Hi Natalie, what's your idea of great literary fiction?
A good example of what I think is good literary fiction is S.E. Hinton's book The Outsiders. I don't know how many people would classify The Outsiders as LitFic, but I do. In my opinion, in order for something to be literary fiction, it must be a novel that points something out about humans. It has to have a message. Often that's why you'll hear writers who are attempting literary fiction say that their antagonist is society. The Outsider's plot is purely character driven, and the book says something about people, as all LitFic should. It is probably my favourite book I've read in a long time.
Why do/did you choose that “genre?”
Why do/did you choose that “genre?”
I chose literary fiction this year not because I think it's the "best" genre, but because it seemed to be the genre that best fit my novel. I think for a long time I've written literary fiction and I didn't know it. Even when I was much younger than I am now, I'd constantly write stories where I'd point a quality out that all humans share. The conflict would always be internal. Even in the fantasy ones. So I "choose" to write LitFic because more often than not, all my stories end up fitting in that genre.
What, if anything, have you written prior to this?
I've been writing for a long time. I've always liked making up stories. Most of the ones I wrote when I was way younger are really terrible. The stories did get better over time, and after taking a fiction writing class I've written stories that I can actually say I'm proud of. Mostly I've written bunches of short stories and gajillions of flash fiction. Never had I truly attempted to write a novel - well, not until November came around.
Do you see yourself influenced by any particular author or authors?
This question has an interesting answer. I mentioned I took a fiction writing class. I took it just last year, in fact. It was a class taken online. Everything was live time, so I made great friends with my classmates and my teacher. The stories that influenced me the most were the ones written by my classmates that year. There was a lot of talent in that class, and the stories written I think did influence what kind of things I write now.
Why did you decide to take part in NaNoWriMo this year?
Well, I found out about NaNoWriMo last year half way through November and thought the idea was interesting. I kind of tried to do it, only because I came in half way through the month I didn't feel motivated to really try. When this year came around, I decided to go for it. I knew if I didn't, I'd probably never get around to writing a novel anyway. I'm just one of those people. It was nice knowing a whole bunch of people would be doing it with me. It was the perfect motivation.
How did it go?
Stunningly well. I had support from my younger sister throughout the whole month. She did NaNo along with me. Before November started, I wrote down my story idea. I even outlined a little. When November came, I was excited and ready to write. I did get behind on my word count due to school, but I ended up being able to make it to 50k regardless. It was hard work, but I was so happy when I made it. My sister, who didn't outline one little bit, reached 50k before me, and she never got as behind as I did on my word count. I'm still pleased with how well NaNoWriMo went, though.
Any advice or warnings for people who may want to jump in next year?
I think I do. Write a story that inspires you. Make sure you feel emotionally attached to your characters. And when November starts, tell yourself "This is only the first draft!" Don't look back as you write, but constantly keep in mind the focus and themes of your story - the original idea that inspired you in the first place - and don't lose sight of that. If you do sometime in the middle, don't worry. Just take a breather and continue with your focus in mind again. Don't worry. NaNoWriMo really is a first draft. Some people even call it the pre-first draft. And that's what you should always remember.
So, you “won” NaNoWriMo, because you met the specified threshold and hammered out over 50,000 words during the month. But most novels run in the range of 90,000 words or so. Do you feel you truly finished your novel and brought the story to a close?
I didn't finish my novel, no, and I certainly didn't bring the story to a close. My story will likely go on to be around 60k - 70k, although I'm just guessing. But I feel completely satisfied anyway. The point of NaNoWriMo, to me, isn't just reaching the 50,000 words. During NaNoWriMo, I came up with scenes and ideas for my stories that I never would have thought of if I didn't just dive in and write about these characters I created. I know what themes I am going to highlight now that NaNo is over, and I know my setting and characters a lot better. In the end, I feel like even though I didn't finish my novel, I got many good things out of NaNoWriMo, and now I feel like I know how best to carry on with my novel.
On a side note, there are many novels I've read that are under 50k and are still good. The Outsiders is one of those novels. It is only around 47000 words, and it doesn't read like a short book. This is a thought that makes me smile all the time. Even if my novel ends up being 50k after all the editing and revision, I won't let the word count get me down.
Tell us a little bit about the book, “jacket-copy style”:
My story is called "The Walls Between Us" or perhaps "Walls Between Us". I'm still trying to decide on the title. I don't know about "jacket-copy style", because on the NaNoWriMo website I did something slightly different when I was writing the synopsis. Here it is regardless:
My world is changing.
Anneliese Mencken lived in a small town near the city, but to get closer to her dad's job, her family had to move to the country.
I'd just started feeling confident, you know? But now I've got to rebuild everything.
Her mom and dad are excited. But her? She's ...
... heartbroken. I feel kind of heartbroken. There's no kids my age here, and it makes it kind of tough. I try...
She tries to smile. Just for her parents. She feels so
lonely. I wander around our new, big, beautiful property and the emptiness
... the emptiness scares her. She keeps on waiting for somebody to
just show up and talk to me. But nobody ever does.
And that's when she joins the writing club at her local library. She doesn't know...
what is possessing me to do it, but somehow I like the idea of it. Writing, I mean. But what's strange are the
... kids there. They're a bit different. Anneliese wonders
how I'm going to be able to get along with these guys. There's a mean girl, a feminine guy, a Mexican kid, and this mentally unstable girl. I don't think my parents would approve. But for some reason
...she just can't hate them. In fact, she wants to
help them. I want to help them. But how can I when
... there's these walls between each other. Walls built up by
other people, I guess. And themselves. I mean, I have
... she has walls too. And in order to help and befriend these kids she's
going to have to knock the walls between us down.
What are your plans for the novel now (stick it in a drawer? on-going editing? submitting to agents? self-publishing? etc.?)
Currently, I plan on editing it and rewriting it until I feel one hundred percent satisfied. And that is going to take a really long time, let me tell you. After I am completely one hundred percent satisfied, I'll let other people read it (my friends and such) and get an outsider's point of view. After that, I may try to go for it and send it to some literary agents. I may simply self-publish. Mainly, I just want to finish this project.
Would you do it again? Why or why not?
I would definitely do NaNoWriMo again. I got so much out of it this year. So if I do it next year, I have high hopes that I'll end up learning something new.
Where, if anywhere, can people go to learn more about you and your writing?
Other than attempting to hack onto my laptop, I have a fictionpress account. It doesn't have a lot of my works on it. Just a few. Here is the link. I have been thinking lately that betting a blog or making some sort of website might be nice, but for now I'm just happy writing things, saving them on Word, and showing them off to people close to me.Thanks, Natalie. Best of luck to you.
And thanks once again to all the writers who shared their experiences with us today. NaNoWriMo is definitely a topic we'll have to revisit again in the future.