NaNoWriMo Inspiration: (Day 8) Q&A with a NaNoWriMo Winner Monika Kanokova

Earlier this year I became aware of Somewhere, an online community for creatives (and other professions) where you're encouraged to share  your work. The posts you make are related to work specific questions and each post has to be accompanied by a photo. It's very visual, very enagaging and very inspiring. I'm sharing a lot of my NaNoWriMo updates there and I find it inspiring to see what other people are doing. In general, I think it's one of the most positive places on the web.

Not long after joining, the Community Manager for Somwhere, Monika Kanokova, reached out to me. She interviewed me for Somewhere's blog and we shared some messages about life as creatives and working in a start up etc.

Last month I received an email from Monika to let me know that she'd just left Somewhere and was about to move to New York City. She also told me that she had been so inspired by my own fiction writing efforts, she'd set herself the challenge of completing her own version of NaNoWriMo in September... and she only went and nailed it. While I'm always setting myself word count goals, outside the structure of NaNoWriMo in November, I'm much more flexible about achieving them and I rarely write every single day in a month. I was amazed she had the discpline and determination to do a NaNo on her own... and at a very busy time in her life.

I was very happy when Monika agreed to answer some of my questions and I hope her answers prove useful and inspiring.

Frankie: What made you decide to give writing 50,000 words in a month a try?

Monika: I recently quit my job. After a year spent hustling in the startup world I needed to reflect. For the first time in my life I didn't want to move on immediately. I wanted to give every moment that felt overwhelming during the last 12 months some real thought; working in a startup is different and often feels like being on a roller coaster and the most natural way for me to process everything was by writing it down. I set myself a goal - to write 50,000 words in 30 days. I wanted to reflect meaningfully.

Frankie: Did you already have a novel idea before you started writing? Tell us a bit about it!

Monika: I decided to use my own experiences as a the base for a novel. I really enjoy reading books that combine facts with a personal story, which is why I wanted to use the first draft as a channel to describe all the events. Events that felt meaningful and worthwhile thinking about, before going to the second stage of adding factual information.

Frankie: How much planning did you do, and if any, how much did this help?

Monika: The first draft of my novel is based on personal experiences. As I'm very active on Instagram and also used Foursquare throughout all of last year, I had a great record of all the events that had happened. On the 31st of August, before I started writing, I wrote down keywords to remind myself of episodes that I wanted to reflect on. It was about seven pages, which helped me to keep track of how the story evolved. Apart from that, I wasn't prepared at all. I started writing and just kept doing so every day after waking up. It quickly became a routine. 

Frankie: How did you go about "attacking" the challenge and overall, how did you find the experience?

Monika: On the 1st of September, I woke up at 5:30 and started writing. Every day after waking up I would make myself get up and sit in front of the computer for two hours. On some days I'd struggle, but I said to myself that I would have to sit until I finish the daily goal of 1.667 words. I would make myself write even when I did not feel like it. I only skipped one weekend because I went to see my mother in Prague. 

Frankie: Did you finish your novel at the end of September, or are you still writing it?

Monika: I'm still writing. I don't have a computer at the moment and so I must wait until I have a device to finish my story. I have about 6.000 or 7.000 words left to finalize the first draft. I'm at the last page of my notes.

Frankie: Would you do NaNoWriMo again?

Monika: I think it's the only way for me to finish a story. Unless you make it part of your daily schedule, it will just become another one of your hobbies and how many of these do we have and how many do we actually do regularly?

Frankie: What is the best advice you could offer someone who's currently one week into the challenge?

Monika: I have five pieces of advice, which I shared on my blog. In a nutshell the tips I share are:

  1. Don't see NaNoWriMo as a chore, make writing your retreat.
  2. Find a physical place where you can find your inner self... ideally a place you can return to every day.
  3. Have a fixed time for writing. Every day.
  4. Try to focus on things that are not related to writing during business hours. 
  5. Don’t try to correct any mistakes... editing comes after the first draft is finished.

Frankie: Great advice! So, what's next for you... and your novel?

Monika: As soon as I've finished the first draft, I'll start editing and fictionalizing the story I wrote. I'm planning to edit two times myself before I get someone else involved. I'm currently trying to build a mailing list of people who are interested in reading my story. You can sign up here.

Thank you Monika! And I hope this proved useful to you...

Bookmark this page for NaNoWriMo Daily Inspiration Posts, every day in November 2014.

Frances M. Thompson

Londoner turned wanderer, Frankie is an author, freelance writer and blogger. Currently based in Amsterdam, Frankie was nomadic for two years before starting a family with her Australian partner. Frankie is the author of three short story collections, and is a freelance writer for travel and creative brands. In 2017, she launched WriteNOW Cards, affirmation cards for writers that help build a productive and positive writing practice. When not writing contemporary fiction, Frankie shops for vintage clothes, dances to 70s disco music and chases her two young sons around Amsterdam.
Find Frankie on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, and Google+.

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