Carol: How did you fit NaNoWriMo into your homeschool curriculum?
Sydney: Being in high school, I do have a lot of work to do on a regular basis. Fitting in NaNo isn’t always the easiest thing, but I’ve developed a sort of method. Generally, I start my school year in June or July, so that gives me plenty of time to work ahead in most subjects. That way I’m able to really focus on NaNo when November comes around. Other than writing, my parents only require me to keep up with math during November. Being able to work at my own pace really is an incredible advantage, and I’m so thankful that I’m in a position where I can.
Carol: Any crazy habits that you developed or kept you going during NaNo?
Sydney: My favorite habit, or tradition, is preparing for Nano with crazy amounts of “Nano Food,” which includes basically all of my favorite snacks and teas.
Carol: What was the best part of NaNo? The worst?
Sydney: For me, the best part is something every writer can relate to at some point or other. Those moments when the words just seem to be flowing from my brain. That’s my favorite. When I love my characters, when I think my plot makes sense, when chasing ideas with a net of words doesn’t seem so impossible after all. Those are the moments that make NaNo so worth it.
The worst part? Probably two things. Middles and back pain.
I feel like whenever I’m writing the middle of a story it’s really just a chain of muddled gibberish that just wanders around without pulling the story in the direction it needs to go. Of course, It’s my own fault that those moments happen, but they’re still discouraging.
Also, sitting for an entire month isn’t exactly ideal for spinal health. Pretty painful.
Carol: What helped you to get to the finish line?
Sydney: I’m extremely competitive. During the first days of NaNo, a friend of mine challenged me to beat him to 50K. All I’m going to say about it is that you can’t declare war on me and expect no reaction. I accepted the challenge. So, with some spurring on by friends, I wrote and wrote and wrote until I thought my brain was reduced to a sizzling pile of cells inside my skull. That’s what pushed me to the finish line so soon, really.
Carol: What did you learn?
Sydney: I learned (or relearned) a lot of things. I learned that world building is hard. Endings are hard. Words are hard. Being a writer is one-quarter sleep deprivation, one-quarter edited outlines, four-ninths will power, and just a smidge of having your head in the clouds.
Carol: Tell us about your process. Did you end up gushing? Revise as you went? Did you have any readers as you went along?
Sydney Well, it turns out something unexpected happened. I completed a first draft in around 52,000 words. I didn’t revise as I went and I didn’t word spew. I just wrote. The key was, first, not having a ridiculously detailed outline, but also trying to give my writing direction. Using every word to pull the story along.
It didn’t always work. Sometimes I found that I had backed myself into a corner and realize I’d wasted 1500 words on a scene I didn’t need. But for the most part, it just hashed itself out. (Though I will have to flesh it out later, of course.)
As for readers, I guard my first drafts with my life. Though I did enjoy randomly sending some of my friends lines from my story. And I kind of dropped giving them any kind of context. It never failed to make me laugh.
Carol: Did your story go off in different directions than you had expected?
Sydney: Oh, yes. Plot points I thought were going to just be small snitches turned out to be the foundation of my story. Characters I thought were going to play big roles just sort of tagged along and will probably not survive the second draft.
Carol: Can you tell us any more about your story?
Sydney: Turns out this story is a little bit like Narnia gone entirely wrong. Ancient royalty (supposedly) returns, political jealousies being dug up with them. Plus there’s a unicorn involved.
Also, I finally named it. Until We’re Broken.
Carol: Final word count? Plans for revision? Hopes for publication?
Sydney: Final word count is 52,156. After I got to the end of my outline, I had planned to go back and “add scenes” I thought were needed throughout the story. But then I realized I just wasn’t admitting to myself I wanted to start rewriting and editing. Calling it something else doesn’t change the fact that editing is editing. So I made myself stop and wait a while before slashing away at my manuscript.
I have another idea or two brewing for stories, so my plan (as of right now) is to let Until We’re Broken rest while I slave away at my other projects. Or… mull them over for a while. Then I plan to come back to my NaNo story and hack away at a second draft.
As for publication, I don’t know. I think we all have that little (or big) corner of our hearts where we stick our novels and with them a few scraps of unrealistic hopes. Yes, I’d love to be published. Can I? And a novel? Probably not. But maybe someday I’ll try.
Carol: What’s next?
Sydney: Well, first, Geometry. I’m trying to finish it before the end of the year (a friend challenged me in this, actually :)) so I’ll probably spend a lot of time working at that. But I also have a couple of story ideas I’ll be thinking over. If I like them enough, I’ll probably write them. This year’s NaNo has reminded me how much I adore writing stories. How I love the precision of it. The imagination of it. And how much I love words. So, I’m going to keep working at it. I’ll never get better if I don’t try.
|Sydney's organized writing space. Mine should look so clean!|
Carol: My guess is that you're going to keep getting better and better. I look forward to buying your book one day!