Although I'm a travel blogger, I don't actually dip into many travel blogs on a regular basis. I do, however, check in with Flora the Explorer regularly. The main reason why is her writing. She is a master of a moving non-fiction narrative. Her prose takes you on a journey and furthermore, the places she goes aren't always places I'd consider going (like Romania and Colombia) but by the time her story is told, I'm changing my mind... If that isn't the sign of a travel blog doing what it's supposed to, I don't know what is.
So when I found out that Flora was also a NaNoWriMo survivor, I was instantly intrigued. What did she write? What happened to those words? What advice does she have for us?
Read on to find out.
Frankie: When did you do NaNoWriMo, and what did you work on?
Flora: I took part in NaNoWriMo for the first and only time in 2009, when I was living in San Francisco as part of my year abroad at university. I used the challenge to work on a fiction novel based primarily on the lyrics of a particular song by Brand New which I'd always found really evocative.
Frankie: How did you approach the challenge? Did you do lots of preparation?
Flora: I didn't do any prep beforehand, I don't think. I was studying full time at uni throughout the month so I simply attacked it head-on, with only a vague concept beforehand of where I wanted the story to go. That obviously changed multiple times throughout the month!
I was also living with a friend who was attempting the challenge too, and we usually spent a large amount of our evenings at another house filled with friends - one of which (my friend's boyfriend) decided to also try it out. So almost every evening in November there'd be a group of seven or eight people in someone's bedroom doing various homework assignments, chatting & playing music from their computers, with three of us beavering away at our NaNo projects! Working in that type of atmosphere undoubtedly gave me more momentum - we were able to rant at each other when things weren't going well, and often set each other speed writing challenges: "as many words as possible in the next ten minutes - GO!". (Frankie - I LOVE THIS IDEA! You can take part in Word Sprints on Twitter too!)
My personal attitude to the challenge was to hit a manageable word count each day as a base, so if I managed to beat it then I got a lovely sense of achievement :) The count was approx 2,666 words a day which felt like a totally do-able amount, and there were multiple days when I wrote more. Of course, there were also days when I had absolutely no time and was breaking a sweat trying to hit my self-imposed daily word count...
Frankie: Soooo... Did you win or lose?
Flora: I won! Pretty dramatically though, as I had a long haul flight on the last day of the month so I had to write double my usual amount for the last couple of days to hit the all important mark.
Frankie: Phew, tough finish! But was it harder or easier than you expected?
Flora: It was definitely harder than I thought. Fiction doesn't actually come too easily to me, and I found myself spiralling away from my major plot points a lot. I also finished 50,000 words with absolutely no resolution to the project in general, and realised it probably needed to be a lot longer..!
Frankie: What did you learn about your approach to writing whilst doing NaNoWriMo?
Flora: I learnt that breaking my word counts down into manageable chunks really helps me to work with more enthusiasm. Working around other people who are engaged in the same kind of activity definitely gave me more momentum. I also learnt that I'm not able to immediately think up and develop fictional plot points on demand!
Frankie: Have you worked anymore on the project you worked on during NaNoWriMo? Tell us what happened to it after November was over.
Flora: Sadly I haven't revisited the project as I haven't had time, and I also made the switch to predominantly focusing on writing non fiction soon after I finished NaNoWriMo. It's still something I'd love to work on again at some point, though.
Frankie: Would you try it again?
Flora: I'm actually attempting it again this year! Very differently though as I'm currently studying for my Masters in non fiction writing (the aim of which is a 60,000 word manuscript/first draft of a novel at the end of the two year programme), so I'm basically hijacking NaNo as a chance to blast out a significant chunk of my non fiction novel in its rawest form. It's probably not going to be great text but I really want to get a lot of words down so I can work on it later.
Frankie: And finally, do you have any tips for people currently doing NaNoWriMo right now?
Flora: Working with other people alongside helped me no end. Whenever I hit a dry patch in the evening, I'd look over at my friends busily typing away and felt so guilt ridden that I simply got my head back down again without giving myself a chance to get distracted! Using a specific time of day to write also helped me feel like I had a routine, and made it easier to sit down and work.
Great! Thank you so much Flora for sharing your NaNoWriMo story. I hope you do get a chance to visit that novel again... I'm very intrigued.
Bookmark this page for NaNoWriMo Daily Inspiration Posts, every day in November 2014.
Frances M. Thompson
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