NaNoWriMo 2015: Week Three Check In

November is National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), during which writers all around the world take on the challenge of penning 50,000 words in 30 days. As a first time NaNo (as we call ourselves), I was eager to learn how other writers tackle the task, so I put the call out and found five writers to share their NaNoWriMo journeys.

Each week, I’ve been checking in to see how the writers are doing. Here’s what they had to say with three weeks down and just over a week to go:

Kate Hayford

Writing from: Adelaide, South Australia

Kate Headshot

How many words did you write this week, and what’s your total word count?

Just under 10K – total 30083.

What was your biggest writing success for the week?

I wish I could name one but I can’t. This has been a haggis of a week. I’m hoping to come out swinging next week and turn things around.

What was the hardest part of your writing week?

Trying to write when I’m sick. I mentioned a while ago that I was diagnosed with coeliac disease. I’ve been ill with it most of this week and there have been four days where I haven’t written at all.

Can you tell us a little bit about you NaNo novel’s protagonist?

Isa is thirteen at the beginning of the novel, which makes her a woman grown in the eyes of her society, as the people of Hirta married young. In many ways she’s still very much a child, though – naïve, emotional, easily upset. There were two unconventional aspects of her upbringing: she was taught to question things, never to just accept them, particularly where religion is concerned; and she was taught not to respect her elders if they didn’t deserve it. Her main enemy is her older brother, who is the best climber on the island and very full of himself as a result (and a deadset flog – if he lived here he’d have a Southern Cross tattoo and drive a Skyline, no question). After smallpox wipes out most of the village on Hirta, Isa is thrown back on her own resources, and emerges as a brave but embittered woman who looks after the orphaned children, buries the dead, and hunts birds on the cliffs for food.

What first made you want to be a writer?

I’ve been writing stories since I was about six. However, it wasn’t until my Year 2 teacher took me aside and encouraged me to write – she even got me to write stories instead of doing work during my normal lessons, which was pretty sweet – that I started to consider making it my career. I think I would have gravitated towards writing in any case, but it meant a lot to have someone be so supportive of it. I wish I’d been able to show her my first published story, but sadly she passed away three years before I was ever published.

Visit Kate’s NaNoWriMo profile.

Jean Davis

Writing from: Holland, Michigan

Jean Headshot

How many words did you write this week, and what’s your total word count?

This week I wrote 10,967 words bringing me up to 40,306 as of this moment.

What was your biggest writing success for the week?

I spent Saturday doing a writing challenge: write 15 minutes every hour and was able to write 5,242 words while still going to visit family for a few hours, bake a pie, and the usual household tasks.

What was the hardest part of your writing week?

Trying to jumpstart YA story, because I was getting dirty looks from my daughter. Turns out setting something on fire really does help. I blew stuff up and lit people on fire and the story is off and running again.

Can you tell us a little bit about you NaNo novel’s protagonist?

Tyler Grant is the protagonist in Interface. At sixteen, he receives his interface, which is a cybernetic replacement for his little finger that allows him to access the datastream and marks him as an adult citizen. He’s eager to gain access to the datastream so he can discover the whereabouts of his best friend who recently disappeared.  But the words in his head tell him that Jake never existed and no one else remembers him either, and now he’s in trouble just for asking. Tyler’s search for Jake may bring down an entire civilization.

What first made you want to be a writer?

I started writing in elementary school thanks to the encouragement of my teachers and have really never stopped, though I only started taking writing seriously in the past ten years or so. I liked that it gave me a place all my own to hang out with people I enjoyed being with, even if they weren’t real.

Visit Jean’s NaNoWriMo profile.

Bacil Donovan Warren

Writing from: Tucson, Arizona

Bacil Headshot

How many words did you write this week, and what’s your total word count?

Through today, my weekly total was 14,053, and my total words is 50,066!

What was your biggest writing success for the week?

My biggest success was making sure I sat down every single day, even Sunday which was a rough day.

What was the hardest part of your writing week?

The hardest part of my writing week was the 15th, Sunday. There was some personal stuff going on with my family, as well as a very close friend of mine, and I only got 422 words that day.

Can you tell us a little bit about you NaNo novel’s protagonist?

The protagonist of my novel is a dual-PhD Programmer Analyst who works at a near-future equivalent of the JPL. He’s a brilliant guy, and has a ton of knowledge and experience in both Astronautics and Software Engineering, but is a user, taking advantage of vulnerable people—especially coed grad students at nearby schools. In the end, though, he does redeem himself by saving humanity from destruction by an alien civilization composed entirely of robots.

What first made you want to be a writer?

What first made me want to be a writer? Well, I am in the camp that if you’re a writer, you just are one; that is, it’s a medium that is just part of how you express yourself. In many ways it’s almost compulsive. I can’t draw, or paint, and my musical skills are quite limited. That really just leaves writing as my artistic expression outlet. I’ve done it most of my life, like many. What made me want to pursue it more formally? It was really just a feeling of “it’s time,” I think. I started to explore some of the story ideas I’ve had for a while, and now am more serious about getting them out.

Visit Bacil’s NaNoWriMo profile.

Courtney Egan

Writing from: Adelaide, South Australia

Courtney Headshot

How many words did you write this week, and what’s your total word count?

I wrote 11, 914 words this week and my total word count is currently at 37,419.

What was your biggest writing success for the week?

There were a few moments where I nearly talked myself out writing for the day. I thought “I can catch up tomorrow… I deserve a break.” Then I thought about my daily word count, how I had been managing to reach the goal of 1667 words or more, every day. How despite having one really bad afternoon with my anxiety, I sat down, poured lavender into my oil burner, put on my headphones, fired up Spotify and wrote – one word at a time, until it was done. It showed me that I could sit down and in the words of Shia LaBeouf JUST DO IIIIT! So I did it… even though I was tired, anxious and feeling like absolute crap. I also considered added pressure I would put myself under having to double my word count to stay on top of things. It was a defining moment of success for me – it proved that I could commit to something and stick to it. Keep calm and ramble on.

What was the hardest part of your writing week?

I got a bit stuck with a particular scene. I wanted it to be perfect – I started picking at it – deleting passages and trying desperately to re-write them. I reached that terrible point where my hands were left hovering above the keyboard. I’d lost it. Then came a tirade of doubt and frustration “I can’t do this… My book is terrible. Who’s going to read this crap? Dafuq am I even writing?” I wanted coffee… I wanted chocolate. I wanted the damn words to work. I went to my folder of useful quotes and tips on writing. I stared at my writing wall – I looked at my map and concept sketches. I essentially gave myself a pep talk – reminding myself that “First drafts don’t have to be perfect. They just have to be written.”

It’s a draft. It’s a babbling mess of words – and that’s okay – because it’s a draft.  I literally had to mentally hammer the message through my skull before I could return to my laptop, but it was worth it. I finished the scene. I haven’t re-read it. I’ve left it to exist in its wonderfully raw and imperfect state. “First drafts don’t have to be perfect. They just have to be written.”

Can you tell us a little bit about you NaNo novel’s protagonist?

Kesta Mon Demacia is destined for greatness. Yemere willing, she will become a Divine like her mother – The Golden Fox. She will lead Capria’s forces to victory against the Hundar, but for now, and as long as the peace treaty stands, Kesta won’t have to worry about any of that.

In fact, she’s trying her best not to think about it. She’s too busy enjoying the benefits that come with being born to a noble house and even better, she’s about to turn seventeen. She’ll no longer be a kit – she’ll be a fox – able to freely down a scotch or two, or three with the gals. Kesta has grown into a strapping and handsome young woman, with a naive but charming smile that unbeknownst to her, has caught the attention of many a pretty nobleman.

Kesta’s day to day training has started to bore her. What’s the point? If the Empress and her mother continue in their efforts to keep the peace, she may never need to don her battle mask or draw her blades.

Or so she thought. Let’s just say everything was coming up Kesta until she finds herself at the mercy of the Inquisitor Black Fox – arrested, her mother accused of treason and the Empire in turmoil. 😛

Since I know the kind of person Kesta will become… it’s actually been a little frustrating to write her acting so brash, so overconfident, a bit self-absorbed and terribly immature. I know I have to do this though, to allow her to grow and develop. As a kit (child) Kesta was very close to her father. One could say she was a bit of daddy’s girl. Of course in a matriarchy this meant she was a bit too kind, too loving – too thoughtful. Even if it is a little frustrating at times, it’s been fun to write her interactions with the main cast. It’s been amazing to get her onto the pages and out of my head.

Kesta 17

What first made you want to be a writer?

To be honest, I don’t know if I’m confident enough yet to even consider myself a “writer”. I know I’m writing, I just feel more comfortable expressing my ideas in a visual medium, as opposed to painting mental pictures with words. Funnily enough, I chose to write this story because I felt so passionately about it and doubted my ability to create it in a comic format. After many a panic attack and days spent doubting myself, I finally decided that I had to try. I had to write a novel. I had to get this story out. I don’t think the characters/voices in my head would have left me alone if I hadn’t. 😛

Visit Courtney’s NaNoWriMo profile.

Styna Lane

Writing from: Mansfield, Ohio

Styna Headshot

How many words did you write this week, and what’s your total word count?

I wrote 11,856 words, this week, bringing my total up to 31,080. Still behind, but less behind than I was.

What was your biggest writing success for the week?

I think my biggest success was realizing I wanted to take a different direction with part of the story, which led to a major increase in word count from the inspiration.

What was the hardest part of your writing week?

Up until that change in direction, I was starting to feel a little bored with the story. Well, not necessarily bored… but it felt like there were no more surprises. I’d already written the most important parts, including the ending, so I figured the rest would just be the middle bits that took you from one exciting part to another, but weren’t actually that exciting themselves.

Can you tell us a little bit about you NaNo novel’s protagonist?

Demi Harper started out as a bit of a pessimist, but she’s developed into quite the persevering young woman. She’s really taken it upon herself to care for all the people around her, who’d given up because of the nature of the place in which they’ve found themselves. She finds beauty in seemingly dark things, and so much kindness came from the ways in which she was broken, it’s almost too much to handle.

What first made you want to be a writer?

When I was in 7th grade, my Language Arts teacher gave us an assignment to write a fictional short story. It could be anything we wanted, so long as it was at least, I think, two pages long, double-spaced.
I was the only student who turned in more than 5 pages. Mine was 70 pages. My teacher loved it, and actually gave me permission to turn in stories instead of assignments if I wanted. My grades had been suffering – not because I wasn’t grasping the material… My writing showed that I clearly was. I just had some major authority issues, and didn’t feel the need to do schoolwork. So, for me writing started as an enjoyable way to avoid doing homework. I mean, what kid wouldn’t be stoked about that?!

After then, I barely dabbled in writing. I wrote some Harry Potter fanfiction that I never finished. I started about a million books, and never finished those either.

It really wasn’t until I got sick that I properly turned back to writing. My Fibromyalgia had progressed to the point where I was bedridden for three straight weeks. My depression was out of control. I was in loads of pain, I couldn’t – physically – do anything, and I was feeling really worthless. So, at 22, I started writing one of the ideas that had stuck with me from a dream I’d had when I was 14. That turned into my first finished novel, and the first installment of a trilogy that is 2/3 finished. Writing gave me a small escape from the pain, and made me feel like I was doing something productive, again. It still does.

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