Today I’m excited to welcome my friend, Sheila Hurst. We met several years ago through Word Press and during that time we discovered we have a lot in common. One big commonality is that both of our first published books were a result of participating in NaNoWriMo. She’s here today to share her experience and some terrific advice. Mention in your comment that you’d like to be entered in the drawing for a free e-copy of her book. The contest will close December 10, 2016.
Thank you so much for inviting me to your blog to talk about the writing process for Ocean Echoes. I’ve always loved visiting here because your posts cause so many smiles, laughs, and memories.
Anyone who has ever participated in NaNoWriMo knows all about the beginnings of my writing process. It was fueled by chocolate, coffee, take-out food, and insanity.
Unfortunately, I must not have had enough leftover Halloween candy because I didn’t make it to 50,000 words back in 2010. Still, by the end of the month I’d probably written more than ever, and that’s saying a lot because I used to be a reporter. Ironically, I left that job because I didn’t want to feel like a writing factory and there wasn’t enough chocolate involved.
I loved the wild ride of NaNoWriMo. I didn’t outline beforehand so I had no idea where the story might take me. There were rough character sketches, but that was about it. The NaNoWriMo craziness made me throw twists and turns and a few silly things into the book, things that I probably wouldn’t have done in any normal writing situation. That’s really something to embrace about NaNoWriMo, because if you’re not having fun while writing it, then reading the book isn’t going to be all that fun either.
Writing partners cheered me on through it all. We checked in with each other and commiserated often. At one point, it felt like another character should be introduced but I had no idea who that person should be. Instead of stopping to think about it for too long, I asked friends on Facebook to suggest a character.
A friend from college told me that a character based on her brother would be perfect because he’s always been interested in science and likes to wear a gorilla suit. Amazingly enough, that character is still in the book and he’s one of my favorite characters.
After NaNoWriMo, I researched and revised for years. My novel is about a marine biologist who studies jellyfish. I work at an oceanographic research facility, so a lot of that research naturally happened at work. I also made sure to read books, newspaper articles, and anything else that would help to add more details. Sometimes I’d simply be reading the newspaper and an article filled with needed facts would start waving at me. Through it all, I kept revising.
It’s true that by the end of NaNoWriMo, you just might end up with a crazy draft. But it’s also true that you’ll have a huge chunk of writing that can eventually be developed into a book. So to any NaNoWriMo writers out there, whether you made it to 50,000 words or not, keep going, keep revising, and remember – you can do it!
Sheila Hurst grew up in Michigan and Massachusetts, contributing to a split personality involving a love of farmlands and the ocean. Early influences include Harriet the Spy, Bozo the Clown, and the books of Judy Blume and Laura Ingalls Wilder.
She received a journalism degree from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst and worked as a reporter while writing fiction on the side. Her short stories have been Glimmer Train and Writer’s Digest finalists. All-time favorite authors are Barbara Kingsolver, John Steinbeck, and Carl Sagan.
Sheila’s book is available on Amazon.com.
A percentage from the sale of this book will go toward nonprofit organizations working to protect the world’s oceans for future generations.