By Judy Clement Wall
Today marks the halfway point for NaNoWriMo. To celebrate the occasion, I asked my writer-teacher-librarian friend (and Nano stud), George Angus, to let me grill him relentlessly on the subject. He said yes because, well, I was wearing my cape. People say yes when I put on the cape.
Here is what transpired…
J: Hello, George. Let me just say, right off the bat, that you are rocking the Nano look. Those dark circles under your wild, manic eyes – I really like them. You look very intense. Very… writerly.
George: Hey there, J-ster. Thanks for having me. The dark circles are from my daughter, Maddy, putting shoe polish on the binocular eyepieces. She thinks I’m looking at birds, not the cute neighbor. Oops. I thought that aloud again, didn’t I?
J: While I firmly believe every writer should tackle Nano at least once, I also believe it’s an insane thing to do. Tell me what made you decide to do Nano?
George: First, there is no doubt that it is a wildly crazy activity. I had vowed in the past to do it but chickened out with very convenient excuses each time. This year was different. In some ways I had little choice in the matter. A concept for a novel popped into my head near the end of September, and I even went so far as getting down character descriptions and a few plot points. I was inspired after reading Alexander McCall-Smith’s 44 Scotland Street. A wicked thought occurred to me at the beginning of October… Hey, this would be perfect for Nano! To ensure I had no backing out options, I put up a Nano display at the library including a blurb inviting patrons to join me on the journey.
J: I do that too. Commit publicly. Makes backing out so embarrassing. So, George, I’ve seen your tweets. I know you are buzzing right along, hitting your word count goals, but tell the truth. How many of those words are actually in the right order?
George: Now wait just a durned minute. There was NOTHING about the words being in any kind of order. Is this one of those “fine print” things? You’d think after that whole “mountain property in Florida” incident I would have learned my lesson.
J: Yes, let’s not bring that up again. <shudders> Tell me what has been the most surprising thing about Nano for you? (For me it was the Nano community, which blew me away and inspired me daily.)
George: Wow. There have been so many surprises I almost don’t know where to start. First, I’d say the fact that the book No Plot, No Problem has been right on the money, each and every week. Chris Baty (Nano Founder) nails so many things. I can’t imagine doing Nano without having read this.
Another surprise is the fact that I’m writing about a thousand words an hour, and that is without being ridiculous about it. I take coffee/pipe/pee breaks and consider the pace to be quite casual. Chris indicated that the characters would at some point start doing things that totally surprise me. This has been true beyond my wildest expectations.
The final surprise concerns my tendency to self edit. Let me just say this: On the first day of Nano, I invited my inner editor over for tea and crumpets. When he wasn’t looking I ball-gagged him, handcuffed him, bound him in a red leather corset and threw him in the closet. Don’t look at me like that, J. The stuff was just lying around. Even two weeks into it, I can still hear him mumbling away in there. I keep hearing him say stuff like “Pulitzer” and “literary” and “if you’ll just let me out.” I don’t let him out.
I discovered my worries that I would edit as I go were entirely misplaced. I don’t edit as I go, I correct. Typos, mainly. Not a problem.
J: I’m sorry. I stopped listening at red leather corset. <fumbles through notes> Here we go. Tell us about your worst Nano moment.
George: November 1st. 5:00am. Open document, blinking cursor. No faith that I would be able to get a hundred words down, let alone 50k.
J: And your best Nano moment?
George: Right around day seven, I was writing a little scene and all of a sudden the whole book fell into place. I knew what the story was going to be , how it would end and how all of the character story lines would come together.
Otherwise, my best Nano moment is at 5am every morning. When I sit down at the computer, suddenly I am there, man. I am IN the story. The characters are pulling me down the path and making story.
J: Let me just hand you the metaphorical microphone, darlin’. You’re halfway through. What do you want to say about NaNoWriMo?
George: First, it is a must-do experience for any writer. It is enthralling, liberating and writer-life changing. DO IT. Take my advice and bind/gag your editor. Your book does not have to be good. It just has to be done. I know there will be a lot of revising. I’m okay with that because Nano is going to give me something TO revise. Without Nano, I wouldn’t have that.
What has struck me is that every word counts. Every one. I stopped hyphenating words that should be so I could get two words instead of one. I let conversations take place that may very well be cut during the editing process. That’s okay because each word leads to a sentence which leads to a bit of character development or plot movement. Every word pushes the story forward.
Finally, I was prepared to have a crappy book at the end of it all. And while I won’t say it’s the best thing ever written, the book is a LOT better than I thought it would be and if it ever sees the light of a bookstore, I’ll be damned proud of it.
J: Besides the cheesecake I’ll be making for you, how will you celebrate the end of Nano?
George: Me? I’m going to Disneyland!
J: Thanks for talking to me, George.
George: Thanks for doing this, Judy. It felt great to get these thoughts out there.
GEORGE ANGUS, author of The Writing Experience, is a popular blogger who enjoys helping other writers. He is the owner of Tumblemoose Writing Service. He recently began submitting his first children’s picture book to agents and editors, and Tweeted “Woot! I’m a writer!” upon receiving his first email rejection. George lives in Palmer, Alaska with his daughter and the other meeses. He Tweets via @GeorgeAngus and blogs about all things writing at tumblemoose.com.
JUDY CLEMENT WALL (aka “j”) is a Course Presenter for the Fear of Writing Online Course. She’s also in charge of guest bloggers for the FoW blog, and she holds the same community-building vision for FoW that Milli does. j has recently completed revisions on her novel, Beautiful Lives, and she blogs about the perils of life, love, writing and cheesecake at Zebra Sounds.