guilty about your lack of exercise last month–or you’ve noticed that you managed to gain some weight you’re really not comfortable having–maybe you should commit to taking a 15-20 minute walk every day this month, or otherwise exercising. After all, you don’t want to die of a stroke before you get your masterpiece published.

3. Go out for karaoke. If you think about it, Nanowrimo is actually pretty ridiculous. So why not make December the month where you do other ridiculous things?

You can gather up some friends and find a nearby bar to terrorize with some truly awful singing. Odds are no matter how big your town is you can find somewhere that does a karaoke night, and if not, maybe it’s time to invest in a machine.

4. Buy your loved ones gifts. Now that Nanowrimo’s over, we’re really closing in on the arrival of Christmas. And if you’re anything like me, you already have a good idea what you’re getting people for Christmas, you just haven’t actually gotten anything yet.

You might want to get on that before it gets later in the month. Malls are frightening at this time of year, and it gets a little bit worse every day leading up to Christmas.

5. Buy yourself a gift. Did you actually finish a novel? Write 50K but not actually finish your novel? Write something shorter that you’re actually proud of?

Odds are pretty good that if you’re reading this, you accomplished something awesome last month. You should be proud of yourself, and you should definitely reward yourself.

My present to myself this year will be a copy of The Prince Lestat, and I have a funny feeling a few of you will be getting yourselves the same thing.

6. Make some art. Do you like all the arts, not just writing? Or maybe just some of the arts?

If you’ve finished your novel, this is the best time to start a new creative project, while you’re still feeling energized because you accomplished something awesome.

7. Go on a date. Do you have a significant other? Did you spend much of the last month pretending they don’t exist so you could focus on your novel instead?

If you’ve been neglecting your romantic relationship(s) all month, maybe it’s time you took them on a date to show how much you appreciate that they stuck with you anyway. And as luck would have it, the first MockingJay movie just came out, so you don’t even have to think very hard about what your date will be.

8. Start learning a language. If you can write a novel in a month, you can do pretty much anything.

Odds are it’ll take you more than a month to learn a language, but that’s only more reason to start sooner rather than later. The sooner you start, the sooner you’ll know another language, and the more languages you know, the more fun you can have traveling the world.

9. Read a book. When you’re trying to write a novel in a single month, everything else tends to fall by the wayside. But you’re doing this because you love books, right?

I bet you have a stack of unread books somewhere in your house. Make your goal for the month to shrink that stack significantly, and you’ll be well on your way to having a great December.

10. Write something else. You’re still a writer, right? Which means your work is never really done. I bet you’ve got tons of story ideas locked up in that brain of yours. Now is a better time than any to set them free.

You also want to make sure you start writing again this week so you don’t completely lose your momentum from Nanowrimo. One of the best things you get from Nanowrimo is the habit of writing regularly. Don’t let yourself fall out of the habit.

As for me, I’ve got some outlining to do, some blog posts to write, and a backlog of novels that need varying amounts of editing. So while I finished early and have already spent a few days relaxing, there’s always a lot more work to be done.

What are you going to do now that you’ve finished your novel? If you didn’t finish your novel, are you going to keep writing? Let me know in the comments section below!

Nanowrimo Veteran Pep Talk

Bethlyn Today I have a special treat for you as we close in on the end of the month, a pep talk sure to get you back on the writing treadmill from a Nanowrimo veteran who happens to be a good friend of mine.

Please give Bethlyn Bechtel a warm welcome.

Hi Nanoers!!!!

Oh gosh. Nano is ALMOST over!! You’re almost to the end of this INSANE war against words….and you see that you aren’t done yet. You’ve had to deal with school or work or kids or wisdom teeth being yanked after a horrible toothache. Or some other such horrible distraction.


That’s me. I’m not done yet, either. If this was last year, I would have been done. I’ve done this! I can do it! BUT: no words want to play with me this year! NOOOO! So it is a WAR instead of playtime!

You know what? We CAN do this! We CAN beat those words into submission and FINISH THIS!!! We can do it!

You know why?

Because we have ALREADY WON!!!! We have battled through the words and come out with something! Whether or not we have hit 50k or only 25k or a mere 5k, we have something and that right there is something to be proud of.

Should we give up on the 50k (or 200k or 1million) words we strive for? NO!!!!! But now, lets take a deep breath and remember WHY we started this war in the first place.

Was it REALLY to write 50k words? or was it to have FUN?

Well for me, it was to have fun! Fun writing stories, fun with all my writing friends, fun being a part of acommunity of like minded people who make me feel like I belong.

SO let’s take a DEEP BREATH. Come one. Breathe in! Hold it

5…4…3…2..1..thats good, now let it out….

and let’s write for FUN. Forget about the word count right now. Take your story into a place that doesn’t show you your word count and just write. Write out your story, leave your heart and soul on the page. LIVE your story and have fun! Let yourself flow into the place of you MC and BE the MC. Take it all in and enjoy writing. BEcause I bet, 50k or not, you will feel very happy withyourself for doing so because you have accomplished something all the people who never bothered to start nano can never claim to have done.

You have written a story in a month! it may or may not be a complete rough draft, but it is a STORY and you are awesome.

NOW get out there and finish that story! Because where that story ends, a whole nother adventure begins…and around here, that adventure could easily be your own adventure into the world of publishing and that is a grand thing to strive for!

See you on the other side!


P.S. YOU CAN DO THIS!!! YES YOU CAN!!! IF YOU CAN’T DO IT, NO ONE CAN!!! And, well, we KNOW others can because they have done it so therefore…it proves that since if you can’t, they can’t, that since they already DID you CAN. Logic in action 🙂

Ok that was my pep talk, you are gonna want a bio or somthing so here goes:

Bethlyn Bechtel is a third year Wrimo who has high hopes of publishing her first Nano Novel in the near future. She is a fun loving, gal who proudly struts around to the motto “I embrace my inner adult and let my outer child shine!” On a typical day you can find her scribbling away in her journal, playing with a virtual pet online, reading a book, or playing silly games with her girls, among other things, and you rarely will find her at a loss for imaginative ideas (whether or not they pertain to the current topic!)

5 Reasons Not to Give Up

Participant-2014-Twitter-Profile The month is almost over and hopefully you’re close to hitting your goals for the month, whether that means 50K, 100K or a finished novel.

Of course, life has many different ways of preventing you from reaching your goals, so there’s a pretty good chance that you’re nowhere near your goals and wondering what made you think it was a good idea to pursue them in the first place.

If you’re far behind where you wanted to be at this time of the month, you’re not alone. There are thousands of other Wrimos struggling through the same things right now, and you can find a great many of them on the forums.

More importantly, having fallen behind doesn’t mean you should give up. No matter what your word count is, don’t stop writing now. You’ve already come this far, and you might as well keep going. Besides, you still want to finish your novel right? If you keep writing into December, you’ll still have the comfort of knowing thousands of other Wrimos are finishing their novels with you.

But if knowing that you’re not alone isn’t enough, here are five other reasons why you shouldn’t stop writing:

1. Finishing this novel is good practice. I’m sure you’ve already met at least one writer who tells you they’ve started many different novels but never finished anything longer than a short story.

If you actually are one of these writers, it’s crucial that you finish this novel. You need to get into the habit of finishing things, and this novel is a good start.

If you’ve finished a couple novel drafts before, that doesn’t mean you should stop now. Letting yourself give up once makes it easier to give up again. Finishing the book, on the other hand, makes it easier to finish next time.

2. You’ll never be like J.K. Rowling if you don’t finish the book. Realistically, you’ll probably never be like J.K. Rowling anyway, but hey, at least if you finish a book you can pretend. Or maybe try.

3. Telling people “I wrote a book” always makes them think you’re interesting. A great many people will then go glossy-eyed and start asking you all kinds of questions. Half of them will stop talking to you when you tell them it isn’t published yet, but the other half will still be impressed and might even tell you they want to buy your book.

Of course, when people say they want to read your book and it’s a messy first draft still, that causes all kinds of complicated feelings, but one of those feelings is pride, and that’s awesome.

4. You’ve already ingested too much caffeine to turn back now. Stop for a moment and think about how much money you’ve spent to stay thoroughly caffeinated this month so you could write.

All of that money, all of that caffeine was pointless if you don’t finish the damn book. So finish it. Regardless of how long it takes. And keep writing every day like you might just hit your word count goal by the end of the month, because who knows? You just might.

5. Everybody likes to be a winner. Winning Nanowrimo used to really only be about the honour of finishing. Every year since I started there have been more and more sponsors offering cool prizes to Nanowrimo winners.

This year, there are more prizes than ever before. I’ve scrolled through the page myself and been stunned. There are free books, discounts on self publishing packages, and multiple opportunities to get free copies of your own book.

So you might not win this year, but it’s still worth trying.

You may decide to do Nanowrimo again next year, or you might decide it’s not for you and never try it again. Either way, don’t stop writing now. You’ve come this far, and I know you have words left in you.

What’s your current word count? Do you think you’ll finish your novel this month?

Tuesday Tips & Tricks

pencils-447480_640Week three of Nanowrimo is already here and if you’re anything like me, you’re filled with a combination of excitement and fear. Can you actually reach the lofty goal you’ve set for yourself? Is your novel garbage? Will you ever actually want to look at it again? Are you going to cross  the finish line?

It’s completely normal to doubt yourself at this point, and it’s completely normal to think you’ll have to throw away your novel. In fact, I’d go so far as to say throwing away your novel is fairly standard among Nanowrimo participants. I’m certainly not trying to salvage every single novel I’ve written during Nanowrimo.

Whatever your feelings are about your novel, you can overcome them and you can write a novel in a month. All you need to do is believe in yourself and keep writing.

Here’s some advice and inspiration to keep you going:

A Tip


A Trick

If you really feel like you absolutely must edit more than a couple sentences, add any deleted scenes to a separate file. You might end up wanting them later and either way it’s fiction written during Nanowrimo, so it can be counted to your word count(this is part of how I get such a high word count every year).

Some Inspiration

“A blank piece of paper is God’s way of telling us how hard it to be God.”
– Sidney Sheldon

What’s your word count like? Do you hate your novel? Love it? Let me know in the comments section below!

Author Spotlight: Devorah Fox

Naked_Came_the_Shark_Cover_for_KindleToday’s author has written pretty much anything you can imagine writing and won Nanowrimo multiple times. She’s also self published a textbook with her husband and multiple Nanowrimo novels, but you’ll find out more about that in the interview.

Please give author Devorah Fox a warm welcome.

1. Can you tell us a bit about your books?

I have National Novel Writing Month to thank for launching my novelist career. The Lost King, Book One of The Bewildering Adventures of King Bewilliam high fantasy series was my NaNoWriMo 2010 project. The createspace coupon that I got for winning that challenge spurred me on to put the book between covers. The Lost King was received with enthusiasm and fans asked “when’s the next book coming out?” Gee, I hadn’t planned on series but since they mentioned it, there was more story to tell. Book Two, The King’s Ransom, was my NaNoWriMo 2012 project and Book Three, The King’s Redress, was my NaNoWriMo 2013 project. For Camp NaNoWriMo in 2012 I worked on my contemporary thriller, Naked Came the Sharks.

2. When did you first decide you wanted to become a published author?

I first became published in 1988 when my late husband, Mike Byrnes, and I released our textbook, Bumper to Bumper, The Complete Guide to Tractor-Trailer Operations. We were self-publishers before self-publishing was cool. Continually updated, that book has been in print ever since.

3. How did you find out about Nanowrimo?

A fellow member of the Rockport Writers Group sent me an email about it. I had never heard of it. I can’t say what it was about trying to write 50,000 words in 30 days that sounded like fun but I decided to give it a whirl.

4. How much planning did you do before starting Nanowrimo?

I don’t recall doing any planning the first time. I had had the story in my head for years and pretty much knew where I was going with it, or thought I did.

5. What was your first Nanowrimo experience like?

It was a lot of work and it continues to be a lot of work. There were days when it took nearly the entire day to write those 1667 words and that’s still true. Perhaps I don’t write very fast or maybe it’s that I keep stopping to do research. At some point during every marathon I find myself despairing, “This time I’m just not going to reach the goal.” However, I do find the process of stifling the inner editor and just letting the words fly to be liberating.

6. What advice would you give people attempting Nanowrimo this year?

  1. Take advantage of the fellowship opportunities. A local writer group that still meets today got its start to support NaNoWriMo 2010 and the woman who served as Municipal Leader then continues to facilitate the group year ‘round in addition to her ML duties. I often think that I should take a pass on the November meet-ups and stay home and write instead. However, the meet-ups always prove to be worthwhile. Sometimes I come away with an idea to advance my project, other times I simply get revved up about writing and go home recharged.
  2. Give write-ins and sprints a try. Our local ML hosts both in-person and online events. I’m a morning-energy person and rarely write at night, but during NaNoWriMo I surprise myself by getting hundreds of words written during evening online sprint sessions.
  3. Remember, this is supposed to be fun. Throw writing caution to the wind and let your imagination run wild. Write something, write anything. It doesn’t have to make sense. You can go back and change it later, even throw it out entirely. A scene that represented an entire day’s work on The King’s Ransom never made it into the final version because the story took a different direction.

I should take my own advice about having fun. I tend to get obsessive compulsive about the whole thing. The month-long marathon is about the only time that I get to work on novels so I feel that I have to make the most of it. I steal time from my day job and other writing responsibilities such as my blogs and my Island Moon newspaper column. For 30 days I make writing 1667 words on my NaNoWriMo project Priority Number One. I must say I am really looking forward to cutting loose during NaNoWriMo 2014. I find the steampunk-inspired graphics for this year’s marathon to be especially energizing.

7. What are your plans this coming November?

To my surprise I’ll be working on Book Four in my King Bewilliam trilogy (a little writer humor there). “Book Four” is likely to be Book One of a “King Bewilliam’s Continuing Adventures” series. When I wrote The Lost King I never imagined that it would go on to become a series but the King’s fans want more and frankly, I miss the guy and his knights. I’m looking forward to seeing what trouble they’ll get into next. I already know there will be castles and dragons and battles fought not only against mythical monsters but also personal demons.

I will be taking time out for the Fifth Annual Great Turkey Fry. The day before Thanksgiving I gather with friends and we deep-fry about eight birds. Each takes about half an hour and while we’re getting everyone’s Thanksgiving Day dinner cooked, we sit around talking, snacking and drinking. I wrote about the first Great Turkey Fry on my blog at http://devorahfox.com/index.php/festivals/fried-turkey.

Devorah1About the Author:

Winner of multiple National Novel Writing Month marathons, Devorah Fox has written for television, radio, magazines, newspapers, and the Internet. Publisher and editor of the BUMPERTOBUMPER® books for commercial motor vehicle drivers, she is also developer of the Easy CDL apps for the iPhone and iPad and has written test preparation guides for Barron’s Educational Series, Inc. Born in Brooklyn, New York, she has lived in Port Aransas, Texas, since 2005. Secretary of the Rockport Writers Group, Fox writes the “Dee-Scoveries” blog at http://devorahfox.com and column of the same name for The Island Moon newspaper. She wrote her first novel in the third grade and has written several more since including The Lost King, The King’s Ransom, and The King’s Redress of the acclaimed literary fantasy series The Bewildering Adventures of King Bewilliam, and Naked Came the Sharks, a contemporary thriller set in the Texas Coastal Bend.

Visit her at http://devorahfox.com

Tuesday Tips & Tricks

workstation-336369_640Can you believe we’re already in the second week of Nanowrimo? It’s amazing how time flies when you’re having fun–or when you’re freaking out about an upcoming deadline…

With any luck you haven’t actually started freaking out yet and your word count is soaring well above where it’s supposed to be at this point in the month.

Either way, I’ve got a tip, a trick and a quote that should help see you through to the other side of this crazy novel writing adventure:

A Tip

If you keep stopping to edit, maybe it’s time to turn your monitor off while you write–or at least tape a piece of paper over it so you can’t see most of what you’ve written. This will help your words flow more freely and prevent you from editing too much.

A Trick

Join the word wars/sprints and just have FUN. ~ Hedgymama

Some Inspiration

“It is perfectly okay to write garbage—as long as you edit brilliantly.”
– C. J. Cherryh

How’s your Nanowrimo novel coming along?

Author Spotlight: Dana Sachs

TheSecretofNightingalePalaceAre you ready to meet yet another awesome Nanowrimo author? Well then, you’re in luck. Please give Dana Sachs, author of The Secret of Nightingale Palace, a warm welcome.

1. Can you tell us a bit about your books?

The first time I tried Nanowrimo was in the fall of 2007, when I used it to write the first draft of the novel that would eventually become The Secret of the Nightingale Palace. I had already published my first novel, If You Lived Here, and a memoir, The House on Dream Street: Memoir of an American Woman in Vietnam, and this idea of writing a first draft in a month was a new prospect for me. I found that Nanowrimo helped me quite a bit in just getting the basic form of the book down on paper (well, on computer). I can’t say, for sure, that it sped things up for me (it still took many, many drafts to complete the book), but it did help me to see where I was going a bit more clearly. I find that it works very well for fiction. For nonfiction, I haven’t tried it. I wrote my second book of nonfiction, The Life We Were Given: Operation Babylift, International Adoption, and the Children of War in Vietnam the old fashioned way, just by slowly working my way forward.

2. When did you first decide you wanted to become a published author?

I’ve loved writing since I was a little kid, when I wrote a lot of “books” about farm families and horses. I didn’t really think about traditional publication for a long time. After college I became a journalist, then eventually started thinking about long-form writing—books. I took me a very long time to really believe that I could complete a whole book. If you’ve only written short things, it’s hard to see how you could complete something so long. I think that’s part of the reason Nanowrimo is helpful. It encourages writers to think in terms of a whole book.

3. How did you find out about Nanowrimo?

My son’s fifth grade class was participating in the program (in a shortened version), so I decided to do it with him. That November, we’d go to cafes together at night and he’d drink hot chocolate and I’d drink coffee. He was writing a novel about a guy named Bob and I was writing a novel about a grandmother and granddaughter named Goldie and Anna.

4. How much planning did you do before starting Nanowrimo?

Almost none. I just had an idea in my head and started writing. I do a huge amount of research for all of my books, including my novels, but I don’t research during the Nanowrimo month. I just write and keep a list of things I’d like to learn more about later. That said, I teach a class at the University of North Carolina at Wilmington that follows Nanowrimo. The class meets for the entire fall semester, so I have my students begin doing research and outlines and character development (all sorts of stuff like that) starting in August. By the time they start writing their books in November, they’ve got a lot of material to help them move forward.

5. What was your first Nanowrimo experience like?

Fantastic. I was so happy to have a rough draft at the end of November. After that, I let it sit for a long while before I read it again. Once I picked it back up, I was happy to see that it wasn’t all bad. It helps to have very low expectations because you’re not going to write a masterpiece in a month. I remember that the people at Nanowrimo sent out a congratulatory message at the end of November to all of the “winnners” (winners are people who finish their 50,000 words in the month.) It basically said, “Congratulations! You’ve just completed a not-awful novel.” And that about sums it up.

6. What advice would you give people attempting Nanowrimo this year?

1. When you get bored, make a change. Bring in a new character, make an old character move or change in some way. Shake things up.

2. Get off to a strong start because things will slow you down later in the month (Thanksgiving). I try to go into Thanksgiving week way ahead, so I don’t absolutely have to get much, if anything, written. That way I can relax.

3. Don’t read over what you’ve read when you start writing again after taking a break. Doing that will just freeze you up because you’ll see all the problems. If you must, go back a page or two to get the feel of what you’re characters are up to. Then move forward.

One more thing. Nanowrimo is a fantastic community, but don’t let yourself get so swept up in chatting and investigating the site that you lose time writing. Focus on your own novel, not on what other people are writing and saying about theirs, or even what they’re saying about Nanowrimo in general.

7. What are your plans this coming November?

I realized after doing about 5 or 6 Nanowrimos in a row that I needed to take some years off. I have a backlog of “rough drafts” and I don’t need any more right now. I need to do the work to make those drafts better. On the other hand, one great thing that I’ve done is write the same book twice (I’ve done that several times). My first year, I wrote a draft of my book The Secret of the Nightingale Palace from the granddaughter Anna’s point of view. A year later, I wrote it all again, this time from the grandmother Goldie’s point of view. That really deepened the narrative in interesting and unexpected ways. Eventually, for the finished book, I incorporated passages from both.

This November, I’m working on my new, as-yet-untitled novel about an American family in Budapest. I’m trying to finish it, so I’m skipping Nanowrimo because I don’t want anything to distract me.

If you can send this back as a .rtf file and include a 2-3 sentence bio, that would be much appreciated. Please do include links and send either cover art or an author photo–or both if you like–with the questions so I can include that with the post.


DanaSachsDana Sachs
is the author of two novels, If You Lived Here and The Secret of the Nightingale Palace (both published by William Morrow) and two works of nonfiction, The Life We Were Given: Operation Babylift, International Adoption, and the Children of War in Vietnam (Beacon Press) and The House on Dream Street: Memoir of an American Woman in Vietnam (Algonquin Books). She writes the monthly “Lunch with a Friend” column for SALT, an arts and culture magazine in Wilmington, North Carolina, and she teaches writing classes at the University of North Carolina at Wilmington.


A Tip, A Trick, and Some Inspiration

Participant-2014-Twitter-ProfileNanowrimo is finally fully underway and with any luck you took advantage of this past weekend to pound out an incredible word count.

No matter how your month has started out, you can turn it around, especially if you follow this advice, offered by a combination of famous authors and less famous Nanowrimo veterans.

If you don’t see someone else credited, the advice comes from my own 10 years of experience participating in Nanowrimo.

A Tip

Don’t worry if you miss a day or two this first week. Instead, clear some time in your schedule this weekend to play catch up if necessary–or get ahead if possible.

A Trick

If you think you need to read what you’ve already written to get back into the groove, make sure you start on the last page you wrote. You don’t want to start editing in the first week of November.

An Inspiring Thought

“Any man who keeps working is not a failure. He may not be a great writer, but if he applies the old-fashioned virtues of hard, constant labor, he’ll eventually make some kind of career for himself as writer.”
– Ray Bradbury

How’s the writing coming? Let me know in the comments below!

Author Spotlight: E. Catherine Tobler

anubis_paperI’ve actually had the pleasure of working with this author once before when she had a short story published in Penumbra. I’m sure you can imagine how pleased I was to discover that she was on the list of published Wimos, and that you’ll understand why I was even more delighted when she agreed to this interview.

Please give E. Catherine Tobler a warm welcome and enjoy what she has to say about Nanowrimo and the process of writing a novel:

1. Can you tell us a bit about your books? 

The last four books I’ve finished all have one thing in common: they were started during Nanowrimo.

In 2011, I wrote “The Kelpie Book.” This became Watermark, which just saw publication (http://masque-books.com/titles/watermark/); it is the story of Pip, a fairy sent to the human world for punishment. But something larger than punishment looms on the horizon–both worlds stand on the brink of destruction.

In 2012, I wrote “The Circus Book.” While I reached 50k on the manuscript, it became evident there wasn’t quite enough happening within the plot to make it a successful book-length project. I cut it down to 40k, which whittled it to its heart; it turned into “The Kraken Sea,” a novella length work set in my traveling circus universe. This will be published in Panverse #4 next year.

And in 2013, I wrote “The Honey Mummy,” a sequel to Rings of Anubis (http://masque-books.com/titles/rings-anubis-folley-mallory-adventure/), which I wrote for Nanowrimo in 2010. These focus on the adventures of archaeologist Eleanor Folley and secret agent Virgil Mallory, set against a backdrop of turn-of-the-century Paris and Cairo.

2. When did you first decide you wanted to become a published author?

I’m not sure there was ever a distinct moment of insight as to this. Since I was a teenager, I’ve always written, whether it be in journals, school newspapers, or original fiction. These things led to fan fiction, which led to me wanting to create my own universes, because no one was ever going to publish my epic X-Files romances, were they? I suppose that was the moment, when I wanted to create more than already-existing universes could hold, and when I believed that content was good enough to share and send into the world.

3. How did you find out about Nanowrimo?

One of the first places I interacted with other writers was on LiveJournal, and I’m pretty sure information about Nanowrimo was posted within those circles. I remember being terrified by the idea of 50k. Fifty thousand words. When you’re new, you really have no idea what that looks like, or how to get there, so the very idea was daunting.

4. How much planning did you do before starting Nanowrimo?

This varies with every book, so it’s hard to say. Sometimes I find the idea needs more nurturing than others do. Rings of Anubis required a lot of research, because while I love ancient Egypt and Victorian Paris, I didn’t know nearly enough about them to write with confidence. The same with circus life; “The Kraken Sea” is set in San Francisco before the 1906 earthquake, and it was an entirely different world to learn and explore. But with every Nanowrimo, there is a notebook, that fills itself up over the course of the month — if not weeks before.

5. What was your first Nanowrimo experience like?

As I said, the idea was daunting, but because I was new, I leapt right in, disregarding the queasy feeling in my stomach. This was a time of darkness, when I didn’t know exactly what I was capable of as a writer (it’s a time I almost wish I could return to, because I think I was more likely to take risks then, but then again, looking at my bibliography…); I didn’t know how long it would take me to write 50,000 words. I didn’t know how long it would take me to write 1,666 words, so the first time was entirely a learning experience. I did reach 50k, but did that novel actually get finished and go anywhere? No. And that’s okay, because it was about getting over the terror.

6. What advice would you give people attempting Nanowrimo this year? 

I think “winning” Nanowrimo is a little misleading. It’s easy to get hung up on the idea of winning, of being a winner and not, oh my gosh, a loser. If you start writing, you’re a winner. If you write consistently over the course of a month (whether consistent means daily or not), you are a winner. If you end up with more than you started with, call it good. Don’t get attached to “winning.” Just write.

The best thing Nanowrimo gives you is a better understanding of your writerly self. Do you write well every day, or do you need a down day? The best thing Nanowrimo taught me is that consistent work gets you to The End. Whether that’s 1000 words a day, 1000 words an hour, 1000 words a week. I know a writer who does 200 words a day and calls it done. He consistently finishes and submits good work.

7. What are your plans this coming November? 

I am planning to leap once more into Nanowrimo, with an entirely new project. I spent the summer getting to know this idea and it’s ready to be written. The work will continue into December, I’m certain, and possibly beyond that. This November contains family birthdays, and Thanksgiving, but those are normal. Amusingly this November also contains the possibility of travel. So that will throw a new hitch into writing, won’t it?


E. Catherine Tobler’s fiction has appeared in Clarkesworld, Strange Horizons, and Beneath Ceaseless Skies, and her first novel, Rings of Anubis, is now available. Follow her on Twitter @ECthetwit or her website, http://www.ecatherine.com.