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Novel writing experience difficult, but worth it

Editor's note: This is the third in a series of five weekly updates concerning the experience of National Novel Writing Month.

By Josette Keelor and Jeb Inge

Before NaNoWriMo, did you ever think you might write a novel? This novel?

INGE: Since the first time I listened to Fleetwood Mac's "Tusk." Once the needle lifted on side two of record two, it was a done deal.

KEELOR: I already had an idea in mind for my 2007 novel -- about people who work in a coffee shop. I was a barista at a Daily Grind for several years, so I drew on those experiences. Similar to what William Geist does in "Little League Confidential," I took about five years of experiences and crammed them into a nine-month period for my story.

I thought up my current novel a couple years ago, combining two separate ideas. I jot down ideas in a notebook I carry with me, so "princesses who work for the people, somehow" later combined with a princess who fights. The storyline came a lot later, though.

If you ever write another novel, do you think you'll lean toward the same genre?

INGE: My next genre will probably be a self-help "what-not-to-do" book on writing discipline.

KEELOR: My trend so far has been to write a different genre each year. Last year I wrote horror; the year before a crime thriller, and before that a chick lit.

Do you typically read stories in the genre you write?

INGE: Yes.

KEELOR: Yes, but that's not saying much, since my interests are all over the board.

Who are your favorite authors?

INGE: Anything by Hunter S. Thompson. Thompson was a writing visionary, and we're just now seeing the lasting impact he made on modern journalism, for better and worse. My favorite books have always been "To Kill A Mockingbird" and "The Fountainhead." Both for their landmark way in which they depicted the potential of the human spirit.

KEELOR: My favorite authors are also all over the board: J.K. Rowling (The "Harry Potter" series), Jan Karon (The "Mitford" series) and Alan Bradley (who writes Flavia de Luce mysteries.) Authors make my list of favorites if they wow me with either their story lines or their writing, and then I'll read every book they write. The best is when I think "How did s/he DO that?" and have to reread a passage to find out.

Did you always have an interest in writing?

INGE: I developed a taste for writing in college, which surprised my high school teachers that constantly badgered me for writing run-on sentences.

KEELOR: I enjoyed creative writing and English class, but it never occurred to me to write for anything extracurricular. In high school I wrote fiction for fun and later novel-length fan fiction. Several times I started what might have become novels, but I never had the motivation to get very far, until I joined NaNoWriMo.

Did you study writing or take classes/workshops? Or are you entirely self-taught?

INGE: I took various classes in literature and writing. Mostly technical writing. There's something sexy about a well-written legal brief.

KEELOR: I took two creative writing courses, which focused on short stories and poetry, and I've read a few books on writing. Reading has helped the most, I think. It's difficult to trust authors of writing manuals when I can see for myself what successful authors do that evidently works.

Is novel writing all that different from other types of writing?

INGE: It's much easier and much more time consuming.

KEELOR: Plotline matters in anything, from blog posts to novels, and though novels require a higher level of commitment than a short story or a blog or an article, there still should be a point to every word an author chooses, and length should not be an excuse for needless redundancy.

Based on your writing experiences so far, what advice would you give to others thinking about writing a novel?

INGE: Don't have a job. Or a social life.

KEELOR: See above? Also, if you decide to participate in NaNoWriMo, please make use of the writing community. It makes the whole experience so much more enjoyable.

If you could start this month over again, would you still choose to write what you're writing now?

INGE: Absolutely. I've wanted to write this for a number of years, and if it doesn't finish, I'll still want to finish it next year.

KEELOR: Absolutely. This has been one of my favorite books to write.

It's halfway through NaNoWriMo 2012. How's the novel coming along?

INGE: I'll be lucky to have enough for a novella.

KEELOR: I'm a tad behind on word count, but weekends are a great time for catching up. Mostly I'm enjoying writing the unexpected.


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