Friday, October 30, 2009

NaNoWriMo by Sydney Salter

NaNoWriMo to the Rescue!

When I attempted my first NaNoWriMo , I had already written three novel manuscripts. And I’d collected more than 10 times as many rejections. Two of my novels had won first prizes in the League of Utah Arts contest and the other one won first place in the Utah Arts Council competition, but I couldn’t break in to publishing.

I received lovely rejection letters. Sometimes. Most often I got a “Dear Author” form letter back in my SASE or worse, nothing at all.

I was feeling pretty discouraged that October: short dark days, too many rejections, not nearly enough chocolate. So I decided to shake things up NaNoWriMo-style!

After reading through my old high school diaries, I decided to combine my worst insecurity—my big nose—with my most disastrous work experience. I had wrecked a delivery van and a wedding cake on the same day, but in equally unfortunate separate incidents.

By November 1st, I had read No Plot, No Problem, created a notebook for the novel, and was ready to go. Some people thought I was crazy and others mocked the entire concept of NaNoWriMo. But I learned that I could write without rules or routines. I used to only write in ideal conditions: quiet house, children away, mid-morning hours, when my hair looked good… Well, you get the idea.

During that November, I learned that I could write with my kids fighting over my shoulder. I could get my 1,666 words written while baking six Thanksgiving pies. I wrote early in the morning, late at night, and on really, truly terrible hair days. Some days were easier than others, but when I finished the book I couldn’t tell the difference. And the book turned out pretty good. Sure it needed revision (everything does, right?). But the voice was strong and consistent because I never left the story for more than several hours.

I let the novel rest over Christmas, my critique group read it, and I spent a few months on revision. Recognizing that this was my most commercial novel, I submitted it only to agents. I got the nicest rejection letters I’d ever received. One agent even recommended me to another agency. That’s how I found my current agent. My Big Nose And Other Natural Disasters sold in a two-book deal to Harcourt and was published last spring. How did I write that second book? During NaNoWriMo of course! You can find Swoon At Your Own Risk on the shelves next April.

Now go write your story and break all your unhelpful writing rules and rituals! You never know where it will lead you…

Sydney Salter
My Big Nose And Other Natural Disasters, Harcourt/Graphia
Jungle Crossing, Harcourt
Swoon At Your Own Risk, Harcourt/Graphia, 2010


Yamile said...


AmyF Hackworth said...

This is a great story, Sydney! Thank you so much for sharing it! This may push ME over the edge to really commit to NaNoWriMo this month.