Journey to publication began with NANOWRIMO

By Carol / November 18, 2014 /
Writer at work

Writer at work

Writers worldwide recently passed the half-way mark of National Novel Writing Month. By today, a writer who is on the NANOWRIMO track will have logged at least 30,000 words on their work in progress. Each year when NANOWRIMO rolls around, I itch to join in. There’s something about the sweet smell of a challenge and a deadline that calls me.

In 2006, I was there. With the finish line for my memoir in sight, I joined the tens of thousands of writers worldwide who signed up for NANOWRIMO to try my hand at fiction. At the end of the month, I had 55,000 words, a few characters I liked, and some scenes I thought I could use.

Though it took a couple of years before I returned to that first draft, this year I published Go Away Home, my novel that got its start in 2006.

In celebration of novel-writing month, Webucator asked authors to answer a few questions about their writing careers. I am participating because of the good fortune that led me to NANOWRIMO eight years ago. Here are my answers:

What were your goals when you started writing?

My first goal was to write about my parents’ lives. In the course of interviewing them – about life during The Great Depression, jobs they held, military service, and life on the farm – stories of my own childhood kept coming to my mind. Eventually those stories took center stage and became my memoir Growing Up Country: Memories of an Iowa Farm Girl.

What are your goals now?

Regardless of what I write, my goal is always the same: to tell the stories as well as I am able. To that end, I regularly take classes that add to my writing tool kit. I hope the result is that each subsequent work is better than the one before. Now that I’ve written both memoir and fiction, I feel I could go in either direction for my next book. The idea that’s got the most traction at the moment is a contemporary novel. Though a sequel to Go Away Home is getting legs, too.

What pays the bills now?

Years of saving accumulated a nest egg that allows me to indulge my interest in writing. That nest egg is augmented by freelance writing and consulting projects and royalties from my books.

Assuming writing doesn’t pay the bills, what motivates you to keep writing?

I enjoy the process of writing, and when I have an idea, I’m inspired to puzzle out the story arc, the characters, the place and time, and see how well I can tell it. Writing is hard work, so I’m inspired to complete projects by deadlines and my writing group partners. Also, I buy butt glue by the gallon to keep me in my writing chair.

What advice would you give young authors hoping to make a career out of writing?

Keep writing. Keep reading. Keep learning. Don’t give up.

So there you have it, friends. It is with delight and gratitude that I lift a glass to NANOWRIMO, encouraging others to realize their writing dreams.

Write On!

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  1. Elfrieda Schroeder on November 19, 2014 at 10:31 am

    Thanks for some good tips, Carol. You inspire me, but it’s also challenging and scary to think about. Let the process begin!

    • Carol Bodensteiner on November 19, 2014 at 11:58 am

      It can be scary, Elfrieda. It often was for me. I took comfort from having so many folks help me along the way. Lots of encouragement and I knew I was never alone. Go for it; you’ll only be disappointed if you don’t.

  2. Kathleen Pooler on November 19, 2014 at 2:18 pm

    Carol, thanks for sharing your success story about NaNoWriMo. Cyberspace is flooded with people sharing their experience of writing 50,000 words in a month. It’s refreshing to hear of your tangible, positive outcome from your efforts. And you bring up an important point about giving it time to come to fruition. Bravo and onward!

    • Carol Bodensteiner on November 19, 2014 at 3:08 pm

      I don’t want to say it’s “easy” to write 50,000 words in a month – it isn’t, but no one should delude themselves into thinking the work is done then. NaNoWriMo helped me break any barriers I had about being able to write fiction. It was worth it even if I didn’t publish. Even sweeter that I did. Thanks for stopping by.

  3. Jan Moran on November 19, 2014 at 5:35 pm

    Hi Carol,

    My series was a NaNoWriMo baby, too. I didn’t make it to the finish line that month, but the book is now published and getting great reviews. It really helped me push through and realize what I could do. Great article, thanks for sharing 🙂

    • Carol Bodensteiner on November 19, 2014 at 5:57 pm

      Congratulations, Jan! It’s good to meet another author whose published work was conceived in NaNoWriMo. I’m glad to know your book is doing well.

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