In 2005, Kelley Armstrong wrote a book during NaNoWriMo. She had been published in adult fiction but decided to take a new direction with her writing. Her gamble paid off and now she shares her tips and experiences that resulted in a new YA series that launched this summer with The Summoning.
Chica Lit: How did you prepare for NaNoMo 2005?
Kelley: Oooh, that’s reaching back a bit far for me. I would have had an outline–when I want to write fast, I need to know where I’m going. Oh, and I remember that I cleared my plate of other work and told my agent I was doing NaNo, so I’d be “off-line” for a month. I haven’t had that luxury since (I’m doing NaNo now and have edits for my main series coming in the mail right now) But it was nice to be able to have that first NaNo clear.
Chica Lit: On those days when the blank page glared back at you, how did you just keep writing?
Kelley: Butt in chair, hands on keyboard. I make myself sit and write anything until it starts to flow. And I give myself permission to write crap. I can always go back and edit or delete it, but I can’t work with a story that exists only in my mind. It has to be on the page.
Chica Lit: At the end of NaNoMo, how many words had you written?
Kelley: In 2005, it was over 60,000. The last two years, it wasn’t much more than 50,000…namely because I can’t clear my plate the way I could back then.
Chica Lit: And then you revised and revised and revised … how did you sell The Summoning?
Kelley: Well, it was a little bit easier for me, already being published in another area. The Summoning is young adult urban fantasy, and I have an adult urban fantasy series. I’d had the idea for The Summoning for years, and had been talking it over with my agent when, within a few months, she got a couple of cold calls from editors saying that if I ever decided to try young adult, they’d like to see it. Perfect timing! So I decided I’d give it a shot for NaNoWriMo. I got most the first draft done that month…and I immediately knew I could do better. I liked the characters and the basic plot, but saw a lot of problems too. So I put it aside for about a year. In late 2006, I rewrote the first act, and my agent took that, along with a synopsis, to the publishers, where it sold. Yes, that sounds incredibly easy, but I spent many, many years doing the whole query-rejection cycle, so I know how lucky I am to be able to bypass that now.
Chica Lit: What will you be working on this month?
Kelley: This month I’m doing the third book in the trilogy that began with The Summoning. What I learned from my first NaNo is that writing fast works for me. I can immerse myself in the story and push forward without stopping and second-guessing anything I wrote the day before–I don’t have time to! So for the past three years, I’ve managed to arrange my schedule so I’m always in first-draft mode during NaNo. This year, it worked out perfect and I was able to start the book Nov 1st.