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NaNoManatee Interview

Okay, so this year I NaNoMentored a Wrimo who was actually doing NaNoWriMo for a school project, and afterward I did an interview. Here it is, if you're interested.

1. What's your name? Or rather, what are you like as a person? (And why "sushimustwrite?")

I'm Sujin. While the legendary emperor of Japan who shares my name happens to be male, I'm female. Sushi happens to be a nickname that a friend gave me when I was around eleven, and it stuck. When I signed up for NaNoWriMo, writing was my one big passion, hence "sushimustwrite".

As a person... I'm a little insane. I'm the type of person who needs fifteen projects at a time to stay focused, which is another reason NaNo is so good for me. I can be quiet and loud at the same time, and sometimes a shock to other people when they find out that this seemingly quiet person is really quite twisted in the head.

2. What are you doing right now in life? Well, besides NaNo.

I'm a second-year college student in Atlanta who's currently planning a math major. I'm also a junior editor of my school's literary magazine and a math tutor.


3. How did you first find out about NaNo, and why did you decide to participate?

I was reading an online journal in October 2002 when the writer mentioned something about NaNoWriMo. When I clicked the link to NaNo, I found out that it actually stood for National Novel Writing Month. I remembered both of my failed attempts at writing a novel (both of them abandoned after about three chapters) and signed up immediately. After all, if I couldn't write a novel, how on earth could I live my dream of being a professional writer? The rest is history.

4. How long have you been doing NaNo? What are some good strategies and techniques to use for NaNo?

I've done NaNo since 2002 and won every year, even though I wrote half the novel in the last five days to win the first year. It did get easier...well, if by "easier" I mean "I'm not putting the whole thing off".

As for strategies, I find that setting a word count goal for every day is good. I have a small marker board next to my desk with my word count minimum for the day (the previous day's count plus 1667, the recommended word count per day to reach 50,000 by the 30th), and a goal word count (usually the next thousand).

I also word war just about every day. Basically I set a timer and write as much as I can in that time. (I was on WrimoRadio Episode 2 for this, about 2:30 in, if you want to hear it.) Since I'm a competitive person, I put my chat client to good use and word war with fellow Wrimos. A typical fifteen-minute word war adds anywhere between 700 and 1000 words to my word count, so if I really wanted to, I could write my daily word count in two or three word wars. In fact, this was the main reason I finished on Day 16 this year!

Yet another strategy I found handy was to stop in the middle of a scene. Every time I stop at the end of a scene, I have to stop and think of what will happen next. This may be because of my lack of outline, but stopping in the middle of a scene leaves something you can start on immediately the next day.

5. Do you recommend an outline before actually writing your story? What do you do to aid you in planning and the actual writing portion?

Outlines can be good and bad. They can be good because they give your story direction and you can skip around--if you really don't feel like winging a scene, you can skip it, write something else, and come back to it later. If you see your story going in a completely different direction, you can either let it go and wing it or make your characters stick to the outline, which can be difficult. On the other hand, winging it has its advantages because you can go anywhere you want, but if you don't feel like writing a scene, you usually can't skip it even if you have other scenes in mind because you may not know what's going to happen between those two scenes.

Lots of people outline before starting their novels. They also usually have higher word counts and more coherent novels than I do, which is completely awesome. I find that outlining generally doesn't work for me. I usually start writing with a very vague idea of a plot, usually with no idea of an ending, and go from there. This way every day is an adventure, and my characters lead the way.

6. What is your forte, and what is your, well, not-forte?

Assuming we're still talking writing here, my forte is actually sitting down and writing. Some days I won't even go to bed until I reach my 1667 words for the day, and if I'm on a roll, I'll up that to 3000. Even though I loved that rush to finish the novel at the last minute, I don't fancy repeating the experience, so now I make a point to sit down and write.

As for my non-forte, I'm a perfectionist. I want to get details right, like the scene this year where my main character broke her nose. This can lead to my doing "research" to put off writing, like finding out exactly how one goes about fixing a broken nose. By the end of that afternoon I had written only 600 words, but I still reached my word count goal (barely) by the end of the day.

7. What were your previous stories like? How about this year's?

My first year (2002), I wrote about a friendless high school girl who loses all sanity and finds solace through her local coffee shop and yes, friendship. 2003 brought about a darker turn with a simple premise: a killing spree, including the death of the main character, another teenage girl. This was certainly one of the less coherent novels. Once again, I changed tracks in 2004 by writing about yet another teenage girl and her lack of desire for the southern lifestyle.

Finally I changed tracks in 2005. I started college, and for some reason I started to write more adult characters. In fact, in 2005 I even wrote a (gasp) male main character, an unemployed artist who thinks the world's going to end.

And then there's this year. My main character this year is a young woman who just graduated from college. She decides to go to New York City to find the former love of her life, whom she met the first time she lived in NYC the year she dropped out of college.

8. Are you interested at all to perhaps publish one of your stories someday?

I want to be a professional writer, so yes, I do want to publish. After a short break, I'm going to start editing this year's NaNoWriMo novel, and I'm considering rewriting my 2004 NaNo novel as well.

9. What do you think is the best way to get people involved in NaNo?

NaNo is a huge part of my life (I wrote my college application essay on NaNoWriMo, to give you an idea), so people know that November is a time of year not to mess with me. If they don't know, I immediately tell them. I usually appeal to their better sides: the insanity, the writing, the caffeine, the write-ins, the fact that somebody's always going to be busier than they are. And sometimes I just mention it in that "You know you want to" way, just like in those cartoons where the humans hangs the meat on the string just out of the dog's reach. People know I'm insane anyway, so I get away with it.

10. What do you think is the best part about NaNo? The lesson learned from doing it?

Anything is possible. Before NaNo, I thought I couldn't write a novel, and my dream of becoming a writer was empty. Even though I fell behind my first year, I still wanted to finish, so I reserved Thanksgiving break to finish, even though I still had half the novel to write. I still did it. After that I realized that I could do anything if I really wanted to.

Out of many things I could choose to be the best, I think I'd choose the community. I've met so many people through NaNoWriMo--through the write-ins, the forums, the chat room--and become friends with many of them. I've met people I wouldn't have met otherwise, people of all walks of life. NaNoWriMo is such a diverse community, yet we have one thing in common: we write. Whether we write professionally, dream of writing professionally, or write only in November, we share one goal: writing a novel in November. This is what makes the NaNoWriMo community so strong.

11. Where do you find your creative material from? How do you find them?

I have a muse named Nat, and she also happens to be a writer. She writes science fiction and fantasy, and I don't, so she usually isn't helpful. My inspiration comes from the world around me, though. Sometimes I'll see something and think, "What if..." or "That would make a great story." My mind just thinks in stories and thinks of how to create conflict in a situation to make a great story.

12. We should know that both plot and character are intertwined and inseperable, both crucial and equally necessary to the story, but... plot or character?

Character all the way. The plot may not be flowing, and your characters may not be cooperating. As Chris Baty said in No Plot? No Problem, plot is the movement of characters. If you have characters, and they're doing things, you have plot, no matter how exaggerated or dull or beautiful. Besides, that plot won't move itself.