Betty Punkert is the Municipal Liaison for NaNoWriMo in Winnipeg, Canada, and has won the NaNoWriMo challenge 5 times before this year (and looks set to get her sixth win this year). Although she hasn’t published any fiction yet, she sees NaNoWriMo as an opportunity to incubate ideas, and feels ready to start pulling some of her NaNoWriMo novels together for publication. With five years of experience behind her, she has a wealth of advice for struggling NaNoWriMo-ers.Find her on the site as “bpunkert”.
Why do you do NaNoWriMo? What benefits have you gotten from your participation?
It started out as a lark. Now I do it in part because it’s the only time of the year I have a consistent fictional writing practice and in part because of the joy I get in helping others rediscover their creative voice.
The realization that if it isn’t perfect out of the gate, that doesn’t mean it’s not a valid story or I’m a terrible writer and I should give up. It only means that I’m a human being. I’m also discovering that I’m becoming a better writer by tackling it over and over again without being attached to ‘making a living’ at it.
How did you keep yourself inspired and motivated during NaNoWriMo?
The first year it was pure dogged stubbornness. Since then, the forums, the write-ins, and the knowledge that I have anywhere between a hundred and three hundred people who ‘look up’ to me as one of the examples have helped.
From a less practical standpoint, bribery with everything from chocolate to evenings off to go to a concert if I make my word count has also worked. We’re big believers in my region in the power of gold stars and dime-store toys to motivate people.
What sort of planning, if any, are you doing this year before you start writing?
My story concept grew out of a conversation in May, so while I’m not a huge planner, I usually write a one page précis before I start, but I’ve never been a big outliner. I believe in coming up with a god hook and following the characters where they lead me.
What are some of the tools you use to keep yourself organized and on-track during NaNoWriMo? How do you use them?
Using the tools in the NaNoWriMo Hipster PDA (a derivative of the DIY Hipster PDA Creative Package; see www.diyplanner.com) helps me to keep things like eye color, hair color, and age straight. The 3x5 index cards are small enough to fit in the zipper pouch in my real planner, so they can come with me anywhere.
I also have been known to use the NaNoWriMo Report Card (see thread here:
http://www.nanowrimo.org/eng/node/3004635) to keep track of where I am over the month and kick myself in the pants if I get behind.
How do you manage your time during NaNoWriMo to make time for writing?
Most of my family and friends know I check out of my social obligations during the month of November, so I tend to write in several short blocks of about fifteen to twenty minutes over the course of the day. I become very selective about what I do with my evenings, and thankfully most of my friends are very accommodating.
What advice do you have for other writers doing NaNoWriMo for the first time?
You’re going to write a certain amount of dreck. This is normal, even desirable, as writing, like sculpting, requires a certain degree of source material to be available for later carving. Don’t worry about being profound, profoundness comes in the editing process.
Just remember that at the end of the day, what defines a writer is that they write, not that they talk about it and decide they’ll never be good enough to be published, so if you get your butt in the chair every day, that’s half the battle.
Strangely enough, the more you write, the better you will get, which is why it doesn’t matter if sections are dreck.
Trust in the process, trust in the story, trust in the community. But most of all, trust yourself and give yourself permission to have fun with it.
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