Another National Novel Writing Month is upon us! Preparations have been a bit slow and difficult this year, but I think I’ve got everything I need. My friend Rachel has been talking about NaNoWriMo on YouTube, and completed the NaNoWriMo tag created by Kristina Horner – so as a prelude, I reckoned I’d give the tag a go myself.
1. How many times have you done NaNoWriMo?
I’ve done six November NaNoWriMos and four Camp NaNoWriMos. I finished all the November ones, but failed one of the Camps. Also, the 2015 Camp was an editing exercise rather than writing a new story.
2. How did you first find out about NaNoWriMo?
I first found out at some point in 2009 when I read this Irregular Webcomic strip. The idea sounded really interesting, as I hadn’t written anything in years but did have a few ideas for stories. With November still some way off, I ended up writing a practice novel in four months, then the sequel when November did come around.
3. What was the name of the first novel you attempted with NaNo?
The Shadow Chronicles: The Chase – this was the sequel to The Shadow Chronicles: The Awakening, my practice novel. These were basically an attempt to create a superhero story in a fantasy universe – a band of people with different skills who come together and form a secret vigilante group. There are still only two stories at the moment, but it’s one of the ideas I’d like to take further if I can sort out the various flaws.
4. Give us a 1 sentence summary of what you’re writing this year.
A restless princess of a militaristic kingdom pursues a career as an assassin. This is another fantasy story: like my 2010 project, The Scholar and The Thief, it takes place in the same universe as The Shadow Chronicles, but in another country far away.
5. What’s the best writing advice you’ve ever been given?
As described in these wonderfully honest articles by Catherine Ryan Howard and Kate M Colby, writing a novel – particularly one you want people to read – is hard work, and you can’t do it without motivation and focus. From Stephen King’s On Writing: “But you need the room, you need the door, and you need the determination to shut the door. You need a concrete goal, as well. The longer you keep to these basics, the easier the act of writing will become. Don’t wait for the muse.”
6. Did you ever take a year off from NaNo? Why?
Not yet, I haven’t. It’s become part of my annual routine.
7. What’s your biggest inspiration when figuring out what to write?
I’ve gotten inspiration from a variety of places. My historical fiction novels were, naturally, inspired by historical subjects that I’m interested in. Sometimes I see something in a book, film or TV show that gives me an idea: my 2012 novel was inspired – though only visually – by a dream sequence in the BBC adaptation of The Mystery of Edwin Drood. Sometimes I follow the advice “write the kind of novel that you want to read” – my 2011 novel came about because I wanted an action-adventure story with vampires.
Princess Fortunata, the main character of this year’s novel, has been in my head for a while but I didn’t have a real story for her. I think she came about because I was thinking of Disney princesses and how the whole ‘rebellious princess’ concept could be used in a darker way with more royal intrigue – and somehow I ended up thinking, “What if the princess became an assassin?” From there, I gave her a family and a kingdom – which draws some inspiration from ancient Rome and Sparta – but it was only for this upcoming NaNoWriMo that I was able to give her a full story rather than just snippets.
8. Read us the first sentence from one of your novels.
I might as well give you the first sentence of all of them!
- 2009: Nobody has lived in Highreach House for years.
- 2010: “It’s a good night for a robbery.” So said the man standing on a rooftop, looking up at the twinkling stars on a clear and mild spring night.
- 2011: The night was surprisingly clear for May in Britain, though permeated by a chilly breeze.
- Camp 2012: The photograph was already familiar to Tim Young.
- 2012: The cathedral reminds the woman of pictures she has seen of the Duomo in Florence.
- Camp 2013: The warrior swung his axe, and his enemy fell with a final scream.
- 2013 (fanfiction): Lily Potter knew that she was about to die.
- Camp 2014: Nicholas Fitzpatrick checked his watch. “Is there anything more we need to do?”
- 2014: It’s the same dream I’ve been having for some time. It begins in London.
9. Why do you love writing?
I’ve loved reading as long as I can remember, and I’ve also loved creating my own stories, ever since I was six or seven and made my own little books out of a few sheets of paper. I had a hiatus for several years when I decided that my writing was terrible, but NaNoWriMo got me back into it, and I still want to publish a book one day.
So, here we go – and to any other writers out there, good luck!