Congratulations to everyone who participated in NaNoWriMo. Whew! It’s finally over! Today @RaleighRoxStar and I chat about our NaNoWriMo experience.
Tracey Baptiste: First of all, congratulations to you on finishing! Have you printed out your winner certificate yet?
Roxanne Ravenel: I haven’t printed out my winner’s certificate yet! Shocking since I have been waiting patiently since the 18th to print it out. It will be my first order of business after our chat today. 😉
TB: I printed out mine as soon as I was able to. But I was the kid who liked gold stars. Is this your first time participating in NaNoWriMo?
RR: It isn’t! I’ve participated four times before this. (I share what I learned from my six-year long NaNoWriMo experience here.) Each time I would start with lots of enthusiasm then I’d run into a wallI’d convince myself that writing 50,000 words in 30 days was impossible or I just didn’t have the time. In retrospect it was a bunch of self-defeating BS.
TB: Well, I’m glad you got over that! Last year was my first time, and somewhere around week 2/3 I hit a wall as well. But I was so determined to win, that I rallied in the last week and made it past 50k on the last day. It was a squeaker.
So is this the first time you’ve won? Extra kudos to you!
RR: It is my first official win. I am focused on my dream of becoming a published author of women’s fiction. So it was important to take NaNoWriMo seriously and complete the challenge this year. It is a fantastic feeling of accomplishment to finally reach my goal.
TB: Do you mind revealing the title of your novel and a little bit about it?
RR: Not at all. My NaNo novel is entitled BEST FRIENDS FOREVER. It grew out of a short story called Sorry Charli that I recently had published in Romance Stories Magazine under a pen name.
My MC, Charli Chamberlain, was dragged onto Facebook kicking and screaming by a friend. Just when she is about to chalk the whole thing up to a bad experience she gets a message from her childhood best friend, handsome Donavan West. They’d given a romantic relationship a try back when they’d both headed off to college. The relationship didn’t end well and they became estranged. Now, more than ten years later it seems she’s been given a second chance. Charli must fight her own fear and everything else in the universe that is plotting against them.
TB: Ooh, sounds steamy! Did you manage to finish the entire thing during NaNoWriMo?
RR: It is a bit steamy. I like to add a little bit of a sizzling edge to my stories. I didn’t finish the book. I feel like I’m 2/3 of the way there.
TB: You were way ahead of me the whole time. How did you manage such a high word count? And is there any downside to working that fast?
RR: I knew I didn’t want to write every day and I wanted to finish early. I created a schedule that would allow me to do that. I was able to take weekends off, but I worked longer days. I also participated in Word Sprints with the Endurance Writers group. That kept me going, kept me accountability, and plays on my slightly competitive streak. 😉
I can’t see a downside to cranking out the work faster. Believe it or not, I still do some editing (a NaNo no-no, I know!). I also switched my story from 3rd person to 1st person more than 75 pages into the story.
TB: What are your plans for the novel now?
RR: I plan to finish the story while it’s still fresh in mind. Then I’ll let it sit and marinate while I turn my attention to revising my two completed novels.
TB: That’s an excellent plan. I get the impression that many NaNoWriMo participants think that finishing in the 30 day limit means that their novel is complete and ready to submit. I think I’m a year away from being really “complete” with what I’ve written this year.
That’s all the questions I have Roxanne. Thanks so much for answering them.
RR: Thanks Tracey for your questions. It was fun answering them!
Here’s my first question for you: Tell us a little about yourself. How long have you been writing? What genre is your specialty?
TB: I’ve been writing since I was three (says my mother). I wrote my first novel at age 12. It was regrettable, and I’ve tried to block it out. Then I thought I was going to be a brilliant picture book author, but it turns out I super-suck at picture books. So I write YA. The first novel I ever wrote (not counting the pre-pubescent attempt) was published. And it was also the last… so far. I also write non-fiction for middle-school kids.
RR: Last year was your first attempt at NaNoWriMo and you’ve won two years in a row. Congratulations! To what do you contribute your NaNoWriMo success?
TB: Sheer competitiveness. Last year I had no plan, and I got stuck and the manuscript that I wound up with was unusable. I still like the concept but it’s a total re-working whenever I get around to it. This year, I outlined ahead of time so that I would come out with something that I could work on. It also helped that this novel is the sequel to something I’ve already written. Being familiar with the characters is helpful.
RR: You are the mother of small children, yet you’ve won NaNoWriMo two years running. What advice would you give to busy moms and writers who feel like their plate is too full to attempt 50,000 words in 30 days?
TB: You really have to ignore the children. Teach them to make their own sandwiches. They’ll thank you for it later.
Actually, I carve out specific times for work, even if it’s a short 30 minute block. The kids know that when I’m working, I’m not to be disturbed. When the inevitable disturbance does happen, I try to deal with it quickly and get back to work.
RR: What lessons have you learned from your NaNo experience? Would you recommend NaNoWriMo to other writers? If so, why?
TB: NaNo is a rare opportunity to commune with other writers even though it’s all virtual. And it’s a great way to get a chunk of work done especially if you’re not used to the rigors of writing. Sitting for long periods of time to write is harder than it looks. I think every writer should do NaNo at least once. It’s a good time.
RR: You changed your approach to NaNoWriMo and did some outlining in advance this year. When did you begin preparing for NaNoWriMo and how did it impact your experience this year?
TB: I started outlining about a week and a half before. And I decided to write about 2000 words/day rather than rushing. The month was less frustrating, and I could carefully consider my words so that my finished manuscript is completely usable, unlike last year’s giant word-mess. Plotting before starting is better.
RR: Can you tell us a little more about the sequel you worked on during NaNoWriMo?
TB: It was probably a huge mistake to work on a sequel, because the first in the series is still out on submission. For this series, I went back to the Caribbean folklore that I grew up with, the equivalent of vampires, werewolves, and mermaids, which we call Soucouyant, Ligahoo, and Mama D’Leau.
The series is set on an island in the Caribbean, and starts as 10 year old Corinne unwittingly lures a forest spirit, called Vera, out of the woods. The spirit tries to take over the island, starting with Corinne’s family. As she struggles to get rid of Vera, Corinne learns that she is part spirit herself, and must find a way to use the magic of her ancestors even though she has only just discovered this power. In the second book, there are more destructive spirits for Corinne to fight, and although she has learned to use her magic, the spirits tear apart the people of the island, and cost Corinne her friendships, and members of her own family.
RR: Okay, I have to ask about the Office Dino. Tell us how he became your personal writing mascot.
TB: [Office Dino growls.] I never grew up. So I like toys. I have another mascot for my novel and she travels around visiting readers. I particularly like monsters and other scary things. My office dino is Rex from the Toy Story series. He makes an excellent companion despite the fact that he only says about 10 things. They’re all pertinent, so maybe 10 things are all anyone ever needs to say.
RR: It’s apparent that you are passionate about knitting. It’s a clever theme for your blog, Knitting with Pencils. How long have you been knitting and why do you love it so much?
TB: I started about 8 years ago. I love that I can make unique things. I often start a project with no idea what I’m going to make, but I’m always happy with the results (even the ones that come out wonky). Knitting and writing are similar in that way. You start out with a string of words (or a ball of string) and put them together in a way that no one else has and voila! Magic.
RR: Last question: You’re the author of the YA novel, ANGEL’S GRACE. Tell us about the book. What’s it about? How did you come to write this story?
TB: ANGEL’S GRACE is about 13 year old Grace Brewster, who visits Trinidad over summer vacation. She discovers a photo of a man who has the same hand-shaped birthmark over his heart that she has, and since no one seems to know who he is, Grace launches an investigation on her own, accompanied by the boy next-door (who she thinks is cute) and her little sister (who she finds annoying). In the end, Grace learns a few things about her identity, and the value of family. It was chosen by New York City librarians as one of the 100 best books for reading and sharing that year.
I started trying to write the story of an outsider, and one day I saw a billboard that reminded me of my cousin. He and I share a birthmark, and I immediately thought that the girl I was writing about felt like an outsider until she found this one connection with someone. Once I had that idea, the rest of the story fell into place. It’s also very much about my mother, who grew up estranged from her father. She and Grace have the same red hair.
RR: Awesome! Thanks Tracey! This was lots of fun.
TB: Thanks Roxanne! Good luck finishing your novel.