Every November I get excited about participating in National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). I like the sense of energy (and urgency) that it creates, whether you’re participating in community write-ins at your local library or sitting at your kitchen table furiously trying to make word count before midnight each day.
This year, I had a lot of good intentions for NaNo. I still hope to recoup some of the enthusiasm I felt on November 1st and turn that into drafting gold! But with the results of the election and stress at work, I have been feeling more like wallowing than writing. So I reached out to middle grade author (and veteran NaNo-er) R. M. Romero for some advice.
SP: Why do you participate in NaNo?
RMR: NaNoWriMo is great because it’s a time when all authors, whether they’re traditionally, indie, or self published, whether they’re working on original material or fanfiction, are working together in solidarity. We all have roughly the same goal! And I have to admit, I like watching the bar graph on the NaNo site go up. It keeps me on track.
SP: Do you have a strategy to make your word count?
RMR: I am a “pantser”, meaning that I discover the story as I write it, and working without an outline has its ups and downs. So, I do a lot of word sprints to keep me from getting completely stalled if I don’t know which direction to take my novel in. I challenge myself to keep writing, without pause, for a certain amount of time. That way, I don’t worry so much about the end result. I also use music to inspire me. 8tracks.com is a great place to find instrumental playlists and unusual new songs to help you along.
SP: Do you feel more stress at the beginning of the month or the end?
RMR: The beginning. The words usually come very easily once I build up momentum with a story, but until I am comfortable with my characters and invested in their fates, I can struggle to make my daily goal.
SP: Congratulations on signing with literary agent Jenny Bent of the Bent Agency this past summer! Now that you are an agented author with a book deal in the works, have you changed your approach to NaNo?
RMR: Since I am writing my second book under contract, I’m under more pressure this NaNoWriMo than I was when I was writing in the hope that someone would buy the book I was writing. My wonderful editor told me to take my time writing the second novel so that it can be the best possible book I can produce, but I don’t want to become George R.R. Martin with The Winds of Winter either. (Sorry, GRRM.) I’d like to have a coherent draft to show her by February at the latest, and that means I need something to revise by December!
SP: Can you tell us a little about the NaNo project you are working on this year?
RMR: My project is a Middle Grade book about a young girl who lives in Amsterdam during its Golden Age. Her uncle is the “Night Mayor”, the man who keeps order in the city after sundown. And what comes out after sundown? Faeries, goblins, and other fairy tale creatures of course! I’m having fun with it so far; I hope it turns into a book I can be proud of.
I read about Amsterdam’s Night Mayor on a Tumblr post of all things, although I took many creative liberties with the idea. For instance, the position was created in 2014 and not the 17th century, and it has nothing to do with supernatural creatures. (That we know of…)
SP: That sounds like it will be a lot of fun! Do you have any advice for writers attempting their first NaNo?
RMR: Your book will not be perfect on December 1st, and that’s okay! To paraphrase Sir Terry Pratchett, the first draft of any novel is you telling yourself the story. My first drafts are terrible. They’re skeletal things held together by the dreams and candy floss, and I wouldn’t show them to anyone–even if you paid me. But as I’m working, I remind myself that revision is the time to perfect what has already been written, to fill in plot holes, to jettison characters who just don’t work. You never know where your NaNo book will take you and even if it never gets you an agent or a book deal, you will still have been practicing your craft!
Thank you, R.M. Romero for those words of encouragement!
The Dollmaker of Krakow is slated to be published in Fall 2017 from Delacorte Press.