NaNoWriMo 2016 Interview: Angela Oliver

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Angela Oliver is an author and illustrator, with a wide cast of colourful and unusual characters, very few of them human.

Can you tell us a little about your NaNoWrimo 2016 project?

Initially I intended to rework – for the third or possibly fourth time -the second book in my Lemur Saga, Tail of Two Scions. However, I quickly realised that I was not in the right frame of mind for re-writing a previous draft, and that something fun and frivolous was more likely to help me achieve my goals. Therefore, I switched to a novel entitled Love in Tirra-Inle. This is the first in my Furritasia trilogy (I’ve almost finished the third and abandoned the second halfway through, but that’s by-the-by) and is my first attempt at what is intended, vaguely, to be a romance novel. Albeit a fairly unorthodox kind. With giant cockroaches.

My unlikely couple, Daniel and Kataryna, illustrated by Arquel back in 2004.

How many times have you participated in NaNoWriMo?

NaNowrimo began in 1999 and I have participated in it on and off since it’s inception. I cannot recall exactly how many times I’ve accepted the challenge – but I believe my success/completion rate to be around 50%. In early years, I actually I finished the novel before attaining the word count goal.

How have you adjusted your regular routine for the month of November?

I have shifted my focus back onto writing, which is a good start. Previous years I have used techniques such as getting up earlier (5am) and attempting “1,000 words before breakfast” but as I get older, I seem to require more sleep. Fortunately this year my husband has a few other commitments which mean that I do not feel so much like I am neglecting him.

What do you like the most about NaNoWriMo?

Probably the social aspect and the fact that it re-establishes in me the habit of writing. Although I do not attend a great deal of write-ins, and actually write better at home, the mere knowledge that out there hundreds, thousands, of other people are undergoing the same process of frustration, dedication and determination as me is really quite encouraging. As writers, it is easy to feel alone, but by bringing together communities, either online or in reality, it really helps to create bonds and make it much harder to just give up on the story.


How has the establishment of NaNoWriMo influenced your writing habits?

The awareness of NaNoWriMo makes it easier to put off writing something new straight away, knowing that I intend to spend the entire month of November writing means that I don’t feel September is wasted because I mostly played Pokemon and didn’t achieve much of anything else. It also gives me more focus, and causes me to force myself to sit down each day and write – at least for the month of November!

Do you have any tips for NaNo newbies?

The secret to successfully completing NaNo is by not caring too much about making the story perfect,  focus instead on getting the words on the page. Never delete anything – if I must remove it from the plot, I will either highlight mine in a different colour (so I can find it against later) or cut and paste it to the end of the manuscript so that it still counts towards my final word count goal. And if your story feels a bit flat, then it’s time to add something dramatic and different! Be random if you need to.

What is the most unexpected thing you have had happen in a NaNoWriMo novel?

It’s hard to remember what the most unexpected thing is, but I’ve had a few! One of my favourite was when I discovered which of the characters in Tail of Two Scions had the hidden agenda, but that wasn’t entirely unexpected. I had set up several “red herrings” and determined that the original plan was just too obvious so thought “who is the least obvious suspect that would make sense” and voila! It then involved some going back to add in foreshadowing and also determining her motivation, but still!

What is the strangest thing you have ever Googled for “Research purposes”?

When I started my story this year, I spent a lot of time looking up random cockroach stuff – and got caught up on trying to determine whether a cockroach was a beetle or a bug (turns out roaches are neither) just so I could pull off a humorous dialogue interchange. I’ve also looked up what would happen if a chicken ate a cigarette (spent half an hour looking and then just decided that it was easier just to not include it in the plot at all as it wasn’t really of any relevance).

“Aroha’s Grand Adventure” was my 2010 NaNo novel – and is now available on Amazon.

Do you reward yourself for achieving your daily/weekly goals? If so, how?

I started doing that this year, although I’ve lapsed somewhat now we’re halfway through the month (I think one day my reward was “sleep” – ironically the same night we had the house-gone-to-sea earthquake and I got NO sleep at all due to the tsunami warning). But I’ve tried to come up with something for every day – often it’s food related, a trip to the local Coffee Culture for chai and belgian biscuit, occasionally it’s watching a favourite show (QI, MLP or OUAT). The night after the EQ it was ice cream, but I ate it before achieving the word count – figured I deserved it anyway, given I was running on 3 hours sleep.

Anything else you would like to add?

I blog my NaNo Process day-by-day. If you have the time, this is actually a pretty neat process, because it allows you to determine patterns in your writing. My standard pattern, I realised, was to flake out around the end of the first week – between day 6-9 when typically I would either wind up with a: “my story sucks, I don’t know why I’m bothering” or “I’m really losing momentum”. I don’t think this is atypical, I think it’s a result of the first few days of exciting out-of-the-date writing, followed by the realisation that, if you, like me, are seat-of-the-pants writing (as opposed to rendering a pre-plotted story) then that’s about the point when you actually get into the plot and may, indeed, start to falter. Advice? Be aware of it, and push on through to the other side!

You can follow my day-by-day process here:

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