Successful in the past, Jason opted out of NaNo this year…read more to find out why!
Name: Jason G. Anderson
Blog/Website Address: www.jasonga.com
Tell us about you:
I live in Australia, in the small island state of Tasmania. I was born in the north of the island (Devonport), but moved to the south (Hobart) to attend university. I was lucky enough to get a job soon after graduating, and ended up staying here. I work in Antarctic science (as an assistant, not a scientist), where I help scientists manage the large amount of data they generate/collect. It’s interesting work. I have a wonderful wife (Marina), and we live in servitude to the several cats that allow us to live in their home 🙂
This isn’t your first NaNoWriMo…tell us about your first time?:
My first time was in 2010. I go a bit more into why I joined up below, but after I had decided to do it I needed a story. I had one come to mind straight away (I had been toying with writing it for a few years), so I began doing what I could to outline it in a basic way (just figuring out what scenes I wanted, and the order they fell in).
Then, in early October, a new idea suddenly burst into my mind. As often happens with new ideas, it wouldn’t go away. So I abandoned my first idea, and set about outlining my new idea. That was the story I went with into NaNoWriMo, and that’s how Gears of Wonderland was born.
Since there is an end goal–which makes you a “winner”–did you win and reach 50k in your past NaNoWriMo’s? How many words total did you write (more or less or dead even)?:
There’s a fun story about that. I always knew that the story wouldn’t be finished in 50k words, so my goal during NaNoWriMo was just to get more than 50k words down (for purists who say you should finish the story, I was ready to add a “Then rocks fall, and everyone dies” sentence at the end to make it count 🙂 ).
Late on the 29th, I was only a few hundred words away from the goal, so decided to call it a night and cruise in on the 30th. The next day I did my extra words (it took less than half an hour from memory), then went to the site to submit it.
Only for the “official” word count to come back over 2000 words short!
Needless to say, there was a mad scramble of writing. I don’t think I’ve ever written that quickly before (or since), but just over an hour later I resubmitted the manuscript, and had passed the goal (by a few hundred words).
Why was there a problem with the word count? After some testing, I found the reason. I was using OpenOffice to write the manuscript, and the word count feature in OpenOffice is really stupid when it comes to smart quotes. It counts the opening parenthesis of dialogue as a word! The last time I tested (a few months ago now), that bug is still there.
NaNoWriMo is a lot of work, so we all want to know, what initially inspired you to join the writeathon movement and then, what has kept you coming back for more?:
I’d heard about NaNoWriMo several years ago (my wife did it unofficially, and managed to win), but I’d never thought of trying it myself before. But the mention of NaNoWriMo back in late August/early September last year struck a chord in me, and I decided I wanted to do it.
It was events earlier in the year that made NaNoWriMo appeal so much. I’d been running a tabletop roleplayiing game for a group of friends for years, but around the middle of the year the group broke up. Which meant I had lost my main outlet for creating stories. When the idea of writing the stories down was presented, my mind just grabbed it. The rest, as they say, is history 🙂
What were some of the things you taken away from past NaNo’s? Any lessons you’d pass on to a newcomer and things you’d personally do different this year?:
I have three tips. I managed to do all of them last year (one by chance, two by design), and I think they were the main reason I managed to succeed.
First, plan your story in some way before November 1. You don’t have to go overboard (in fact, you don’t want to – you’ll probably just stifle yourself), but having a rough idea of where you want the story to go means you don’t ever waste valuable writing time trying to figure out what happens next. I made my plan by getting a pile of old business cards, and writing a sentence describing each scene I had thought of on a card. I then played around with the order of cards, added and removed cards, etc, until I was happy with the flow of the story. I stayed reasonably close to my plan, but did change a few things as I went along.
Secondly, make use of your non-writing time, especially if you have a very limited time to write. Think about what is going to happen next, either in the current scene you’re writing, or the scene after the one you’re writing. When you sit back down at the keyboard, you’ll be able to make the most of your writing time.
Finally (and this was one I found out by accident), do everything you can to write as much as you can on November 1. I started as soon as midnight hit, and took the day off work to continue writing. By the end of November 1, I’d written 5000 words. This gave me a good buffer for later on, as there were many days where I was only able to write a few hundred words.
What happened to your story–did you publish it? Junk it? Still working on it?
I continued writing my story until mid-December, when I decided I was happy to call draft one of the story finished. I then let it sit for several months, while I worked on other things.
Finally I came back to the manuscript, read through it all in as short a time as possible (two days), made some notes about what I wanted to change, and then set about re-writing and adding sections. I added an entire chapter to the front of the story, moved some things around in the first quarter of the book, and added a number of scenes.
Once I was happy with it, I hired an editor (Lynn O’Dell) to go through it. She really outdid herself, and the story is much better because of the work Lynn, her proofreaders, and a friend who was my beta reader all put into it.
Gears of Wonderland went live on Amazon on October 12, and needless to say, I’m extremely happy! You can find it at http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B005USJ5U8
You had a really successful NaNo last year….what made you decide to take a pass for the 2011 go around?
Unfortunately, it’s a case of bad timing. I have a book in progress that I really need to finish (it’s booked in for Lynn to edit), so I can’t afford to take November off to work on something new. And there’s no way I could do NaNoWriMo and work on the current book in progress 🙂
Do you think you’ll ever do a NaNo again? Why or why not?:
I will definitely do NaNo again. Next year I hope to plan my time in a better way, so I can start a new book as part of NaNo. I’ve certainly got enough ideas running around in my head!