By Lindsey | July 3, 2011
I was going through my old blog posts doing some maintenance, when I noticed that I hadn’t posted a few reviews/interviews I did for the Lance over the last couple years. Shame on me! Here’s an older interview with Sara Gruen, focusing on National Novel Writing Month. Keep in mind that this was before Water For Elephants was a movie, but it’s still an interesting read (but maybe I’m biased). Speaking of Water for Elephants– fantastic movie and fantastic book, although I prefer the book. What else is new.
NaNoWriMo makes 50,000 the magic number
By Lindsey Rivait
October 28, 2009
It’s almost November, which means aspiring writers everywhere will flock to coffee shops to knock out 50,000 words before the month’s end. National Novel Writing Month, affectionately abbreviated to NaNoWriMo, is upon us again.
Writing 50,000 words in a month’s time can be intimidating, but merely trying can get you on the right track.
Sara Gruen, two-time NaNoWriMo participant, has had two of her books come from NaNoWriMo sessions. One of them, Water For Elephants, was a New York Times Best Seller for 12 weeks in 2006. The paperback edition hit #1 on July 8, 2007. And, she didn’t even finish her 50,000 words.
Gruen says that although she did not officially win the two years she participated, coming in around 40,000 words each time, she considers her word count a win for herself. “Those were 40,000 words I did not have before.”
Gruen, a Canadian and American citizen, was born in Vancouver, grew up in London, Ont., and then moved to Ottawa to attend Carleton University for English before settling in Grayslake, Ill.
She began NaNoWriMo upon a friend’s advice. “I needed to start a book and was suffering from a well-known syndrome (somebody needs to coin a name for this disease) that is characterized by the complete inability to open one’s file,” explained Gruen. Writer Joshilyn Jackson told Gruen about another friend, Lani Diane Rich, who used NaNoWriMo to rid herself of this terrible disease.
“It worked I think because misery loves company, and I knew that thousands and thousands of other people were out there beating their heads on their desks at the same time,” she said.
Gruen found herself wanting to start another book at the same time the following year, so she signed up with NaNoWriMo again.
While she is busy working on revisions of her new book right now and won’t be participating in NaNoWriMo this year, Gruen says she’s eager to participate again. “Anytime I need to start a book around NaNoWriMo you can bet I’ll be signed up,” she said.
It takes more than 30 days to complete the entire manuscript, of course. NaNoWriMo, for many, is a stepping-stone. It can take Gruen anywhere from four months to two years to complete a book. The new book, Ape House, as well as Water For Elephants, came in at the long end of that spectrum since they were research-intensive for Gruen.
Ape House, Gruen’s fourth book, focuses on a family of language competent apes in a reality TV show situation. “As part of my research I was able to meet with a family of bonobos at the Great Ape Trust. Having a two-way conversation with a great ape is a truly life-changing experience, and I’m grateful to have a job that lets me have opportunities like this,” Gruen explained.
Last year’s NaNoWriMo saw 119,000 participants and 21,720 reported winners—an increase of 33 per cent from 2007.
While no prizes from NaNoWriMo are handed out, the satisfaction one receives from just participating, and especially completing the daunting task, is reward enough.
Remember, even if you plan your book to be more than 50,000 words, and even if you don’t hit that magic number, at least you have a starting point for your project. “The wonderful thing about NaNoWriMo is that it gives you something to edit. Because the only thing you can’t edit is a blank page,” Gruen said.
Keep up with Gruen online at www.saragruen.com.