On this, the last Monday of October, I’m pleased to be Chatting with writers Bob Francis and Karen Kerr about National Novel Writing Month, which kicks off Thursday, November 1st. I met Bob many years ago through In Print. He and I have worked together in a variety of writing ways including The Prompt Club, Word of Art, In Print Radio, and NaNoWriMo. I met Karen a few years ago through NaNo, one of the many perks of participating. I could write my own post about NaNo, and I have! but I thought it would be nice to get input from a couple of pros.
Bob Francis is a writer. He lives in northern Illinois.
(Man, it’s hard to follow a bio like that.) Karen Kerr is an aspiring fantasy writer working on the 5th book in a series that she aims to publish in the future. She lives in Northern IL with her family. She has a daughter and two cats, one of whom yodels.
Thank you Bob and Karen for joining me for this Literary Mary Chat. I’m excited to talk to you about National Novel Writing Month, which begins November 1 and runs through November 30. First off, let’s address the basics…
1.Besides that it’s awesome, what do you tell people when they ask about NaNoWriMo?
You’re challenged to write 50 thousand words in the month, which is – more or less – a 200 page book. NaNoWriMo can help by connecting you up with other people who are trying their hand at this crazy venture too.
I thought it was 100 pages, but my info is probably 7 years old in my memory, so what do I know?
Regardless of the book page count, FIFTY THOUSAND WORDS? In 30 days? That’s insane! (It’s actually only 1667 words a day. Peanuts, really.)
I also tell them “It’s a rush. You should do it!” OK, I’m the peer pressure one.
2. Can any writer join NaNo? How do you join NaNo?
Adults can join online at nanowrimo.org. If you’re under 18, you can join the Young Writers Program at ywp.nanowrimo.org. Kids pick out their own word goal for November. There’s a division between the programs to ensure kids’ safety.
There’s no cost. If you join a region, you will get updates on events in your area such as get-togethers with other area writers.
3. But, it’s National NOVEL Writing Month…what about writers who don’t write novels?
They end up as characters in other people’s novels… usually they get eaten by a monster. Karen agrees with this statement.
NaNoWriMo – despite the “national” in its name, is actually worldwide and even though it’s “novel” writing month, the goal is to write, period. “Rebels” who write anything besides novels are welcomed too. Both of us have opted to join the rebellion this year.
(I wrote a bunch of short stories for NaNo last year–some of which are now PUBLISHED in my collection, Foe Be Us.)
4. You have each participated for many years. What’s the draw? What keeps you coming back year after year?
We both have a lot of responsibilities, including “day jobs,” that normally take priority. NaNoWriMo gives us the opportunity to have the writing take priority.
And people respect the idea that I’m writing in November as NaNoWriMo is an official thing (it has t-shirts and everything).
There’s definitely an adrenaline rush to the pacing that draws me. And the people. Even though you can be writing next to someone without a word for hours, there’s a comradery to it. A “we’re in this together” kind of feeling. And no one understands writer troubles and joys the way a fellow writer does. I also come back for the Eureka! moments. When something clicks into place and you know in your gut why the bad guy kills the wizard, or how the hero gets across the sea in a way that makes sense. Or what the damn elves eat. Because I tell you, Tolkien was a genius when he landed on the idea of nutritious bread. I bet that was a eureka moment for him.
5. What is required to participate? What do you “win”? What do you recommend interested parties do in preparation for November 1st?
Access to a computer and the Internet so you can upload your words to the website to get the official count at the end of the month. Otherwise, it’s free to join. Winners usually get a certificate suitable for printing out and discounts on writing related items like self-publishing or writing software. It changes from year to year. Most importantly, you get the satisfaction that YOU WROTE A BOOK!
Some people plan out every detail of their book prior to November. They have character sheets, key plot points, etc. Others write by the seat of their pants without a plan or a care in the world.
I’m in the middle. For me, planning out when I can write and where is important. I have some notes and I have spent some time thinking about what I want to do, but I don’t have it all set out.
My most successful years I’ve outlined. And that gave me a roadmap. Even if I don’t know what I want to write each day, I know where my story is and where it’s going. Sitting around trying to figure that out in November doesn’t work for me. Of course, this year I’m all rebel. I’m not worrying about a single novel. If I end up with 30 short stories of 1670 words, I’ll be happy.
Not only are you repeat attendees, but you are the Municipal Liaisons for the Rockford Region. Please explain to our audience what that means. And how regional participants benefit from your dedication.
NaNoWriMo is based in California, but it’s happening all over the world. So, the world is split up into regions. MLs are in charge of a region – they schedule events in the area, share updates and events on the NaNoWriMo website, and write up “pep-talks” to urge their fellow writers along. The Rockford region covers Boone, Winnebago and Stephenson counties in Illinois. (I live in DeKalb but consider myself part of the Rockford Region. I guess that makes me a Region Rebel! Join me, won’t you?)
Unfortunately, this post goes live the day after the Kick-Off Party, but there’s nothing like a Halloween candy sugar-high to get you to midnight on November 1st to properly kick-off that word count!
This year we have partnered with libraries and cafes in Rockford to provide space to write, and we partnered with local writing groups. The Lake Summerset Writing Gals are hosting a day of writing at Lake Summerset near Durand. We have lists of restaurants and other places that have tables and outlets and wi-fi, in case participants want to get out and do some writing somewhere around the area. We have organized events – write-ins – all through November and on multiple days of the week. And we have set up a Discord channel, a free online chat, so writers who can’t make it to an event can still participate virtually via text or by voice with a headset and mic.
You can keep up to date through the Region calendar and Forum discussions, and also with the Northern Illinois Novel Knights Facebook page.
Finally – most importantly – we plan to get together on December 1st at Gerry’s Pizza in Rockford and throw a “TGIO Party” (Thank God It’s Over).
Thank you Bob and Karen for taking the time to Chat. I hope this interview provides answers and incentive to some fence-sitters. NaNo is basically one month of putting your writing first. You deserve this.
You literally have nothing to lose and every little bit of writing to gain.