NaNo Interview: Jill Winfield

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Lately come to Christchurch from Melbourne, Jill Winfield is looking forward to saying, ‘in my second novel…’

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

I find it really hard to talk about what I’m writing because I can’t bring myself to spoil the surprise, I know you need to be able to do this for pitching purposes, but I still struggle. For NaNoWriMo, I’ve picked up a story idea I’ve had kicking around for several years but never figured out the way into.

Just to explain the photographs: My novel passes through a lot of share houses, featuring those kinds of surfaces and textures.

How many times have you participated in NaNoWriMo?

Although I’ve signed up before, this is the first time I’ve actually got going.

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1.Chapter 1, House 1, First Floor Ceiling

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

I haven’t made changes as such, it’s more that I’ve ratcheted up my commitment by setting very specific (but achievable) goals. I set a goal of writing 2000 words per day with 1 day off per week, just in case. I figured out that on weekdays, if I got up fifteen minutes earlier, I could get an earlier bus and have an hour of focused writing at a cafe before work, instead of half an hour of maybe writing in my journal about – whatever. Before work, I usually manage between 600-800 words. Sometimes I get in another 200 or so at lunchtime, trying to get food in my mouth rather than on my keyboard. After work, usually after dinner, I write until I’ve met my target and finished what I wanted to write about. On the weekends, I cram writing in whenever I can. It is incredible how much you can achieve when you sit down and plug away at it every day.

What made you decide to take the NaNoWriMo challenge?

I’ve been working on the second draft of my first novel for what feels like a very long time – 18 months thereabouts – without feeling like I’m getting anywhere. I started to wonder how I would ever get to work on all those other novels I have floating around in the back of computer/brain/journals if I couldn’t get through this *swearword* second draft. NaNoWriMo was a good opportunity to put down the hard slog of editing/re-writing and pick up an idea I’ve wanted to play with for a long time – like a working holiday. A fun one.

I also thought that the daily habit of writing those 50,000 words would improve my writing. There was an American photographer, Vivian Maier (1926 – 2009) who worked for forty years as a nanny and took photographs after hours and sometimes during her working hours. 17,500 negatives, 2,000 prints and 30 home movies were found after she died and they (well, probably not all of them) are extraordinary. I believe that good art is made through doing and doing and doing. Doing NaNoWriMo is establishing a good habit of writing and writing and writing. 

P.S. I do like my first novel. When I finish it, it’s going to be great.

P.P.S. Google Vivian Maier, I don’t imagine you’ll sorry, there’s a story in every photograph.

What do you like the most about NaNoWriMo?

I’ve found the more I write, the more I want to write and the faster my ideas come. Doing NaNoWriMo has reminded me (because I had forgotten) of the FUN of writing. I love making stuff up and I love playing with words and if can make up a great story using a compelling arrangement of words then that’s a worthy way to spend my time.

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2. Chapter 5, House 5, Kitchen Table

How has the establishment of NaNoWriMo influenced your writing habits?

Doing NaNoWriMo has brought home how much you can achieve through discipline. It has also made me question my preconceptions of what writing work I can do where. When I first started writing I had a lot of false starts, I kept changing and editing and stopping and starting. It was easy (for me) to get nowhere writing on a computer. I didn’t really get going until I began writing by hand, in a journal, because you can only go forward. The overriding directive of NaNoWriMo: keep writing! Don’t edit, just keep going! has helped me learn to keep going on a computer. That will save a lot of time 🙂

After NaNoWriMo, I think I will continue my hour-long session of writing before work. I often get far more done in that hour than I might in four hours on a weekend.


Do you have any tips for NaNo newbies?

I find when I get stuck that if I just start writing, something will come to me. It might be something like:

Oh no! I don’t know what to write. Whatever will I write? I’m hungry. I wonder if my character is hungry. I wonder what they like to eat.

I bet they like chips. I bet they eat chips all the time, especially when they shouldn’t…

Using Scrivener really helps with getting stuck too – you just start a new scene and keep going and all those bits and bobs are still there waiting for you in one neat location when you find out you really do need them.

Also, don’t forget to stretch your wrists around and get up every now and then.


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

My plan is to reward myself with a new book for each week I meet my target. Last week I went to Scorpio Books aiming for a nice fat fantasy or SF novel and came home with a collection of Walt Whitman poems. His writing soothed my brain. 

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