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How to Prepare for NaNoWriMo

Lesson 3 of 3

Interview: Aya de Leon with Grant Faulkner

Grant Faulkner

How to Prepare for NaNoWriMo

Grant Faulkner

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Lesson Info

3. Interview: Aya de Leon with Grant Faulkner

Lesson Info

Interview: Aya de Leon with Grant Faulkner

you know, thanks everyone for joining us today. This is our last Webcast this week. We've enjoyed them so much. And I noticed in the hallway before walking in today a sign and said What we fear most is usually what we most need to dio. So if any of you out there are fearing reading a novel in a month, we're gonna try toe allay those fears, we'll walk you through it. You have no fears after this 90 minute session. And then for those of you who are enthusiasts and really just want to hop in and do it, hopefully we'll have some tips to help guide you along the way. And I know that some of you out there might not know what this crazy thing called Nanowrimo is. It stands for national novel writing month, and I would like to ask I if you met somebody right now who doesn't know? Didn't know what Manorama is? How would you describe it to them? And why would you tell him to do it? Well, actually, that happens to me often. You know, I I'm always encouraging people to participate in nanowrimo, an...

d what I say is at any given time of the year you can write. But Nanowrimo is the only time that you basically have hundreds of thousands of people throughout the country, really throughout the world, all trying to write a novel together. And, um, I love the um, I love the way that you will have it set up, that the idea that anybody can write and that if a novel is you know if novel started around 50,000 words, let's try and crank out 50,000 words in a month. There's a daily word count, and I always tell people some of your slogans like No plot, no problem. And I always get a good laugh for that Fire founder Chris Beatty. People don't have a plot out there. Don't worry about it. You will find your plus, yes and, um and you know, I've always been someone who's encouraged people to write and take on the idea of the novel, cause it could be so daunting. But, um, you're not alone. That's the thing that's so amazing about nanowrimo. Like, there are all these people from really experienced writers to folks who are completely new, who are trying this together and then they're these online communities and in different cities, their actual ire. L in real life communities where you can come together. And I think, you know, one of the things that's most challenging about writing is that it can be in. It can be isolating and intimidating. And I feel like Nanowrimo is the least isolating, least intimidating opportunity people will ever have to write it off way. We, I guess, puts the word we break down the mythology of the solitary writer. You know, I loved what you said about the community because I hear from so many people like the community is just this big kind of tidal wave is this galvanizing force. And when you're feeling low about your novel or feel like you can't go on, it's amazing how that will carry us through that. Like we're trending on Twitter hashtag nanowrimo, usually for the month of November and on all social media platforms. We get literally a 1,000,000 forums posts during the month of November, on every single writing topic under the sun. And then I mentioned our municipal liaisons who they're. If you're in a community, it's likely that there's a municipal liaison somewhere near you. We have 1000 of them around the world and they're organizing live writing events where people write together in person. And what's great about that, is it? It is like there's something about being alongside another person, gives you creative energy and also accountability. Like I've read that the best way to stop smoking is to tell people in the world right to change your behavior. So one of the best ways to finish a novel is tell people I'm writing and reading a novel like How's it going? Yeah, exactly. And when they say, How's it going? You want to say I'm hitting my word counting. I'm gonna finish it. So, yeah, that's great. Why? I, um I'm curious about your writing journey. Like, I would like to go beyond the biography of a writer that there were the little tiny bio at the back of the book. Tell me, like, when did you decide you were a writer? And then how did you What happened afterwards? And why did you do nanowrimo? Well, um, I kind of in my late teens early twenties, I decided I really wanted to be a writer on I wanted to write novels, and, um, you know, I had all these ideas for novels in my head, but at the time, I like I'm a pretty extroverted person, and I also had a pretty short attention span. So at that time, I didn't have the attention span to write a novel like It's a really big project with a lot of complexity, and I couldn't hold it all in my head and I couldn't I couldn't pull it off. And I also didn't have the capacity, the stamina to be alone as much as was needed to do the writing. Eso, I sort of. I started work out a bunch of different novels, and I just couldn't quite get any of them to where they needed to be. And then in the Bay Area, the spoken word and slam movement kind of took off on. I started out reading short prose pieces and eventually sort of became a poet and then a slam poet and spoken word artists. I did hip hop theater, and that really worked for the extroverted. May you know that I could write a short piece, tinker with it, edit it quickly, have a sense that it was done and then take it to an audience and get feedback. And that worked for me. And I was in that world for about a decade, and I did. You know, I made a living at it like I was a working poet. I had an agent who booked me on the college circuit. I was on Def Poetry. Yeah, I developed these hip hop theatre shows, and I toured them, and it was wonderful. But in the back of my head, I was always knew that, like, really, I was a novelist. Yeah. And, um So I did that for, like I said about a decade. And then I decided I wanted to start a family. That had also always been something that I wanted. And I knew that, you know, parenting wasn't gonna be super compatible with, like being in the club every night, doing spoken word and hip hop and hip hop theater. So when I became a mom, I kind of brought it back to fiction. And I had I had this fantasy. I, you know, there was an agent I was sort of engaging with, and my fantasy was that I I would send off the draft to the agent, I'd have the baby. Six months later, the agent would say we love it and then I would sail into the sunset. It was great, you know, I sent it off. I had the baby. And of course, you know, whatever the assistant to the agent that I was dealing with left and then they never got back to me. And then there I was with the baby. No agent on a novel that wasn't done. And I had to figure out the literary establishment and how to get in, and and I really didn't know how. And I was. I spent years being incredibly frustrated and unlike prior to having a baby. I didn't just have lots of free time to be like, Oh, I'll just figure it out. So during I want to say, though, so often, when people have the baby, that's when they quit being creative. Oh, it's wonderful that that was a catalyst for you to go into a new chapter. Oh, yeah, Oh, no, of course I mean it. And it makes sense that people would quit being creative because the amount of time that's necessary for parenting is so huge. But no, I was committed, but I was also at a loss and while I was querying agents, miserably unable toe kind of get any traction. That's when Nanowrimo first came across my radar and I was like, Let's do this And I organized a group of friends, my partner and some of our friends, and we had a little nanowrimo group and I started another novel. You were municipally is on Your E was a media organizer and we were all parents with small kids, and it was kind of like, OK, we managed to get the child's care. That's grand. Yeah, and it was really lovely and just great toe. Have something I was working on that I had the power to finish right, as opposed to When you're trying to get an agent like you're at the mercy of other people, do they like your work? Do they want to work with you? So, yeah, it was great, and I totally did not finish like that. First year was it was bleary eyed with sleep deprivation and a small child. I think my daughter was just a bit over one year old Yeah, that's amazing, though, that you even tried one year old. Maybe that is the number one excuse I hear from people that they can't do. It is I don't have enough time, right? I totally understand that everybody I've ever talked to in my entire life is a busy person. Yeah, but you know, businesses. Sometimes it's a perception that's right. And so you can create time in your life, right? That's why I love your story so much. Well, I always say to people, If you have time to watch television, you have time to write, you know? And I mean, nowadays I watch television while cooking. Maybe so are, like, you know, while doing other things. Um, so maybe it's not. It's not completely true, But if you have time to sit and watch television, then you have time to sit and write. Um, how many words did you get that first year? Even though you didn't like God, I don't know. Probably between maybe between 10 and 20,001. There were two problems that first year with that, my first nano one Waas. Well, they're really 31 waas. I had a small baby. It was so sleep deprived that I couldn't cram it in. But also, I wasn't in love with that novel. Like I liked the idea. I wanted to really like it. But as I started working on it, I kind of got bored. Now I would have gone on to finish because I think it's so great to just exercise the muscle, right. It's like you do warm up, you know, in for something athletic. And writing a novel is like the marathon right is very so you know. So I was willing toe even when I was like, May I probably won't follow up with this novel. I was like, This is a good exercise. I'm gonna do it. But, um, yeah, I ran out of I ran out of steam. But the other thing is, I didn't outline that novel and outlining, um turns out for me because I'm an outline. Er it really helps me Teoh be efficient in hitting the word count. It took me without an outline each day's worth of word count. It just took me too long to get there. So the next year, when I had a really tight outline, I could get that word count and hit it because I knew where I was going, and I didn't have to spend a lot of times saying Now what happens? And for me, because my time was so limited, that was how I was able to do it. That's interesting to hear. And just for people out in Internet land there, I think sometimes your first nanowrimo is like a trial run. And so oftentimes I will have people say, Oh, I'm sorry, I only wrote 10,000 words I'm like No, you cannot say that You only wrote 10, words You wrote 10,000 words in a month. There's a lot 120,000 words in a year. That's right. It's a lot. So feel proud about that. And then, like I come back the next year, figure out a new strategy and find what works for you. So outlining was it. I want to look back to some people right now. It's what it's October 26 5 days, and on that I still haven't. I kind of put a pin in my novel, but I was juggling different novel ideas, and I think like what you were saying about your first an aroma that you kind of fell out of love with it. And so it is important to figure out what idea is calling you. And so I'm curious about the genesis of the justice hustler, Siri's or just the first novel, Uptown Thief. Like What? How did you choose that? How did you decide on it? I well so I had been writing a number of novels that I couldn't quite seem to sell, and none of them were really quite commercial enough. They were quirky. It was like and 6789 and the The literary industry was going through huge changes and becoming more narrow on things had to have more commercial appeal in that moment. And can I ask you So can I ask you to describe the Siri's because it's so different? Yeah, I should have done that. But no, it's all good. So the justice hustlers. Siri's, which started with Uptown Thief, is about a group of women in New York City who run a health clinic, and it's a health clinic that serves women and serves a lot of sex workers. And when the economy tanks the main character of the first novel, Marisol Rivera, who has a history of working in in sex work, decides that she's going to sort of return to a life of crime. So she starts in order to keep the doors of her clinic open. She starts by having an escort service where she sort of skimmed some of the profits to this health clinic. And then, when that's not enough there. Still struggling to keep the doors open, she runs into this sort of unexpected opportunity to heist these corrupt corporate CEOs who are involved in a sex trafficking scandal. So she starts by high sting these guys, and then they get this opportunity to rob this kind of shady billionaire on DSO. It's a heist, Siri's. I refer to his feminist heist. It's a heist, Siri's. But it's also kind of, you know, I tried to throw in everything. It's kind of got romance. It's got action, and it's got a lot of sort of political content because Heist is ultimately about wealth redistribution, and it's sort of a Robin Hood story. But it's very, you know, it's got this sort of urban edge. But, um, it's also this funny crew of women, women of color, white women, queer women, straight women, trans women who are all sort of fighting for their community. And, yes, it's really fun and each each book in the justice. Hessler Siri's has a different protagonist who, you know, gets involved in some in a different heist and has a sort of a romantic arc. And it's really fun. And, you know, it's got a lot of drama, Um, and you know, some heavy political themes. But also, ultimately, I really wanted my politics toe have a big dose of entertainment. So all those elements which are a lot of elements for one novel, was there just a day where you were. I don't know, walking on the street will be like Booth do this. Well, I don't know exactly how it all came together, but at the time, I you know, like I said, I wanted to write something more commercial, and the stuff I had written previously and tried to sell was, like, odd and not so commercial s I was like, I want something more commercial and, you know, particularly for women of color, our work and our kind of public personas air really often very much sexualized. So I was like, Well, if you know, my work is gonna likely run into that sexualization let me intentionally write about sex and sexuality and in fact, let me write about sex work because sex work sits at a certain kind of intersection of gender, race, nationality, capitalism, commerce. And I was like, Let me intentionally right about ah group of women who are thinking about How do we use sexuality to deal with, you know, kind of male domination in contemporary lives and capitalism. So that was an interesting beginning piece, and then I'm not totally sure where the high stuff came from. But I remember watching Ocean's 11 and these various Ocean's films, and there was always pretty much only guys in the heist crew. And I was like, Where the women and I thought, you know, Oh, let me, let me let me write the heist genre. That's a fun genre. And then I just got more and more into it, and it was It's been really fun. That's super cool. I'm very intrigued when you said you didn't outline the first nanowrimo, but then you outlined the next time And that really helped set the foundation and the direction. So I wonder if we can. This is a big question novelist I and I were talking about this beforehand. I'm a non outline er, and I feel inferior and insecure about that, and I probably won't my entire life. So I'm curious. What what kind of gifted outline and give you. Well, I want to say two things. First of all, for the non out liners out there, your mind is wonderful and magical and cannot and should not be expected to follow a straight line. If that's not where the magic it's for you really a good friend of mine who's an incredibly section who's an incredibly successful novelist. Ghada Lina that her bed. This She and I were talking process one day during that around, but she's not an outline, er, like she has a sort of an arc in mind, but she can't you know she can't be contained, right? And so I I really encourage folks who aren't out liners to just trust the magic of your mind. And if you're not an outline, er, don't try and force yourself to do it that way. because, really, it's about where it's about what is a gift for your mind, right? For me, outlining is a gift for my mind. What that means is my mind thinks one day about how do I want this to go? What is the path? And then on another day it actually follows the path. And my mind does that really happily. But if your mind doesn't do that happily, then you're just making yourself miserable. Yeah, and it's And, um, there's no downside to not outlining if it's not your thing. Yeah, so do you do like a whole extravagant? I just found out this week that James Patterson writes a 25 page outline like How meticulous are your outlines? Is it We're not 20 not 25 pages. What I try to do, and especially nanowrimo, is probably affecting how I outlined. I just need 30. I need days of marching orders, right? So I need on day one. I'm writing this scene and this happens, so it's really just 30. Yet it is now. I use Scribner sometimes, and what that allows me to do is tow, have the bullet points. But sometimes when I'm generating the outline. I'll get dialogue and sometimes dialogue just starts running in my head. So if it does, I I um I write it, and then I put it in the little Scribner. Scribner allows you to have sort of the heading, but then also have text that goes with that sort of chapter. Yeah, but I mostly I have the bullet points and I know what I'm supposed to write on a given day. And then it's just setting it up so that all I have to do on that nanowrimo day is right. And I think, as we were saying before, the other thing that I do is I name things like if something needs a name or character, needs a name, I'll name that person or that place. I'll get that location. Just so you know, because on the day of Nano, I don't want to spend five minutes being like what should her name be right? I want to see him at five, right? Exactly knocking out my word count. So that's the other thing that I do in the outline. So, really, when it's time, all I'm doing is writing a walk in the It's the day when they're in the cafe and you know there's gonna be a big fight. So they walk in the cafe but allowed their ordering. This this happens, this person comes in. They haven't altercations. Fight all. They run out, you know? So what? I just I'm I'm opening the way that all I have to do during the month of November is right, right? Right. It's like a game plan. Yes, just absolutely work that I get hung up. Yeah, yeah, for me, it's a map now. Sometimes an arc can be useful. Oh, the other thing that I do is I always reference the hero's journey. You know, toe, also think about the character arc and I used to be very specific, like meeting the mentor right? But now it's sort of more like I reviewed it before I started work on my outline. And by the way, I'm doing nanowrimo this year during November, which, you know, I usually end up doing into the spring because my writing schedule some really cool and just for everybody out there, the hero's journey. That's a famous book written by Joseph Campbell and influence Star Wars. I mean it's influenced a bunch of stuff. I just read an article in The Atlantic Monthly that basically said, because like we, I'm a bad plotter and so that's you know, my fear of outlines, I think, is related to that. But the premise of this article was that there's basically one story in the world. It's just told in a lot of different ways. It's like somebody heads into the dark forest. They have to get out of the dark forest. You know, they have to overcome all those challenges and find the light eventually. And that's he was journeys like, I think told Story said, This is well, every story is either about a person leaving town or person coming. So it's a dramatic situation. Yeah, and I find it useful. And, you know, I just find it helpful to sort of organize my sense of the character change because I'm a very plot driven writer. So all right, apply in this action and that action. But it's useful. It's helpful for me to think about what's happening internally for this person, and then it just helps to shape the outline and the ark. Do you know the ending when you do your line, always first of all, if when you're writing in a genre and I'm writing, so I call it Feminist Heist. My official genre with Kensington Books is, um, urban women's fiction. I'm also writing romance, so there are a bunch of things that I know are goingto happen. So I know that they're going to steal something. And because I'm rating sort of wealth redistribution, I know that some kind of way they're going to get away with it, right? So that part I know on then also the romantic, uh, the romance is pretty set for May, right? You know, this happened boy meets girl. More minutes, Anna happily ever after. So, yeah, I In a lot of ways, I do know what's gonna happen at the and but I also, you know, the fun is getting there right when you have a genre where you know where you're going and there is your change in the writing. Like while you're three times Yeah. Possibility. Yeah, well, you try something in your life. This isn't working. You know, our life putting me to sleep or like, uh, you know, you get there once you're in the book and you get there. You're like, This doesn't make sense or, you know, some new character has popped up like things change. That's good. That's the other I think, is a non outline or when I've tried it, Um, I felt backed into a corner. Like, I imagine I have to follow the rule right on that line, even though I know I can make up new rules halfway through. So I always tell people that Nanowrimo started out as a creative experiment. It's fun fundamentally, about exploring your creative process. So if you haven't outlined, just give it, give a try, even just make a sketch. I mean, you could make a sketch of 30 scenes just like Do you really probably between now and November 1st thing that's enough time. Oh, yeah. I mean, here's the thing. The thing that I love the most about nanowrimo is its quantity over quality. And I just tell myself 1000 times when I'm doing a first draft, like remember, this doesn't have to be any good, and then it's so freeing like Oh, yeah, it is probably better than you think it is. Oh, yeah, Well, I've had that experience. You know, I didn't nano draft of something just to sort of trying, and I sent it to my agent. She was like, This is great What? You know, that's what I find is like what I'm writing doing NaNoWriMo. I will think it's absolute crap. And then when I return to it later, I'll be like things there. That's right. There's some good spot. Well, I'm curious. We get this question a lot because a lot of people who do nanowrimo they're writing within a genre and they're writing a series or they want to write a Siri's. So when you first started the justice Hustler Siris, was it a Siris in your mind? Did you? Did you have an outline of the whole Siri's? Well, the Siri's has changed. I had an idea of doing a Siri's, and I had some vague ideas of who else? Because you create a world like I've created a world, have created group of women, and I had an idea of what some of the other books would be like. This person would have a book, and then this person you know, So I had an idea, but, um once I actually sold Uptown Thief to Kensington. They wanted a Siri's, and I sold it in a two book deal on. I had to sort of give them an outline of where I might be going. They were like, Okay, you know, and and I ended up. It ended up changing a lot on. And that's part of the thing that happens with Siri's. When you write the first book, you have an idea of where you might go with the second book. But in writing the second book, you may, you know different things may happen that will send you where you might go with the third book, one of the things you say 10th book in the series right now. Well, you know what I'll say. Is this a couple of things? Also, things happen in the world that you want to write about. So I had 1/4 book, you know, I was contacted for four books. I had 1/4 book. I had an outline. I might have even sent the outline to my editor. I don't remember, but they take outlines at my, um, my publisher, but, um, then the hurricane happened in Puerto Rico on And I was like, Oh my God, this is the only thing I want to be writing about now. So the book I have that comes out next year Side Chick Nation is about the hurricane in Puerto Rico, and that was a huge hijacking of my process. Because, you know, I hadn't been to Puerto Rico. I have. My family has roots there, but I hadn't been there in almost a decade, and I had to do a lot of research and just it really shifted things. But I it was really gratifying. And the other thing that's so interesting in writing a Siri's um, it is likely that my novel will be the first novel to come out about the hurricane just because I was already under contract to write a novel because I'm writing a Siri's. Where is mostly what happens when people are generating a novel in response to something that happens in the world like they go through the thing in the world and then they sort of taken in and then they, you know, write a novel about, and then they revised the novel, and then they sell the novel and then It's another months before the novel comes out right? So we may be talking about, like, a 45 year process or other novelists who are responding to Hurricane Maria get their work out there. But I was in this sort of unique position, and, you know, it's been really moving. Teoh witness just the struggle on and how Puerto Ricans are fighting for, um in in the spaces where the U. S. Government, I believe, has not sort of stepped up to the citizens there. That's a cool I look forward to reading that, and that brings up the topic of research. Um, a lot of people, I think every novel has a component some research component involved. Um, what role does research play in the novels you write? And I guess the more important question is just like, how do you balance but kind of factual based research with the war imaginative life that you want to give you a novel? Well, so a couple of things I do research, you know, And that's one of the reasons why you kind of have to be really interested in whatever you're writing about, because you want to immerse yourself in that world. Some people, right? Really autobiographical stuff I really don't. There always has to be some part of me and a character so that I feel connected. But, you know, my first character is sort of like a criminal mastermind in New York City very far from my life. And yet there's some parts of her, you know, sort of being a crusader and an activist and really caring about her community. That kind of heart is me and very much my mom, Um, but you know, it's not autobiographical at all, and so you have to really feel passionate about what you're writing about in order to do that research. And I had to do a lot of research from looking at things on Google maps and finding out different things about different parts of different New York City neighborhoods where I've never lived in New York, spent time there but never lived there. So just basics like that, Um, and I was writing about the sex work community, and while I, you know, have people that I know who are current or former sex workers, it's not an industry that I've been in and any part of. So I had to do a lot of research there, and in particular, I do a lot of my research, you know, online and I'll read stuff. But I believe that, you know, in going to the source. So I use a lot of different kinds of sensitivity readers or consultants to check out different parts of my work. So, for example, with this book side Chick Nation about the hurricane in Puerto Rico, I have a bunch of different people reading it for a bunch of different things. I have, um, one person who lived through the hurricane vetting my hurricane details like, Is this realistic? Is this how someone would get from point A to point B? Ah, week after the hurricane. And, you know, I got back a lot of Nope, nope, nope. Like you have to change this or or you know, if you want it to be realistic, you have to change certain things. And that's interesting, cause this research that happens after you've drafted, yes. So you can give yourself permission to just be oh, and then And that's why I work with so many folks because I want toe let my I want to trust my imagination like, you know, I do some online research as I'm going, but I'm sort of trusting my imagination. But then I you know, like I said it, there was the hurricane consultant. The love interest is a journalist. There's a journalism thing I sent it to. A friend of mine who's a journalist doesn't work this way. She's like, Nope, you know, a lot of trees from Yep, you know, there's another part that there's a character who's like a former stripper. So then there's some stripper contents. So, you know, a friend of mine who's a former dancer like, Oh, what's going on here? She's like, yes to that. But noted that, And like with Uptown Thief, I had a sex worker activist read the whole book, and she basically, like, eviscerated my plot like ticket. And she said, You know, they're there their ways that this is based on certain stereotypes about the sex work community that are really damaging, you know, having to do with the, um, the protagonists of the book robbing clients, she said. You know, that's a really you know, that's a really damaging myth about sex work that, like, it's the sex workers versus the clients. You said, You know, actually, you know, this is ah, there a lot of positive connections here. And, you know, she would find that damaging. And I was like, Okay, well, I'm you know, I want to be writing supportively about a marginalized community, not reinforcing stereotypes. So I had to go re plot my novel, and it took a lot of work, but it was better. Better? Yeah, I think so. I think. Yeah, there were, You know, so there were things that I had to work with, and that has been really gratifying. And so now I worry much less as I'm writing, because I know that I'll get people to read it. Well, then tell me like Yes. No. Yes. No. And then you go through and you clean it up. Yeah, I was gonna say one of the things with research is that sometimes people can literally spend their lives researching their novels instead of writing their novel. That's right. I think you do have to to figure out that time where it's like, OK, well, that my imagination take That's right. And if they're things to fill Anil Filmon later. Right? Let's just get you have tow. You have to have enough information that your imagination can sort of take flight and begin imagining something. But you have to leave some room in the process to check with people who have had the experience. Will you know what some people just don't care? They're like, Well, my imagination is what matters most. But, you know, for me and writing about marginalized communities, you know, part of my sort of social justice commitments are that I don't want to further marginalize or mischaracterize marginalized communities. So that's really important to me in terms of my values and my integrity. And, you know, and part of that means that sometimes I pay people like I've got, you know, big network of friends and community members who will read sometimes parts of my novel. But, you know, I regularly expect to spend a couple of 100 bucks per novel when I'm asking people that I don't know, you know, Can you check to see if this is, you know, realistic for a black woman from Chicago and this woman's generation? And can you read this toe? See, You know So I'm always working with different people. That's great, very interested when he was saying about your Your characters aren't autobiographical, but you do have a connection with them. And this is like a very often repeated quote. F. Scott Fitzgerald. Many authors have said this characters plot plot is character. I'm wondering if you feel that about your novels that the characters sort of. I guess the plot has spawned from the character. Yes, or if you just have anything to go deeper into characterization, how you developed characters? Well, you know every character has toe have because part of what generates a plot is what is that the characters want, right? What do they want? What are they trying to make happen? Um, and so I've gotta be ableto empathize at some level with the characters and what it is they want and what it is that they're doing. And I mean, I think one of the things that's funny about writing heist when I first started writing it, you know, people talked about unlike ability, and that's pretty really a thing for women like Oh, well, she's stealing things, you know. That kind of makes her unlikable and, you know, I thought, Well, but she's what? Yeah, And I just thought, really, But, um, you know, So I was challenged by different people who read the book to, like, make her more likeable. But, you know, I I liked her from the beginning. You know, you had me at stealing from corrupt corporate CEO, you know, Right, Exactly so. But I do think there's always got to be a connection on. And, you know, at this point I've written I've published three novels. I've got 1/4 1 in the works. I've written at least another like 45 novels. Not I think about it, you know first, which one did they get their first, you know. So there's a riel wide range of folks that I can write from their perspective, but it always there always has to be something in the character that that is me. You know, I've got different sides and different things that I'm into, but there's got to be some emotional reality of that character that I identify with or I sort of get bored. I was reading on Twitter once, and you you tweeted that you were so bored by a character that you were going back to bed. But then you gave it the hash tag. Hashtag no personality, no problem. That's like that. And so I'm just curious what happened. Like what? What's behind? No personality problem. Well, it was It was, you know, kind of a spin off from no plot, no problem that I wasn't gonna let that stop me, right. I didn't like my main character's personality, and that's a problem, like in a finished book. But at at that first draft stage, nothing is a problem except not writing anything else. You just write your way through it. And so I kept at it right. I didn't like her personality. She was boring to me and the thing that I figured out later. So the 1st 2 characters of these pretty gritty characters the protagonist of the first book, Mighty Soldier Iveta, is you know, she's this sort of Robin Hood character. The spinoff character is her right hand woman, Tyisha Covili A. And Tyisha is, you know, kind of a young black woman who is upwardly mobile, and she's coming from the hood and she's been a sex worker. But she went to Columbia, and she finished her master's in public health. And now she's in charge of the clinic. And so it's sort of this like, upward mobility story she's trying to figure out. How does she now move in the world as like the executive director of a clinic in her twenties and the heist from the first book Money? And you know. So it's about upward mobility. And you know, she has thes kind of hood relatives who come from Chicago and shake her life up on. You know, my family is really mixed class, so she so that's sort of the part of me that was in her. The third book, The Accidental Mistress, is the story of a young woman who's an immigrant who is sort of about to achieve the American dream she's about, You know, she went to prep school, she went to Harvard, she's about to marry an African American millionaire. And then there's this sort of case of mistaken identity, and her whole life falls apart. She loses her job, she loses her house, she loses her or her housing. She loses the fiance, and she has to sort of figure out how to get her life back together. And she's the sister of one of the strippers from the second book where the heist plot is about this group of strippers air trying to unionize on the Ukrainian mob is involved in the strip club and all this drama. Yeah, this is good because you put a lot of conflict and I got a lot of And so the third book is sort of the sister of one of the strippers who is, like, you know, their sisters. And it's like the good girl on the bad girl. Right? So I've been writing these sort of bad girl characters and then the sister is this good girl, right? You know, she, like, comes from She comes from Trinidad on with her little visa to go to this New England prep school, and she's gone to Harvard and she's done everything right. And she's about to marry the millionaire. Yeah, you know, and, uh, you know, she just she was boring. But part of, of course, part of what happens is just before she gets it, she loses everything and has to reevaluate all her priorities and our values. But she just bored me and what I finally did that helped me like her. First of all, I wrote some of the scenes where she was first coming to the United States, where she hit up against a bunch of racism on, and you could see kind of the viciousness of the racism that she hit, which was part of what made her. I feel like I'm gonna be so good and so nice and so assimilated that I won't be targeted, right? So it really gave me a level of empathy for her. But then the other thing that I needed to add to really help was that I made her a visual artist on. I mean, I've drawn a little bit over the years, but visual art has never been my medium because unlike her, I've not had those vicious attacks on my speech right when she first came her Trinidadian English, Some people refer to it as an accent. But remember, lean accent. It's a different way that people talk in a different part of the world. She felt really, you know, Given the racism she encountered, she felt really ashamed and self conscious of her nonstandard US American speech and so it silenced her. But everything that she was feeling came out in her drawing. And even though I'm always a sucker for artists trying to make it in the world, that's like my my thing. She wasn't professionally. She wasn't an artist, but giving her this sort of visual artist self that was trying to emerge had me rooting for her in a different way than before that there was this part of her that was creative, You know that I really started to identify with her like I'm so intrigued by this character. She's great. This character has a lot of personality. Yeah, yeah, well, she's and I, you know, by the end of the book, of course, I totally was in love with her Violet. And that's the That's my book that's out now, The accidental mistress. And, um, yeah and she you know, she has to go back to the Caribbean and she does this heist. You know, she the good girl, has to get, you know, for various reasons. She's the only one who's seen this person and done it. Ah, she's got to be the one and they prepper to do the heist and she doesn't. So it's Yeah, really fun because it actually ties back to this. Characters plot his character because she was transformed by the situation. She found herself. That's right, you know, it's like I always say, the character walks into the room. Something happens when the character walks out. He or she is different. That's right. Yeah, that's right. And so and, you know, And it was fun. And one of the things that was interesting. I had given, you know, the behind the scenes. I had developed the idea for this book. Ah, while ago and they weren't originally connected. It wasn't originally connected to Uptown Thief, but I in the second book, The Boss, I created the character of her sister and the sister, I think, had been in the early outline of the book. But I I did. I built sort of the plot of the second book in some ways around the sister, so that by the time we got to the third book and met the sister, we had heard about her. She's tight sister, and so I've been sort of engineering this world taking titles. I love the title sister totally. That would Yeah, that was definitely She was the uptight sister. And, you know, by the end of the book, less up tight. Yeah. Doing heist? Yeah. In fact, um, well, I'm curious, because I know that, um, after you did nanowrimo and write your first novel that you got a contract of four books in four years. So I've heard you've said you've said that nanowrimo is a lifestyle for you. And I also know that you work and that your parent and as I was talking about earlier, everyone in the world is busy. But how do you and I should tell people also who are watching? Um, before we came in way, had about 20 minutes to kill. I, of course, got on social media. I I started working on a lot. And so this is the question is, how do you make time for writing? And do you do? Do you create windows of 234 hours, or do you seize those little nooks and crannies of time? It's a mix. So, yeah, I first sold Uptown Thief in a two book deal. And then as we were coming up on book number two, I got a second to book deal from them. They sort of do it two at a time, and that's led to four books in four years. With genre publishing A year apart is really the furthest that my publisher does was Siri's. They probably would be even happier if I was doing two books here, but I I can't do it, but some people can, and it's amazing. Um, so I think for me the it has to do with compartmentalizing different parts of the process. So nanowrimo is phenomenal because I can spend some time doing the outline, and that's one piece of work. And then there's just getting the word count in. You know, if I wake up early, I do some in the morning when I If I'm at, I teach. If I'm at work and I'm in between classes and I have a minute, get some word count in. When I take my kid to martial arts class or dance class or some kind of cloud gymnastic class, I'm upstairs getting in my you know, 45 minutes at night. If sometimes I crash when she crashes other times on still awake drama, I'm, you know, getting the word count in. And the other thing Have you always been like that? I have. Well, I wouldn't say always, but I'm someone who has a drive to right, and I definitely have been pretty productive over the course of my life. But it has been a huge adjustment to do so as a parent. And that's part of why Nana Run was so great. Because you can't I don't have time to think about quality. I just need to be putting the words on the page. And also, I start for me. I have to finish the draft. So I'm under contract, right? I can't be like, Well, I only got 10,000 words. Oh, well, I'll try again next year like I have a book that I have to get done. So a lot of times, um, I'll start out doing nanowrimo in February, and it will end up being February March, you know, and sometimes it's February, March, April. You know it takes me longer. I can't get in that full word count for a 30 day Nano, and so sometimes it's a 60 day or a 90 day, but it's amazing that it works anyway. You don't have to do it in 30 days. But part of what you're aiming for is just that really concentrated, developing raw material. And for me, that goes well. What I'm so impressed by is like, I think I think what happens with me and those whatever those weird moments of the day when you have 15 minutes or minutes, especially in the evening, my mind is just so fried. Exhaustion is set in and I tend to some tell myself I can't do it now. Oh, but I think like what? What I'm learning from you is just just to say, you can do it. It's only 20 minutes already have lose. That's right. Well, and I used to before I had a kid, I was like, I am a morning writer And when I would try to write at night, the quality difference was so huge, Right? My mind in the morning. It's fresh, brimming with ideas, you know, word choice. Oh, what an interesting word. Right at night, as I don't know, you know, But, uh, I think that's the thing for me. Just being willing to go with the low quality like this is my low quality brain right now. And I'm going for, you know, and not letting the fact that the quality isn't there, stop me from putting in 20 minutes. And even if I get, like 50% less productivity that I would in the morning when my mind is sharp, I'm still cranking away at that word count. Yeah, it all adds up. One. My favorite novelist stories is the Toni Morrison wrote her first novel. I think she was a single working mom of two kids, two kids, and she had after her all day and helping with homework, getting them to bed. All that stuff. She had about 15 minutes left and she wrote for 15 minutes before going to bed. And all those little 15 minute sessions all added up to a novel. That's very well, Yeah, that's right. And I think I always tell people if you're busy 15 minutes a day, most of us confined that That's right. Yeah, and the same thing I think that applies to nanowrimo. Um, yeah. Do nanowrimo you know, 15 minutes a day you might not have 50,000 words, but you're probably hit. Did their event. You'll get and you'll get there eventually. And I think, um, for me, the best thing about nanowrimo is just the permission for it Not to be good. And one of the things have been so interesting right now that I've done a number of nanowrimo books, it's like I know what to expect. Oh, at the outline stage, it all sounds great. This is gonna be right. And then you're like writing the first draft, and you're like, Oh, this is not what you know. This is not as good as I had in my mind. And then you're revising it for the second drafting. Like Lou, it's getting better. And then you give it to somebody and they're like, This is a problem. This is a problem. Then you feel discouraged like it will never be good again. And then you like, start solving the problems. And I you know, And this happened recently. Every single, right, right. You're like you take the problems one by one. OK, that's an easy fix. That's into the big ones all. What about this? You know, and then you struggle with it. But it's so cool, because now I get to the point where It's like it's crappy looking and I'm like thistles. Great. I have 50,000 crappy words. Soon this will be, you know, 75,000 better words, and then eventually it gets to the place where, like, this is great. And so all those places where it looks bad for our heroine, you know, like no, I know now that I'm going to get to the other side and it's and it's predictable, like I still it sort of pulls at my heart strings like No, no, but this is really bad, but this is really bad. But I've been through it enough that I'm like, I don't know, I've been here before and this is what it feels like here. And then I just keep plugging away at it, and I turned the corner and then I'm pleased with that. That's like walking into your rooms. Gonna be messy, your novels messy nanowrimo. Sometimes I hate opening up that Messi draft. I mean, this is getting ahead of myself into revision, but But that room can't be cleaned up. Yes, it absolutely can. It can, and then it's just so exciting, right? When you're like Oh my God, I've you know, I'm I. It's becoming what I want on. It gets closer and closer and you know the fantasy vision of your original novel. You never quite get to that, because it's all everything's perfect in the imagined version. But you do get to this living thing that's really, really lovely. There's a good moment. So the imagined version, because this is a thing, I think, with a lot of writers. They have this imagine version of their novel, and they have all those novels they've loved throughout their life. And when they sit down to write from the very first word for sentence, it's likely that they're not matching that vision or the novels, you know. And that's when the inner editor starts coming in screaming, tryingto tryingto diminish you. Terry does not there And do you? How do you deal with your your inner editor? Do you still haven't Inter editor? After all these years of writing, how has it changed? Well, the first thing I'll say is interesting that you mention Toni Morrison because when I came of age, she was like had won the Nobel, right? She won, I think the Pulitzer and then the Nobel are in different order anyway, So she it was like she was the the standard bearer for black women, right? She had gone where none of us had, you know, gone before. And so it was like I thought it was my job to be Toni Morrison. And I've got this brain that, like, spins, plot in my sleep, right? I am not. Oh, my God. I just like a couple days, right? You know, I with a friend of mine, I was like, she was they were having problems with that. I was like, Oh, this could happen, this gun. And she's like, Don't you want to write that down? I can't take your ideas. I was like, Oh, no, there's a 1,000, of them. So I have this plot have the genre brain, and I'm never going to write like Toni Morrison. And so it, you know, there was a period of time where I felt like, you know, this is to pulp. This is to, you know, Pope fiction E this is to dime. Yeah, I was judging myself, and for me, it was really about the classism. Like the kind of writing that I do is very sort of action. You know much more for the masses. And, you know, I like to have a lot of, you know, highfalutin political content. But my novels are all pitched pretty much at an eighth grade reading level. On if you can read in an eighth grade level, you'll be able to read my book and follow it. You may not get all the subtext. You may not understand all the references, but it's gonna be completely understandable in a sort of a straight forward language that's neither convoluted nor filled with incredibly brilliant literary nous, you know, and that's who I am. That's my voice. And so it took me a while to be like That's who I am That's my voice and embrace it. But then, once I did, it's like I can write a book here, and sometimes I write more than a book year like That's interesting that you like, found your identity as a writer, but you kind of have to go in search of that identity. You had to write yourself and kind of test yourself against other kind of writing Selves. The baby, whatever you thought you should be. Yes, you, you will. Absolutely. But I think parts for me. One of the things that I've learned about myself and the fantasy of the novel. There's the fantasy of the novel itself. But also for me, at least built into the fantasy is some kind of story about how this will be received, right? And so the discouragement for me isn't just at looking at the novel. But the discouragement is also like whatever When you show it to someone and they're not like, stop the press. This is the most brilliant thing I've ever seen. Oh, my God. You know that happened. I don't know who that someone was with me. It was really clearly it wasn't so. I think that that's the other part of the fantasy to that sometimes is implied is not only will the novel be so amazing, but that, like, it will take the literary industry by storm, you know, and that that sort of doesn't happen. So that's part of the fantasy that I've had to accept, you know? And so part of the discouragement is when we show it to someone there not like Oh, you know, I couldn't you know, I couldn't do anything else. I read it straight through. I, you know, crash the car, whatever you know. So that's that's part of that fantasy and having to let that go, you know, for a more realistic expectation of what it means to write a novel. Yeah, well, this is interesting, because I do want to ask about I'm going to put on my glasses for this May but because I think nanowrimo is an opportunity to develop a creative mindset and part of that developing a creative mindset is thinking about your identity as a writer, and I oftentimes think of this Twyla Tharp and Twyla Tharp was, I think, a modern dancer and a choreographer. And she has this great book called The Creative Habit. And in the book, she says, creativity is an act of defiance. You're challenging the status quo. You're questioning accepted truth and principles and some of those things you're defying. You define maybe your own voice. You're also defined other people's voices to kind of find yourself in your writing and some curious. Do you think creativity is an act of defiance? Overall, I would say yes, and I think, um and I think that what it is we're defying, you know, is different for different people. I think that there is a lot of cliche out there, and I think that when we're writings, when we're writing cliche when we're generating cliche, Um, I don't want to say it's not creative if we're generating something, But if we're generating some same old same old stuff, I mean, I first of all I think it's sort of requires less creativity to do that. But also, um, I think it can be less subversive, right? But I do believe in that a lot of what? When we're really deciding to use the fullness of our mind, Teoh bring it to bear on some situation of characters or craft that it is an act of defiance because, you know, we live in a society that's kind of like you know very much about certain kinds of conformity, certain kinds of one size fits all dreams, certain kinds of norms and normative ITI. And I think you know, I seem I do see defiance, sort of inherent in more marginalized communities, right, because folks who are really marginalized or told like nobody wants to hear what you have to say right. So I find, um women, LGBT Q folks, people of color immigrants, folks from poor and working class backgrounds were all really taught that were supposed to be the audiences, the cheerleaders, the best friend, the sidekick, you know, like we're not the person whose story it is. We're not the person who's supposed to be telling the story. We're supposed to be the consumers of story, right? And their stories that are available for us to consume. A lot of times the stories were consuming or stories that don't have us in the center, right, And we're supposed to be consuming story that way. So I think that for folks from marginalized communities, Absolutely, it's defiant to say. Actually, I'm going to tell the story, writer, I'm gonna decide I'm going to be a writer. I'm gonna write a novel. I'm gonna decide because really, you get to decide in the novel. Who is it about who lives who dies? Who has who, you know, survives the tragedy. Who is, you know, ever changed? Are they able to translate that into resilience like those air you're playing God basically in your little world that you create, and that's a very powerful decision to make. So I think it's super defiant for marginalized communities. I also think that it can be an act of defiance for people who come from a more mainstream place, people who are male people who are white people who are middle and owning class, who are typically the people who have been writing and being listened Teoh in our culture. But I think that the most defiant place for people who are coming from more privileged backgrounds has to do with interrogating that privilege and seeing it right, like seeing what those privileges are creating a world in which some of that is visible on and, uh, you know, thinking about how does it, How does that all work? Taking some of that apart, I think that there many ways Teoh enact defiance As a writer. Ondas a creative I don't know that it's inherently there, but I do think that no matter who you are or you know where you're positioned as writers, it's an important it's important to find that defiance and I think to um like for so many writers, especially white writers who are from poor and working class backgrounds or our from rope rural parts of the country, or have parts of their or, you know, maybe have white immigrant parents or grandparents. Like a lot of times, people assimilate and they don't write about that stuff. So I think that there are lots of ways that people confined the defiance in their story. Um, yeah, and I think it's different for everybody. Just as you were saying all that, I was just thinking like, You know, our mantra at Nanowrimo is that your story matters. That's right now and that I think sometimes people lose sense that their story matters. That's why they don't they don't write it. They somebody else's story matters not right, right? Or they've gotten the idea that somebody else will write their story, right? You know, kind of like I'm not really the expert on my own life. Somebody else who's more qualified will come and write about your community. Yeah, so your story matters out there, right? It believe in it. Put it out into the world, or give the gift to yourself and just write it for yourself. Even we've got about 30 minutes left. I has this great writing exercise. I've actually done it myself. 11. Well, so my first book, Uptown Thief when I turned it in my I've had two great editors at Kensington Books. The 1st 1 was Mercedes Fernandez, and she said, You know the beginning. It needs a little something. She's like, I want you to ratchet up the action. I was like, What do I do? So I started with a chase scene, and then I just loved that. And I've started every book in The Justice Hustler, Siri's with a chase scene, and in that particular scene, you know, mighty soul has stolen. It's her first heist. She's stolen $10,000 she's in this skyscraper and is running down the stairs with ease. Security guards chasing her. And, um yeah, and I love the idea of chase scenes. And since then, you know, I've had I have a a car chase scene and then another foot chase scene, and, um, and then for the fifth book, I'm working on a boat chase. I was like, Let me get these people on a boat. I want about speedboat chase. Um, so think about chase scenes and whatever it is that you're writing, you know, it can be something that's more like, you know, two people kind of having an argument. One person's walking away, the other person's following them down the hallway. Or, you know, down the street or across the cafe, you know, or something like, you know, it could be a police chase or, you know, the authorities or security. You know, anything like that. But I love a good chase and think about your characters. And is there some way that you can work that in What I love about that is how, like when you first introduce that exercise, when I first did it, it made me realize that every novel has a chase scene. Yes, you can work it in, You know, whether it's whether it's a domestic drama where everybody is just kind of sitting in the living room, pretty pages. There's still some sort of chasing. Somebody's always trying to get away or yeah, right, someone trying to get away Someone's pursuing Yeah, so that that's I mean, what I love about that is he said you needed to ratchet up action. Yes, and I find that this is like one of the surprising things that a lot of novelists have trouble with is ratcheting up the action, you know, especially novelist like me. And I was one of the things they say as a writer, you should never do in a novel. It's just have a character walk around town for pages and pages. That's why I love to dio characters just walk around. But, you know, that gets boring. But maybe they could be changed around chased around that could be walking away from, I don't know, next lover or something. So it's a drama, so yeah, right. A chase scene. Think about a chase scene. Might apply to the novel you're thinking about. And, yeah, share it online and Jim will hopefully let us know if you can share some of those. Yeah, Jim, do we have any other questions from online? I don't want to ignore them. No, you know what I think? What? You guys go for about 10 more minutes, Okay. And well, then about quarter after will kind of chime in with some final questions. How does that sound good? Yeah. Uh, well, I I know that you talked. You talked a little bit about earlier about writing the solitary, active writing and then the community. And so it's just this community really is. I always say Nanowrimo is one part writing about, but it's really about the community. Oh, yeah, that really is a year round community. And so what role this community play in your creativity and your novel reading? Ah, well, you know, as an extra vert, I can't I can't write without a community. You know, I need people to engage with, um otherwise I just start to lose energy. You know, I guess that's what someone said. The definition of introversion and extroversion like, Do you feel Do you feel sort of recharged by being alone? Do you recharge being with people? So I really recharge with people. Um And I think one of the things I remember in my twenties being in writers groups on that was great. But part of the writer's group is it's sort of like, you know, maybe once a month you bring once a month, once week, whatever you bring a chapter right or you bring, like, 10 pages, right, you get your fatigue and, um, like part of what started happening as a novelist is I just I had too much volume. You start thinking about the novel, and so I think Nanowrimo has been so great, because when you're thinking about a whole novel, it's a way of having community without it being about bringing the work to those people to give you feedback. It's about having a team that's working together, where everyone's generating on. That's really excited, that exciting, that you don't have to be isolated in the generating part of the process. And you know, you have to figure out who is it that's going to read in help you make it better. And I do think that you need those other things. But before you can do any of that, you have to have something right. And so that's part of what makes it so exciting with nanowrimo that you have. You know, basically throughout the year you have what half a 1,000,000 people are doing these activities, which is amazing. Yeah, I love how you put that, too, because I think what makes the Panorama community special and unique is that a lot of writing communities are about feedback. They're about publishing, which kind of sets up a hierarchy and status and some of those negative feelings. Nanowrimo is all about encouragement, empowerment. You can do it. So when you go on Twitter or wherever you are during November, it's so much goodwill. People like we haven't trained these 500,000 people. Listen, what's amazing to me is that they are nanowrimo. They really, really are. It's about the community and their messages to other people. Yeah, and I think one of the things one of the things that's so challenging in a society like ours, where it's so competitive, is you know, it's kind of like there's a limited pool of acts and I mean, I don't think that those things are really true, But that's how it's set up, like there's a limited pool of acts, and so then you all can, you know, fight it out for who gets to win and what I love. I love that you win nanowrimo by finishing the word count, right? You know, and it's like everyone can win. All half a 1,000,000 people can win, you know. And then you get a little certificate in the mail. Yes. You get a very valuable certificate in your email that you can print out. You know, you you print it out yourself. It's great, you know? It's like I want you know, I printed out my little certificate. I framed it, you know, so that you know, we can all be winners. And I think that really is so important. You know, we can all be winners, like what a great message. Because I you know, at other points of the publication and development process, you know, it's harder. It's, you know, it may be more labour or resource intensive. You know, the literary industry is what the literary industry is, and the literary industry isn't set up that everyone could be a winner right now. You know, right, like you have toe figure out how to navigate and negotiate and engage. And you know what the market wants and blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. That's a whole nother world. But what an amazing way to begin the journey of any given novel by being in this community where everyone has the same goal. Everyone in a lot of ways is equal, you know, and everyone has a shot and everyone can win. And one of the most. You know, in November, I feel like I hear this question. Not to me, but I I do here for me, but but to everybody, I feel like I feel like the world is constantly going around. What's your word? Count? Right, Right. Look, everyone's asking what your word count is. And then whether you're being if your head you get applause, right? If you're behind you get encouragement or something, you know, you can do it. And so that's really valuable. Um, yeah. Uh, yeah. And I was gonna say so one thing, As you were speaking, I was thinking about about the reward. You know, the reward isn't like $100,000 right? Six dealers. But it's ah, it's a certificate. And another one of the rewards is just seeing your word count go up every day on the graph. I know some people treat themselves other rewards like, I don't know, massage a nice meal. Something that will well, you know, their reward themselves of the hit. 25,000 or 50,000 words do you do? Those types of rewards are sort of like Pavlovian, you know? No, I remember the first year watching the word count grow on the website was so it was really gratifying. I don't know that I've done that since partly because I don't have time trying to get the get it, get it out there and also because I often have been doing Nanowrimo. Not during November, right? So it's not the same sort of online world when I'm nah knowing and like March, you know? So, um, although you said you said something different do actually on the website, we have what we call gold trackers, and so you can set up your own sort of nanowrimo, whether it's a one week or in one month or six months so you can do it any time in the any time of the years. You can say I want to write 100,000 words in the next six months and you can set that up. That's grand. You'll get the graph. You can track your progress graphics green, the graphics, crickets. You love the ground. I mean, my big thing has to do with being public with my goal setting, but also accepting that it may change. So usually when I'm doing nanowrimo I and I'm doing it outside of November. I'll sort of send out a call on Twitter and be like, Hey, Tweeps, I'm trying to do a Nano in February who stepped, Who's in, you know, and I'll get full to be like I'm in. Some people are local. Some people I've met, some people I've never met, and then I just And then I just tag all those people in my posts about my word count. And I post my word count every day, sometimes multiple times a day. Sometimes I'll be like, Oh, you know, I got in 350 words before going to work, and then it will be like, Oh, yeah, I got in another, uh, got in another 500 when I was at the martial arts class with my kid. And then it will be like, Oh, tonight I was still, you know, I had energy after dinner and I didn T O. And sometimes that's motivating, though. It's great and and it's great for me And sometimes, like there's some of those days where it's like, what's the word count Now? You know, it's like Are we there yet? And those are just hard days and I'll like, literally tweet, like, five times like Okay, Nyman 636. And it's killing me, you know? But then eventually I get over the hump, So yeah, I tweet about it incessantly. Well, I'm very interested in this in the sense that I'm While you were saying that I was thinking that you came from a certain background of improv in the sense that you were hip hop artists and spoken word performer. Um, does that sort of improvisational training Does that help you? Because Net nanowrimo is sort of an improvisational writing exercise. At least if you're writing that 1700 words a day in some ways, yes, I think, uh, also with hip hop like I was never a real EMC and rial emcees can kind of right hip hop rhymes or can compose them off the head and deliver them extemporaneously rhyme. And they're really good. They even like, have ah, narrative to them like those were really the geniuses and I was never really good at that, But it was a great exercise, and I think the thing I will say that I've developed over the years as a writer that really really serves May is that I trust my mind, you know, and I've broken through certain I've broken through certain self doubt. It was interesting. I saw Jill Soloway and Hannah Gadsby last night. And Jill Soloway, who is incredibly accomplished, you know, has a book out now and incredibly accomplished in Hollywood. Talked about how plague she is still with sort of the the energy the editor voice like really coming for her hard core in all of these thing. And for the most part I have I don't struggle with the editor like I used to like. For the most part, I'm like up I'm here. I'm better. I'm getting it in, I will say with the new book Side Check Nation, in part because, you know, it's, you know, maybe the first novel out there about Hurricane Maria like it felt like a different level of pressure, and I did have had all the usual self doubt. Who am I to write this book? I'm not Puerto Rican enough. I you know it's not literary enough like I'm writing, Ah, heist genre. Urban Windies current and former sex workers like this isn't the right group of people to be writing about this hurricane. It should be someone who is Mawr something, you know, the editor. You know, the editor will tell you you're not blah, blah enough. And then the next day will tell you your to blah Blah. The editor is just a hater, right? And centre right away. Yeah. The editor will find something that's wrong with you and it It actually doesn't logically make sense. So it's interesting to be like, Oh, I'm trying. I'm taking on a new challenge on and the critical voices back had to battle with that voice for a little while before I figured out that like, No, this is This is my This is my work right now. It is for me to write this book and Teoh do the best job that I can, and that's also a part for me. Um, that's part of why it's important toe have people that I'm consulting with because yet it would be possible to screw this up. You know, it's not like, yeah, they're kind of like your I don't know about, like, a sports metaphor there. They're like your lineman who are like blocking your inner attitude like you're kind of Yeah, exactly. And so then I know that, um I've made a good faith effort to get certain details right on. And, yeah, that I'm doing it to the best of my ability. But there's something about doing a certain level of work to trust my mind. And I think NANOWRIMO helps to filter that editor that you can have that mantra. Well, one thing there is nice about improv. Is that, like, the theatrical principle of improv acting is a yes and yes. And you don't question that? Yes. You just plunge in that, go with it. You trust that you trusted it's all gonna be fine. That's right. And your fellow actors on stage gonna help you, there s and what you do. That's right. And so I think it's a wonderful, like creative principle. Yeah, and one part of nanowrimo is doing ward sprints. You know, these and first people who don't know this is basically a timed writing exercise, so you will get a prompt, and then you sit down and you're right as fast as you can for five minutes. So it's total the ascent, you know, or 10 minutes and it's a way to get up the words do you do words prince separate or you a sprint person? You know, I think that's part of the outline is ultimately a set of prompts forward sprints, you know? So for me, I don't do words prints in that way. The outline is the prompt, right? So it's like today I'm writing, you know, about, uh, she and her mother are on the lam, you know, like that's that's where I sort of have the prompt. Yeah, but I don't do the traditional nano words. We'll tell people online eso we have nap man awards princes on Twitter, literally giving sprints around the clock during November. And, yes, we were fund that we have a word sprint tool on the site where you can do your own private words prints. Or you could do them with your friends, or you can do them in the in person events that are misplays on organized a lot of different ways to do words prints. Um, so I'm curious. Were in their last 10 minutes here. What is the best piece of writing advice you've ever received? Like three questions a wrap things up. I think the best piece of writing was just really any Lamont talking about the bad first draft and that everybody has that, that that is part of the process. And I think it was like the nineties that that it was like that. It was like, OK, very ago, Um and you know the idea that to do anything while you have to be willing to do it badly a lot of times And I think for me that's morphed into novels that I've written that I felt great about started with novels that looked, you know, we're a mess and that that actually is the process, like, you know, welcoming the math. And, you know, sometimes I'll tweet like Oh my God, I wrote like, you know, words State. This is really crap. Yea, I'm holding both. I can tell that it's crappy and I'm delighted because it's really just about generating. Yeah, that is great. Um, I think sometimes people forget that every author, no matter how accomplished, writes a crappy rough draft. You know, like it's not just just not not everybody doing nanowrimo. It's, I would say, Shakespeare, he's written totally rose dramatically. Everybody that everyone's done it. So let yourself off the hook. What is the worst piece of writing advice you've ever received there? So many, I think The one that sticks in my mind today, though, is I heard and things were different in the literary industry at the time. But I heard that writing genre was literary suicide, you know, and that there certainly there's a lot of, ah, it's a contested space between literary writing and John writing. And, of course, it's not a binary. There's overlap. There's really there's genre work that is really brilliant at the literary level. There's literary work that it's really not great, you know? So there's a lot going on there. But I I think I was scared of genre for a really long time, and that was a set up for me because that's really how my mind works. Like I think, in plot, I really thrive. If there are certain parameters, you know, an, uh, literary fiction, there's no structure, right, you're developing the structure, and I've written novels that, you know, I've had to develop a structure on dumb, but really, I thrive with a structure I thrive with some kind of blueprint of the kinds of things that happen, you know? And then I'm just like, Oh, you know, I get excited, just like writing with, you know, I also write poetry. If you're writing within a form, Yeah, it's exciting. It gives you a different way for your mind toe work. But if it's just completely free form, Yeah, I was gonna say constraints. I always say they bring out a different type of you got a poem, poems or the great example? Right? Because you've got rhythmical constraints, and sometimes a line number forces you to really dig in and pay attention to what? You're what you're doing. Yeah. Yeah. So I think that for me that scared me for a while and made me, um, made me worry. It just made me worry about a lot of things, like, Well, if I do this, I'll never be taken seriously as a literary writer and eso That sort of had me in my head worrying for for a while, but, um yeah, but then I've sort of come out on the other end of it. And it's a really interesting time in the literary industry because things are. You have been shaken up a lot in the past. Those divisions, like you're a poet, write fiction writer. Your literary writer. You're not a genre writer. Vice person. Yeah. Yeah. So main things just to write your story. Yeah. And you know, they're riel. There are riel mean one thing that I now that I write genre like they're people who are writing four books a year, you know, and sometimes more. Now, I cannot imagine that level of productivity and for me, I cannot imagine how it would be possible to come up with a whole huge new fresh idea. If you you know, our writing in a period of like, 3 to months, like adjust it for me. It takes more time to come up with ideas that are really fresh. So, you know, there are some things around how genre is structured as, ah, as a publishing business, that makes it more difficult, right for people to develop, you know, or even to pay attention to the, you know, to the language challenging. So there are things that are really there in terms of genre versus literary. I wouldn't say in terms of quality but in terms of how things are set up, Um, and at the same time, I just, you know, within genre, there's such important work being done that there's also snobbery, right? Something will Shabi about it. And that's a shame, because they're missing out. Exactly. So, yeah, I think snobbery is a form of the inner editor, I think very limiting. Yeah. So Manorama is a snob free zone. That's right about it. I got to write your story no matter what it is. Um, well, as our last question, this is the last Webcast this week. And so what would you say? What's your nanowrimo rallying cry or any sort of motivational advice you have for people as they're getting ready five days away from November 1st, how to help. But there's only one enemy, and the enemy is discouragement. And I think for artists like I love like how I made it stories. And if anybody wants me tow, watch their TV show, it needs to be a TV show about artist struggling to make it. I'm a sucker for those stories and, you know, or biography, right? You watch the biographies, right? And it's always the same story. It's like I was doing this and it was really hard and I got discouraged and I didn't stop right, Like that's the story. That's the story of, you know, all the artists, right? It's about I got discouraged and I didn't stop. And so I would say, Nanowrimo is this great opportunity to practice that like, micro like Over the course of 30 days, I got discouraged and I didn't stop. And even if you're finding, I'm not hitting the word count Oh my God, if I keep going at this pace, I only have 15,000 words. You're getting discouraged. Don't stop, All right? Just keep going. And that's absolutely been my experience. Any success that I've experienced in my career has been because I didn't stop when I got discouraged. That's great advice, because I think nanowrimo beyond it. Being this kind of creative exercise and creative process and experimentation, it is also developing resilience. That's right, you know, and it takes a lot of resilience. It takes a lot of grip to hit 50, words. You gotta wake up. You've got a right on days that you don't feel like writing. That's right, and those were the days. I mean, I love that you said don't stop if you're only gonna hit 15,000 words because the premises to keep writing. So if you like, like I've had NaNoWriMo is where I get horribly, horribly ill. In fact, this is almost a tradition. I get horribly ill on exactly like November 3rd, and I'll get so ill and I'll have to go to, like, a parent teacher conference or something, and I'll fall way behind on my word count. You know, it is so discouraging and it's so discouragement is like such a trap, you know, because it's so easy to say I'll do this next year won't drop out now. But keep going. You know, even if you miss a week, because sometimes we've heard these heroic stories where people well keep going and they'll suddenly just get go, get through right and that, you know, that's also been my experience. Like, you know, I'm working on my outline. I'm kind of, uh and, you know, I took a shower at the end of the day, and I'm like, I was have good ideas in the shower, and it was like, Yeah, exactly Stickling. And there I waas sort of like, uh and then I just had this idea, which has all these implications, is like, ah, story within a story and a genre within the genre and I don't know Oh, things can happen. And then, like, you set the cascade of ideas firing off in your head and then this on then that and then this and, like, you know, hours before days before your ho hum. But if you stick with it, you can't. You can't. Um, you can't you can't expect You don't know when that's gonna happen. You can't predict when you have that kind of brain stores. Less likely you're gonna have that kind of brainstorm if you quit, right? That's right. Well, here's the thing. Like if you allow space in your mind for it every day, then you'll be there when you know when the stars line up for you to have that brainstorm. And don't miss it. Don't miss it. Keep writing. Don't be discouraged. Thank you so much. Minutes. Enemy discouragement, enemy. Any parting words here? Jim Grant, I think we're in great shape over here. Ah, a couple questions I have for you guys. Final questions. Yeah, I have. Once you give us a started software, people can follow you online. Oh, and check your books. So the Justice Hustler Siri's comes out from Kensington Books. It's urban women's fiction in their Delfina imprint. The first book is Uptown Thief. The second book is the Boss. The third book is The Accidental Mistress. They're all out now in paperback and next year in June. The fourth book in the series about Hurricane Maria and Puerto Rico is a side chick nation, Um, and so that's where you can find my books there their online as well as at brick and mortar stores. And to find me online. I'm at I a daily own dot com and on Twitter at At I and A Leone and on Facebook, I have an author page at I a daily own rights, and it's a y A d e l e o n great. Thank you and Grant Nano. Just give us one final, you know, action where folks can Raimo dot org's n a N o W r I m o dot org's. You can sign up. It's entirely free, so just sign up and then follow the website in terms of like entering your novel, announcing it to the world, signing up for a region where you can find you municipally, is on and write with others and just get ready to write. You know, this is a gift to yourself and to the world. Trust me.

Class Description

With Grant Faulkner, Jennie Nash, Sophie Littlefield, Rachael Herron, and Aya De Leon

No matter who you are, where you live, how old you are, or what your background is, your story matters. National Novel Writing Month encourages people to explore the meanderings of their imagination so they can transform a blank page into a launching pad for the discovery of new universes.

About our Guest Authors:

Jennie Nash coaches you to success with executive director of National Writing Month, Grant Faulkner.

About Jennie Nash:

Jennie Nash is the founder of Author Accelerator, a strategic book coaching service that offers the sustained editorial support writers need to complete their projects and make a powerful impact on their target audience.

Sophie Littlefield & Rachael Herron, sit down and talk NaNoWriMo writing strategy to help you get it done!

About Sophie Littlefield:

Called a "writing machine" by the New York Times and a "master storyteller" by the Midwest Book Review, Sophie Littlefield has written dozens of novels for adults and teens under her own name and the pen name Sofia Grant. She has won Anthony and RT Book Awards and been shortlisted for Edgar®, Barry, Crimespree, Macavity, and Goodreads Choice Awards.

About Rachael Herron

Rachael Herron is the bestselling author of the novel The Ones Who Matter Most (named an Editor’s Pick by Library Journal), as well as more than twenty other novels and memoirs. Her latest non-fiction is Fast-Draft Your Memoir: Write Your Life Story in 45 Hours and her debut thriller, Stolen Things, will be coming out from Penguin in 2019 under the name R.H. Herron. 

Aya de Leon, poet, spoken word artist and Uptown Thief author chats with Grant.

About Aya de Leon:

Aya de Leon is an acclaimed writer of prose and poetry. Of particular note, she's the author of the “Justice Hustlers” series, which includes UPTOWN THIEF, a Latina Robin Hood heist story on New York’s Lower East Side, THE BOSS, and THE ACCIDENTAL MISTRESS. Aya is the Director of June Jordan’s Poetry for the People, teaching poetry and spoken word at UC Berkeley. 

NaNoWriMo expects more than 400,000 people to start a 50,000-word novel in the month of November. The goal is to get participants to exercise their creative muscles, cultivate meaning with their stories, and experience the thrill of bringing characters to life.

In this series of conversations with celebrated authors, including Jennie Nash, Sophie Littlefield and Aya De Leon, Grant Faulkner, executive director of NaNoWriMo, will break down the novel writing process. While there’s no one way to prepare for NaNoWriMo, this class will introduce you to a few approaches so you can be inspired to develop your own.


Ann Thornton

I'm currently enjoying the class. Lots of great information.


re-affirms that I'm not doing anything wrong in my own process. I am new to nanowrimo. Started in 2018. I never really understood what it was exactly even though I've tried the last few years. This helped to clarify what it is. For me getting to listen to other people and their process was helpful. I am a planner to the extreme and I write out my Chapter/settings/plot and in this setup it allows me to focus on a summary and a feeling for the chapter. How I want it to be in terms of visuals, language, and story. Sometimes I used descriptor words in my outlines for each scene to help me to remember to use variations or similar language or ways of describing the setting. I like to also jump around when I get stuck. I don't always write in a linear way, sometimes if I am stuck on a scene I jump to another one and write the easier one first. Sometimes doing this, or even writing the scene after the one you are struggling with helps re-prime you for the areas you struggle with. For me I'm struggling to be consistent in my writing and finish my work. I've only finished one manuscript but I am not yet ready to edit it. I feel its best to put it away until I get better at writing. I know its garbage.