NaNoNovember120x238 In honor of National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), I’ll be running a series of interviews with writers who have tried their hand at the NaNoWriMo challenge before. Hopefully, their words will lend other writers advice and inspiration as they attempt the feat of creating a 50,000-word manuscript in 30 days.

Our first volunteer is Catherine Hicks, a graphic artist and web developer. Catherine has participated in NaNoWriMo three times so far, and “won” – that is, completed 50,000 words – all three times. She has self-published two of her NaNoWriMo novels, and the third book, a non-fiction work, is currently on its way to becoming a school textbook. Catherine lives in the Bay Area with three “babies of the furry kind” (I can only assume she means werewolf babies) and is pursuing an Art Therapy certificate in graduate school. Find out more about here at her website.

Why do you do NaNoWriMo? What benefits have you gotten from your participation?

It allows me to have a goal and focus on my writing in a way I never have the time for during the 11 months out of the year. It gives me a great sense of community with other writers and a great feeling of accomplishment when the month is over.

How did you keep yourself inspired and motivated during NaNoWriMo?

I am fortunate to live in an area where there are many people working on novels for NaNoWriMo so we often meet in coffee shops and other places during the month. I also have networked with other people online for when I am not home, which seems to be often during NaNoWriMo due to my job.

What sort of planning, if any, are you doing this year before you start writing?

I have never gone into NaNoWriMo without a complete outline of whatever it is I am going to work on. You can’t get to somewhere new if you don’t have a roadmap, and before starting the story I definitely sit down and roadmap everything. I do character analysis charts and have a good feel for my characters and plot before I start.

What are some of the tools you use to keep yourself organized and on-track during NaNoWriMo? How do you use them?

I have a spreadsheet that I found online that tracks words written and how far along you are towards your goal. I also always buy a special notebook just for NaNoWriMo that I keep with me if inspiration on the story comes along and I’m not near my computer. I have also in the past carried around a tape recorder to get those ideas down in a format I can translate to computer later.

I also create a folder on my computer desktop. Since I’ve already outlined the story, I know how many chapters the entire thing is going to be, so I create blank pages for each chapter in the story so I can just open the file and go.

How do you manage your time during NaNoWriMo to make time for writing?

We have a group of people that meet in the coffee shop. I keep the journal I spoke about above by my bedside when I am at home as inspiration always seems to strike me as I am going to bed. Since I always write and journal before bed, that is normally the time I am able to make the most progress in writing my story.

What advice do you have for other writers doing NaNoWriMo for the first time?

Don’t freak out if you don’t finish. You will still more than likely have a great starting point for a novel. Just because the month ends and you didn’t reach the goal, keep writing and you’ll have something to be proud of. Not everyone can say that they’ve written a novel — and whether you get it done in one month or one year, its still a great accomplishment.

It also seems for some like a daunting task to write that much — I know seemed that for me the first time I did it. That is why I outline before the month begins. That way, I can look at each chapter as its own individual story. I know where it is going and I know where I want to end up, so breaking it down like that makes it feel less intimidating.

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