NaNoWriMo - Writing for a Living. Draft 3

TRX: Nano welcomes a wide range of participants. Some, like me, whose novel never quite gets off the ground. And others, on the other extreme, who have tens of thousands of words under their belt... and who even quit their jobs to write. Take Lisa. She worked for an internet company in Silicon Valley. She participated in NanoWrimo in 2005, and has been working on her novel ever since.

ACT: (Lisa) When my 2005 nano novel, I was really liking it and thinking that this is something that if I finished it and edited that somebody might want to publish. and so i quit my job

TRX: She decided to take the gamble and quit her job to finish writing her book, Overworld, about a woman falling in love for the first time. She found a few challenges along the way.

ACT: (Lisa) It's a lot harder than I thought it was going be to focus on writing and not procrastinating. It's easier to write with a deadline and with a support group like you get with nanaowrimo and going to writins and stuff like that.  So I've been trying to develop some of that on my own.  I do have a friend who is writing as her career for the moment and we get together once a week and we talk about writing and sit in a cafe together and write like the writeins that we have during nanowrimo.  And that helps a lot.  I know at least on those days I'm oing to get a lot of writing done because I'll be sitting there with her and getting writing done.

TRX: But she has no regrets.

ACT: (Lisa) I really like doing this I really hope that writing novels is going to be my career for the rest of my life.

TRX: But for others, taking the leap to quit working and write a novel has had a bigger impact.  Roz made a comfortable living managing a team of database developers in England. But she was conflicted. She wanted to write her book entitled Boa Constrictor, which she describes as a sci-fi novel set in a dystopian theocracy.

ACT: I started writing again.  And it really all to do with turning 30 and having a bit of an early onset midlife crisis.  And I always intended to write a novel before I was thirty, and I hadn't managed it.

TRX:    She went to her bosses and asked for time off to devote to writing.

ACT:    And that's what got me into doing my first Nano.  And over the intervening five years I just realized that the writing meant more to me than the job. They wouldn't let me go to part time.  And I guess I called their bluff on it.

TRX: That was back in 2002. She had no idea what she was getting herself into.

ACT: (Roz) In 2002, when I first sat down to do my first nano, i did not expect anything of it.  I had a week to prepare, because i didn't hear about it until it was starting.  I didn't think I would get through it.  I did not think it would be so much fun.  And I didn't think that it would start this whole train in process... That now I'm looking to become a professional writer.  Which is what I want to do with my life.

TRX:  Five years later, she's almost finished with her second draft. But writing - and being a part of NanoWrimo - has changed her life. She no longer lives in England -- she now describes herself as a nomad, staying with friends and family. She's also divorced - -something that happened partly as a result of her decision to write. this past summer, she fournd herself re-evaluting her commitment to her novel when she attended a writers workshop in Seattle.

ACT:  ACT: (Roz) It's very helpful as a motivating factor to be surrounded by  other people who are writing and not to think that I'm the only person who is going to sit down and hammer out all of these words of fiction, that it's a collective process. 

I attended Clarion West in seattle in the summer which is a workshop for writers of short ____ fiction.  And I hit that workshop at a point when I was quite depressed and struggling with it and was not sure the novel was worth all the trouble it caused me.  Was it worth having given up my career.  Was it worth having essentially wrecked my marriage.  And those people convinced me that it was worth carrying on.  That I had something that I needed to be true to and that I shoud push through and not burden the novel with all of the responsibility for everything that had happened in my life and to allow the novel to be what it was and to express myself through it. 

TRX: For others, the transition to writing fulltime wasn't that much of a stretch. Take Sarah. She was a print reporter in the Bay Area. She wrote full-time, but it wasn't satisfying her creatively. When she decided to quit the newspaper to devote time to her novel, her family needed to be convinced.

ACT: (Sarah) At first they were very skeptical and didn't undersand why I would need to quit something that was stable and secure and paid my rent and let me even write.  A lot of questions were like why don't you write for the newspaper or what's different about this?  But once I laid down the law and said this is something that I have to do, everyone got on board and was very helpful.

TRX: Good to hear someone laying down the law for writing.  She's now polishing her second draft of Careers in Geography, which she calls a work of literary fiction about figuring out what you want to do with your life after college. Along the way she's had to redefine her measure of success.

ACT: (Sarah) ultimately I don't Feel like it's about the new york times bestseller's list for me, it's about connecting with people and feeling like you've communicated something and someone out there is feeling like yes, that makes sense to me I see the world that way too.  So, if I can do that I'd be elated.

TRX: Sarah says her life is totally different since last year, when she quit her job. She moved, and now works for a bookstore.

ACT:    I live in a different town.  I have a different job now that I love.  And I have a book that I'm actually not embarrassed to show to people.  So, it's pretty fantastic.

TRX: So there you have it, advice and experiences from three seasoned Nano veterans. For NanoWrimo, I'm John Tynan in Arizona.