Hey everyone! Today, I’m really excited to be hosting Michelle Hauck, author of GRUDGING (out today!), who’s here to share with us her experience participating in NaNoWriMo. Thank you so much, Michelle!
I want to tell you why entering NaNoWriMo (National Write a Novel in a Month) can be a blessing. But first let’s go back a little ways.
It was fall of 2013, and I had just landed a literary agent as summer ended. My middle grade manuscript was out on submission with all the big name publishers. People from HarperCollins, Hachette, Penguin and Random House (this was before their imprints merged) were reading my little story. There was really nothing further I could do. It was out of my hands. That meant it was time to move forward with a fresh manuscript. Something to give my agent if the middle grade didn’t get a six-figure offer.
If you’re not a writer, you don’t know how hard that can be. These are your darling characters. You’ve slaved over them for months. You’ve become attached. You know them as well as you know yourself – how they’ll react, how they think. The characters from your last book are familiar friends. It hurts to leave them, sort of like a break up. And for someone new. Some character you don’t know the least thing about yet. Ugh. It’s so difficult.
Maybe some writers can jump straight into another story, but I always need a bit of cooling off period first. I took a month. A month wasn’t too long. Then things came up. It stretched to two months. How could I concentrate on something new when the big people were reading my pages? Might contact me at any moment with a high-powered deal.
But a little voice kept saying, “And what if they don’t. What will you have to show your agent?”
Darn it all. The little voice was right. I needed to get busy. So I searched around for something to write about and came up with a big, fat nothing. I’m not a big idea person who can crank out ideas for novel plots at the drop of a hat. Luckily, I heard a song on the radio. I won’t go into details too much because I talked about this in several other interviews, but this song (Come Along by Vicci Martinez) had marvelous lines for a fantasy story. It got me thinking about sirens using their voices to lure people. About characters who might be friends or they might be enemies, and maybe it took them a long time to decide which. About a city surrounded by foes and a blood-thirsty army, and the desperate lengths it would send people.
So I had enough of an idea for a couple of chapters. I could picture a character or two. As a pantser writer (no outline or detailed plan), that’s really all I needed. Now I just had to sit down at the laptop and face the blank screen and put down some words. But… but what if it wasn’t perfect. Or what if my agent called with good news and I had to switch gears again? Maybe I should check my email inbox about 500 more times first. I could start this new story tomorrow. Tomorrow was soon enough.
A couple of days of this and it became apparent that I needed help. That’s when inspiration struck. NaNoWriMo started in a few days!
I’d never tried to enter this before. There was no way I could write 50,000 words in a month. I’m way too slow of a writer. I average a chapter a week on a good week. That would be four chapters in a month, possibly 12,000 words. Far short of the 50,000 word goal to enter NaNoWriMo. And I didn’t like that kind of pressure. But this year was different. This year I tasted desperation. I needed to get going on writing something.
So I took the plunge and signed up for NaNoWriMo in November of 2013. On November 1st, I took off like a shot and got a respectable word count for a single day of close to 1,500. I was impressed with myself. And better, I was learning about my new characters, getting a feel for the new story. And the page wasn’t blank anymore.
The days went by and I reported my word count on Twitter under the #NaNoWriMo tag. I was falling farther and father behind on the goals. Within two weeks, other people were declaring themselves finished. They’d reached the 50K mark. I was still at 10K. But I didn’t feel bad. NaNoWriMo had motivated me. By the end of the month I’d reached an astounding total for me – 20,000 words.
But despite “losing” at NaNoWriMo my new story was off. I had ideas. I had an interest in seeing where the characters would take me. I forgot to stare at my inbox, waiting to hear from my agent. (That middle grade story never did sell.) I knew I would finish this one. And finish I did, in an unspectacular ten months, instead of one.
But you know what else?
I edited that story that lost in NaNoWriMo. I sent it to my agent and we revised some more. It went out into submission land where big people read it. It landed a three book deal with a Big 5 publisher called HarperCollins. Now I have the first installment of a trilogy coming out from Harper Voyager on November 17th. A little story called Grudging that came from a song, and was made possible because NaNoWriMo forced me to be responsible and write.