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I write suspense and light fantasy/paranormal set in the beautiful country of New Zealand. A land of myths and magic, Aotearoa (Maori for Long White Cloud) has always been a storytelling nation and it is my pleasure to share mine with you.

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Heartpounding suspense and fantasy Downunder

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Queen Heather of NaNo!

By now - you've probably heard about my first attempt to write a 50,000 word novel during the month of November. I was successful because of the encouragement of a lovely group of friends who also joined me on this mad adventure. I'm thrilled to say we all succeeded, but one in particular exceeded the challenge by writing over 100,000 words in the month! Impossible you say? I thought so too - so I thought I'd invite that incredible woman on to Novel Natterings to tell you how she achieved this feat. Ladies and Gentlemen - let me introduce you to Queen Heather of NaNo! ;)

In 2011 I wrote 100,000 words for National Novel Writing Month. Here’s a breakdown of my experience, and how I managed such a thing!

Nanowrimo 2011 was my fourth year running to take up the challenge of writing 50,000 words in a month. I have been successful each time, achieving just over my 50,000 word goal in my first and third years, and around 62,000 words on my second attempt. I was impressed with my achievements – I had attempted a novel before, and made it to 50,000 words after 3 or so months of writing – so to achieve the same and more in one month was great. Last year however, I blew those records out of the water.

So how did I do it? I suppose the first question is why did I even attempt such a thing!? Well, in that first week of November my story was flying from my fingertips, spilling out onto the screen. I made it to 25,000 words in week one – half way to the goal in only a quarter of the time. That’s when my partner laid it on me. “Reckon you can do 100,000 words?” He asked. “Sure” I said, “No worries!” And the challenge was on!

And now onto the how. There are many things that helped me reach my word goal last year. One of the things I have learnt doing Nano is that I am a planner. I write more if I have a plot planned out, even loosely; if there are characters sketched out (in words – drawing is not a skill I can claim). It helps if I can sit down and see where I need to go, what I need to write next, even if I sometimes go off the rails (and in 100,000 words I went off the rails many a time).

I also start ‘practising’ about a month or two prior to November. I often find it hard to write stories between Novembers, so I make a point of sitting down each night with the aim of writing 1667 words. It’s not a story, more a stream of consciousness that has a dual purpose of getting my fingers moving and emptying my brain of all the mindless babble that blocks the creative stuff from getting through. As I get closer to November this is extended to 2000 words a night. Over the years, I’ve managed to increase my speed so much that I can actually write 2000 words in half an hour, as long as I keep typing.

So this is how I started Nano. Breezing through week one, following my plot, developing my characters, my fingers flying across the keyboard. Week two was just as easy; my story was telling itself, characters were doing their own thing, surprising me along the way and I reached my new goal of 50,000 words for the week with ease. On one occasion I even had my son writing with me. His story “Duke the Angry Vampire” barely made it to 100 words, but is filled with magic and suspense, and we both agreed it was a great way to spend time together.

I should also point out that I had more spare time for this Nano, than I ever have before. I usually write at night, after the kids have gone to bed, giving me a few hours each night before going to bed myself. This year I had the added bonus of a son in Kindergarten (3 days a week) and a daughter in day care once a week, which meant I had 4 days to myself during the month. My children were also going to their dad’s every second weekend, and my partner was working Saturdays – another 2 days of the month I could dedicate to writing.

Week three I reached the 75,000 word mark, but things were getting harder. I’d reached the end of my story, at least as far as my plot was concerned. Week four and I was convinced my story was over, that there was nothing left to write. Still I sat down, laptop on my knee, and wrote. I was writing during the day too – lining myself up for nomination of ‘Worst Parent Award’ as my children were left to their own devices. When they were home they made their own breakfast and sandwiches for lunch (they are very independent anyway and have actually been doing this for a while, with varying degrees of help), and generally were left to entertain themselves. With no TV in the house that means DVD’s or Computer games. Otherwise they would come and harass me while I was trying to extract that next painfully stuck word from my brain. “You’re not writing again mum!” followed by a big sigh.

But by forcing myself to keep writing, even when I thought the story was over, I found that the story wasn’t over. It surprised me, as characters did things I had neither planned nor expected of them, as my story took on a life of its own, more-so than it had in those first few weeks. I felt I was writing better than ever before. I found the best of the novel came out after I thought it was done. And I am thrilled with that.

All the way through I had the encouragement of friends and family behind me. It made the experience so much easier, and very enjoyable.


  1. What a wonderful accomplishment! Congrats! I need to try the Nano challenge next time.

  2. Wow. I've been struggling to write for over a year now as depression has had me in its ugly grip. This is very inspiring. To know someone can crank out 100,000 words in a month is great motivation for getting me to crank out at least a novella! Thanks for sharing!

  3. I'm not sure if Heather is able to reply as she doesn't have a blogger account, but I know she's reading :)

    Make sure to join us if you do Isabella - Heather is pretty inspiring!

    Hi Crystal - depression sucks big time doesn't it? I don't suffer from it personally, but have loved ones who do. Writing could be a wonderful way to get all those ugly thoughts and dark feelings out. And a novella will be a nice goal too! Thanks for stopping by :)

  4. Hmm... testing to see if I can comment... :)

    Thanks Isabella! Do come join us this year - it's great fun! :)

    I am glad I could be an inspiration for you Crystal. I hope my experience can be of some help to get you writing again! I love it, and find writing can be quite therapeutic sometimes (especially if you burn all the negative stuff afterwards lol). Good luck with your novella! :)

  5. Great job, Heather, and thank you for sharing your story! I love Nanowrimo. Wishing you continued success with your writing. :)

  6. If I can write a book in 3 months, I think I'm doing great. In one month??? Girl, you are fantastic!!! Much luck to you.

  7. That's incredible Heather. I'm afraid if I made 50K before the end of Nov I'd have called it done. Kudos to you for pushing it farther! Congrats and a well deserved NaNo win!

  8. I did Nano along side Heather (and Laverne) and her effort totally inspired me and kept me going. Can't wait for Nano 2012!

  9. Hi Heather,
    My goodness what an amazing effort. Congratulations. You are a legend.



  10. I've yet to try NaNo, but I can see wht you've done is a huge achievement! Well done. I stop and edit so often i'll find that habit hard if I do NaNo...

  11. Congradulations!!! This is a major accomplishment.

  12. Thanks everyone for such lovely comments! :)

    I love writing, and I have never been more focused than this past 6 months writing alongside LaVerne, Kelly, and the other's in our group. It's fantastic to have such support.