NaNoWriMo update with Angela Sage Larsen

With the finish line for NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) looming — see it there just ahead, on the other side of Thanksgiving? — I thought this would be the perfect time to check in with my friend Angela Sage Larsen and find out how she’s doing.

Not only is Angela participating in NaNo this year — she’s also being offered as a prize!  Well, her expertise is being offered. Read on to learn more….

Angela Sage Larsen
Angela Sage Larsen

Isn’t she gorgeous? And check out that cool purple streak in her hair — Angela is not only braver than me, signing up to participate in NaNo, she’s also w-a-y hipper.

Angela is the author of the fabulous Petalwink books and the oh-so-fun Fifties Chix time-traveling adventure series. Actually, she not only wrote all these books, SHE ILLUSTRATED THEM. (I put that in last bit in caps because as most of you know, I can’t even draw stick figures–I’m just in awe of artists.) As if that weren’t enough, Angela is also hard at work these days writing a musical.  (Click here to learn more about Petalwink: The Musical).

Let’s see, she’s wildly creative, amazingly versatile, can actually say the words “I’m writing a musical” with a straight face, and she has a cool purple streak in her hair? How can we possibly be friends? Oh, that’s right — because she’s TOTALLY AWESOME.

HVF:  You’re a NaNoWriMo first-timer, Angela, right?

ASL: Yes. I’ve been a member of NaNo before, but I’ve never actually participated.

HVF:  So how’s it going?

ASL:  I’ve got 20,000 words — not quite halfway there.

HVF:  Think you’ll make it to the finish line?

ASL:  Well, I have a real-life deadline — the musical — so that has to take priority, but I’m hoping to!

HVF:  Why did you decide to hop aboard this year?

ASL: I don’t tend to complete things unless I have a deadline, so I’m using it as an excuse, as a kind of self-imposed deadline.

HVF: Can you tell us what you’re working on?

ASL: It’s something for adults for a change, a book about four best friends from college who promise to keep in touch, and who go on a trip together 20 years after they graduate.  We get to find out what the characters’ dreams were in college, and where they are now. It’s been really fun to work on.

HVF:  What are some of the things you like about NaNo?

ASL:  I love the pep talks they send right to your inbox. They’re super helpful. I’ll be coming back to those all year. [Editor’s note:  Click here to read a sample NaNo pep talk with Rainbow Rowell] Also, I don’t think I’ve ever done a word sprint before. They’ll set a goal and announce one on Twitter, and it’s kind of cool, knowing everyone else is trying to write [in a concentrated burst], too. At first I thought, “There’s no way,” but I squeezed in a half hour sprint one day, and was amazed that I got 2,000 words out.!

HVF:  Any other things about NaNo that you’ve particularly enjoyed?

ASL:  I did my first write-in! I went to a coffee shop, and there were probably about a dozen NaNo-ers there. It was hard, because I’m used to writing alone, and at home I have everything set up just the way I want, but I was surprised that I actually got some really good work done. Probably because I was concentrating so hard due to the noise. It was interesting to have that sense of camaraderie, but at the same time it forced me to work a little harder.

HVF: I don’t know about you, but I find there are more distractions at home than when I write at coffee shops. Especially four-legged distractions!

ASL:  I know! My dog Daisy is always popping in to say “Look how adorable I am, don’t you want to post a picture of me on Instagram?”

Daisy moping after the Red Sox win the World Series
Daisy moping after the Red Sox win the World Series


HVF:  With just days to go until the finish line — and that 50,000 word goal — what advice would you offer NaNo-ers?

ASL: I think now is the time to go for broke, to have something really dramatic happen in your story, even if that means going off in a totally unexpected direction. Wait, what is that alien doing here?  Now is the time to remind yourself that anything can happen. This is fiction!  This is the perfect time to drop in the wildest thing you can think of  and see what happens. Especially since it’s NaNo. Unless you have a book contract waiting for you, just go for it!  Have as much fun as possible.

HVF:  I understand you’ve been working on a brand-new series of Lit Guides for the Fifties Chix series?

50sChix book club header-no text

ASL: Yes! They’re actually kind of a perfect tie-in with NaNo, and especially the Young Writer’s Program.  The emphasis in the guides is on writing — how do I as a reader write my own stories? Each one has a different focus, such as establishing characters and setting, researching historical fiction, that sort of thing. There’s a guide for each book in the series, and they build on one another. Whatever you learn in one book, you take to the next level in the following book.

[Click here to learn more about Angela’s lit guides, including a free sample.]

HVF: Sounds great! Now I want to hear more about this contest from your publisher, FastPencil, who is an official sponsor of this year’s NaNoWriMo. I understand they’re offering you as the grand prize?

ASL: Well, it’s 2013, so they don’t get *me* as a prize, but the winner gets an hour-long consultation with me!! Lucky ducks. And just think, Heather — you can call me any time and I’ll talk your ear off for an hour for free.

HVF: The perks of friendship! 

Click here for all the details about FastPencil’s NaNoWriMo contest, including their grand prize, a $299 Print and eBook Wide Distribution Package and a one-hour phone call with best-selling author Angela Sage Larsen.




How many of you out there are participating in NaNoWriMo? How many of you even know what NaNoWriMo is?

For those of you who’ve never heard of it, “NaNoWriMo” stands for National Novel Writing Month.  It happens every November, and perhaps is best described as a writing marathon, which writers sign up for (it’s free!) with the goal of writing a novel in a month.  Sounds crazy, right?

And it is, in a way.  But crazy in a GOOD way!

While I’m not doing NaNo myself this year in an official way, I’m unofficially using it as a motivator for keeping my new book moving forward.  (Which it is, yay!)   I have some young friends who signed up for the Young Writers Program, though (click here to learn more about it).  They’re busily writing away toward their goals, so I thought it would be fun to interview two of them.

Here’s what Eliza, a 4th grader in Oregon, has to say about the experience:

Q.  Could you tell other young aspiring writers a little bit about NaNo, and how you decided to get involved with it?

A.  Nanowrimo is a great way for anyone to just get their words and ideas down on paper with no restrictions, just for fun. I decided to get involved in it because my sister Molly had lots of fun with it.

Q.  How many years have you done it now?

A.  3 years.

Q.  How does it help motivate you?

A.  Just being able to write stuff down and come back later to make changes gives it all an exciting “rush and hurry” sort of feel.

Q.  What are you hoping to accomplish this year?

A.  4,000 words and a good book.

Q.  What advice would you give someone who’s thinking about doing it?

A.  Stop thinking and get it done. (And have fun!!!!)

Thanks, Eliza!  Happy NaNo-ing!   

Now here’s Margaret, a 7th grader from Georgia, who wrote a little essay about the experience for us:

NaNoWriMo is an adventure.  A fast-paced, finger-flying adventure.  Last year, when I did Youth Writers Program (YWP) NaNo for the first time, I had no idea what I was getting myself into.  I knew that I was going to be writing a novel and only had the month of November to do it.  And I also knew that I loved to write and NaNoWriMo was a place where I could.

I set my word count goal as 25,000 words.  In YWP NaNoWriMo, you set a goal for yourself and try to reach it during the month.  I didn’t really know what my story would be like, but I had what I call “puzzle pieces.”  These puzzle pieces consisted of the skeleton of what my story would be–a few ideas toward the plot line, some interesting character names, and a couple of phrases that I thought were so witty that I had to include them somewhere.  Then the adventure began.  Motivation had struck and I was writing like a maniac.  But what was so unique was that in a way, I had no choice to let everything go and hold nothing back.  Writer’s block tried to stop me more than a few times, but I just kept on writing and the puzzle pieces I had started with began to fit together and form a story.

Another neat thing about NaNo is that even in the quiet of my room while I’m writing, I know that there are thousands of kids out in the world who are just like me.  They love to write and they’re ready to go on this month-long adventure to create a story.  Maybe next year, you’ll come on this journey with us–this crazy, exhilirating adventure that is NaNoWriMo.

Wow, you make it sound irresistible, Margaret!  Thanks!

Anybody else out there doing NaNo?  Feel free to chime in and let us know how it’s going!  We’ll check back in with you all at the end of the month to see how things went.  Have fun!