Tag Archives: national novel writing month

Preparing for NaNoWriMo

It’s that time of year again when writers the world over decide whether or not they want to take the November challenge to write a 50,000-word novel in 30 days.

Known as National Novel Writing Month – or NaNoWriMo – I took the challenge for the first time in 2008 when I wrote the first draft of what would become my novel Choice. I found the experience to be exhilarating and the set word count to be a great motivator.

The 50,000-word goal breaks down to about 1,666 words to write each day, which I found doable in the morning, over my lunch break and in the evenings. I had such a great time during that first challenge that I have taken it three more times since in 2009, 2011 and 2012.

My 2011 draft become Vuto, the novel published this past July that was inspired by my time in Malawi, Africa, as a health volunteer with the U.S. Peace Corps.

While I completed the challenge for the drafts I wrote in 2009 and 2012, I was not happy with the way my novels turned out those years. In 2012, the premise of The Pileup came to me after I was nearly hit by a driver who was texting on their cellphone. But when all was said and done, I didn’t like the histories I gave to most of the characters in my novel and I have put it on the proverbial shelf — perhaps I’ll circle back to it one day.

As for 2009, I am planning on taking the basis for that novel and reworking it in NaNoWriMo 2013 to create a more fleshed out, robust novel that will approach the 100,000-word mark instead of the 50k. I think this will challenge me more as a writer with several books already on the market and, since the NaNoWriMo challenge is whatever you want it to be, this is the way I want to go into it this year.

Feel free to friend me through the NaNoWriMo website – my user name is WriterGrl313.

Here’s to another great month of writing!

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Filed under Choice, NaNoWriMo, Vuto, Writing

NaNoWriMo 2012?

I hadn’t planned on taking on the challenge this year as I still have last year’s manuscript (Vuto) to polish up for my next round of queries. But, as I was driving home yesterday, I had a vision of a plot line that got me so excited, I think I just may have to tackle NaNoWriMo 2012 in less than two months.


The Pileup

Tentative plotline:

A newscaster interrupts the television lineup to report on a terrible crash on I-95 involving at least 7 passenger vehicles and one tractor-trailer truck. It is unclear what caused the pileup and what injuries – or worse – have been sustained by those involved.

We go to the back of the pileup, focusing on the passengers in the last vehicle, going down the line, chapter-by-chapter, unveiling the lives of those in each car/truck and the damage the accident has wrought on all – getting worse and worse the closer we get to the first car.

I know exactly what causes the wreck and the fate of the driver inside – but I won’t reveal that here now.

Yes – I think NaNoWriMo ’12 is a go!

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NaNoWriMo 2011: 50,002 Words

As of Saturday, November 26, 2011, I completed this year’s National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) challenge for the second time, coming in two words over the goal of 50k! I couldn’t be happier!

The experience this time around was an interesting one, as I didn’t really have an idea for what I was going to write until the week before November 1st rolled around. I took the pre-challenge to title my novel before knowing what I would write and came up with Ending at the Start. I ended up changing the title, but thinking about what “ending at the start” might mean, I started to think about a child’s life ending before it had a chance to begin.

My first NaNoWriMo I wrote about abortion, so I didn’t want to go in that direction, but the thought brought me back to a time four and a half years ago when I was serving as a health volunteer in the U.S. Peace Corps.

There were many sights I witnessed while serving in Malawi, Africa, but none that stuck with me as vividly as the time I witnessed a teenager giving birth to her second child in the village where I was stationed. The experience was as raw as it could get – we were in the Third World after all. All this young woman had was a sarong wrapped around her (called a “chitenje” in the Malawian language of Chichewa). She kept calling out for her mother, though the Malawian nurse I was with told me she didn’t really mean it – the women there knew they had to go through the labor and birthing process alone, a sign of feminine strength.

Not only was this girl, at least five years younger than I had even been at the time, going through the most physically demanding process a woman faces solo, but she had to keep the child from her husband for at least two weeks thereafter, caring for it alone still. Only if the child survived those two weeks would she be allowed to present it to her husband and name it.

Thinking about these truths and traditions of the Malawian people, I couldn’t help but wonder what if the girl I had seen give birth refused to follow those “laws.” Death in the first two weeks of birth is common in Africa – what if that girl, who I had been told lost a child already, lost a second child, or a third child? What if she refused to go through it alone any longer? What would the first Malawian feminist look like?

And thus, Vuto was born – both the character (the name means “trouble” or “problem” in Chichewa) and the novel as a whole.

Now that the rough first draft is complete, I am so excited to go back for Round Two. I shall keep you posted as my newest book gets closer to completion!

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NaNoWriMo 2011: Day 23 – Vuto

My National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) 2011 project, Vuto, is really coming into its own on Day 23 of the 30-day challenge. I am at 42,653 words in my word count thus far, making me ahead of schedule. That being the case, I took some time yesterday to create a “working cover design” for my novel:

I found the background image at Fotolia.com, thanks to a tip from a fellow “Wrimo” via Twitter. I think it encapsulates the environment and tone of my story extremely well!

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Interview with Change the World with Words

My interview with Change the World with Words was published today! Check it out here or below:

Interview With Author and NaNoWriMo Participant Alison “A.J.” Walkley

by Karen Banes
November is  National Novel Writing Month and we’re celebrating with a series of interviews with NaNoWriMo participants here at Change The World With Words. This week’s interview is with Alison “A.J.” Walkley.

Tell me a little bit about yourself.  How long have you been writing, and what sort of writing do you do?

My name is Alison “A.J.” Walkley and I have been writing since elementary school when I put together Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen Detective Zines for my family and friends. My passions in life include social justice, writing, sexual rights, LGBT rights, books and film. I used to write for a newspaper back in Connecticut before becoming a United Nations correspondent in New York City. I love writing for the young adult audience, though I’ve recently gotten into nonfiction. On top of NaNoWriMo 2011, I am also working on a script based on the life and wrongful conviction of Elizabeth Burke, a Texas inmate I’ve been corresponding with for nearly 3 years.

Is this your first attempt at NaNoWriMo? If not, what happened to the novels you worked on during previous Nano events? Have they found publishers/agents/been self-published? Or were they “just” a learning process?

This is my 3rd NaNoWriMo attempt. I finished my first two and aim to do the same this year. My first attempt became Choice, which I self-published with iUniverse. It won the Barnes and Noble Rising Star Award and was placed in B&N stores across the east coast.

How much planning did you do before you sat down to write that novel-in-a-month?

My first attempt I began with a mere idea in mind about writing a book with two endings. There was no planning at all, essentially. I went for the 1,667 words-a-day count and made it past 50,000 words by November 30th. My second attempt I made it to the end, but I didn’t have a complete novel, just the first half. I’ve yet to finish that second novel, but it will happen some day!

What’s your strategy? Are you writing every single day? Aiming for a set daily word count? How long each day do you/will you spend writing?

This year I’ve gotten some co-workers in on the challenge. I’ll be writing at least 1,667 words a day, plus holding workshops for myself and my co-workers three times a week before/after work. I expect to work on NaNoWriMo for at least 2 hours a day.

Do you/will you connect with other participants (apart from your co-workers), either online or in person?

I’ve never connected with other participants in the past but, now that I live in the LA-area, I hope to attend at least one writing session or kick-off party this year.

What advice do you have for other Nano writers, or what’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given so far?

Stick to it, write every day and, if you don’t win the challenge, keep writing! November is just the beginning!

Alison “A.J.” Walkley is a 26-year-old producer, writer and casting director for Mahalo.com with a background in journalism, film studies and creative writing. Originally from Connecticut, Walkley currently resides in Santa Monica, CA. She is the author of two self-published young adult novels: Queer Greer (2009) and Choice (2009). Choice was written during NaNoWriMo 2008. Walkley served in the U.S. Peace Corps as a health volunteer in Malawi, Africa after graduating from Dickinson College in 2007.

 Find out more at  AJWalkley.com  or on YouTube at  

If you’re participating in NaNoWriMo 2011 and would like to be featured in this series, see this post to find out how.  Struggling with your NaNo attempt? I’m still reading Write-A-Thon: Write Your Book in 26 Days, (And Live To Tell About It) by Rochelle Melander and finding it really helpful.

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Filed under Choice, Guest Blogs, Interviews, NaNoWriMo, Queer Greer, Social Media, Vuto, Writing

NaNoWriMo 2011: Day 10

Hey friends and fellow Wrimos! I greet you from the 10th day of 2011’s National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). I have 16,000 words under my belt and aim to surpass the 17k mark by the end of the day.

I am writing this novel, currently with two working titles (Vuto and Ending at the Start), much the same way I did during NaNoWriMo 2008 with my now-published book, Choice. Each chapter is told from the first-person perspective of a different character. I find that writing this way makes increasing my word count easier as, if I get stuck on one character I can move right on to a different one.

I have just been asked to appear tomorrow, November 11, on This Week in Social Media. I will be speaking about my first two self-published books, Queer Greer and Choice, as well as, I hope, this year’s NaNoWriMo.

Be sure to tune in Friday, November 11 at 2:30PM Pacific to hear me, along with Rex Pickett and Otis Chandler of GoodReads, talk about the impact of social media on publishing here:

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Filed under Advice, Choice, Interviews, NaNoWriMo, Queer Greer, Social Media, Vuto, Writing

NaNoWriMo – Week One

The first week of 2011 NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) is underway and I must say, I’m feeling pretty good about this year’s project. Here’s a brief, working description of the novel I’m working on:

Vuto loses her third child mere days after birth – and she’s only 17 years old. The young Malawian woman forces her husband to go to the funeral, despite tradition that prevents men from considering a child their own until they’ve lived for two weeks in the least. Her decision causes rifts in the village and Vuto’s newfound feminism is lashed back against. She is forced out of her village and must come to terms with herself, her home and her loss. Taking solace in the home of a U.S. Peace Corps volunteer, a surprise attack by Vuto’s husband leads her and the volunteer on an adventure neither had planned for.

Thus far, I have 7,027 words written and it’s the beginning of Day 4, putting me ahead of schedule!

Are you doing NaNoWriMo this year? Comment below with your works of brilliance!

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Prepping for NaNoWriMo

Hey faithful readers! I am 10 days away from tackling the National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) challenge for the third time. My first year, 2008, I wrote my second self-published novel, Choice. The result was wonderful – it won the Barnes and Noble Rising Star Award and made its way into B&N bookstores across the east coast.

The second year, 2009, I started writing a book based on the life of Texas inmate Elizabeth Burke, incarcerated for the murder of her seven-week-old son. While I met the 50,000-word goal at the end of November’s 30 days, I never actually finished the novel. I will one of these days!

I took 2010 off due to work responsibilities, but now, in 2011, I’m ready to take up my pen for the third time and I couldn’t be more excited.

I’ve started to plan my novel in the very basic sense – I have a potential title and heroine.

The title: Ending at the Start

The heroine: Malawian teenager Vuto (which means “trouble” in the Chichewan language.)

The plot will be loosely based on an experience I had when I was a health volunteer in the U.S. Peace Corps in Malawi, Africa, in 2007. I witnessed a girl giving birth, alone (as is tradition) – it was her second or third child and she was only 17 years old.

That’s all I’m giving you at this point…stay tuned as November 1st rounds the corner and I begin a 30-day writing frenzy!

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Filed under Africa, Choice, Elizabeth Burke, NaNoWriMo, Vuto, Writing