Don't Call It NaNoWrEEMo: Interview With Sushi Must Write
Meet WriMo novelist and blogger, Sushi Must Write, who’s tackling NaNoWriMo for the 13th time this year. Sushi also started the unofficial NaNoWriMo wiki page in 2010. “I had graduated from college the previous year and didn't really have any exciting job prospects. I had been thinking for a while that all this stuff in the NaNo community—the inside jokes, the forum threads, the whimsy—needed a place where anyone could read it and well, get the NaNo community.” The Sexy Grammarian caught up with Sushi to talk WriMo lingo, process, community, and dating other WriMos.
Kristy Lin Billuni: Because you wrote the wiki, I want to start by getting your authoritative call on 2 controversial NaNoWriMo issues. First, what do we call ourselves, as people doing NaNoWriMo?
Sushi Must Write: I hear WriMo and NaNoer, but I think I hear WriMo a little bit more.
KLB: And how do you pronounce NaNoWriMo?
SMW: It's always prounced na-no-wrY-mo, none of this nanowrEEmo business!
I do start a "how do you pronounce nanowrimo?" thread every year though.
KLB: Thanks for confirming those two important details. Now, let’s get down to the nitty gritty of writing a novel in a month. What’s your approach? Are you more of a flow writer—that is, writing whatever comes to mind—or do you edit while you go?
SMW: 100% a flow writer. No editing is allowed except for typos, and sometimes I don't correct those. I'm a perfectionist, so I find editing as I go along bogs me down and makes me forget about the creative flow that is writing. But some folks do edit as they go, and they love it. Not sure how they do it, but everyone's process is different.
KLB: And how do you prepare for flow writing?
SMW: I find it best to start with a concept "What if . . . ? " and go from there. One of my novels last year was "what if Legos were sentient, and they went to war?" That was so much fun to write. I've written multiple NaNo novels based around a simple premise and gotten a book out of it. Watching a story unfold from that is amazing and so much fun.
KLB: So you don’t outline?
SMW: Outlining and prep take the fun out of writing for me, and that's probably where I get stuck in revision. I just turn out to be really really bad at outlining. Why outline when I can get started writing?
KLB: Sounds like you have a process that works for you.
SMW: Yes, my process is sometihng like: Come up with a vague concept. Think about it, and write down things that might happen, usually sitting down for about 15 minutes (I did it while waiting in line for a concert last year) and getting a few things down. I write down other ideas as I come up with them. I usually sit down around 15k words away from the end and plan out the ending so I can tie everything up nicely.
KLB: And how about post-November? Do you revise then?
SMW: Revision really is a different beast. I'm grateful for the Now What months because they recognize that. I've written second drafts of a couple of the novels and have adapted one for Script Frenzy, but I haven't gone into any major revisions yet. I keep trying to edit and revise, but then I look at this first draft and discover there's so much that needs to be fixed, I don't know where to start. Pantsing (making up stuff as I go along) is partly responsible for that.
KLB: So even though you haven’t completed any of these 13 novels, you keep coming back. Will you talk about why?
SMW: The community, definitely the community. I got hooked on the forums during my first few years because I was a high school student with plenty of time on her hands, in classes with computers and Internet access. I'd spend a lot of class time on the forums and then go home and spend more time on the forums, until my parents kicked me offline. I've spent a lot of time buried deep in the NaNo community, playing forum games, talking about writing, and creating NaNo inside jokes that no one else would get. The social aspect is great for an introvert like me. When I meet a new WriMo, we always have something to talk about. Weather? No! Word count!
KLB: So the community is your reward?
SMW: There's also the actual writing and my ability to meet deadlines. Every year I learn something about myself or my writing or even about humanity, depending on what themes I'm exploring in the novels. Though there's also that saying that it takes a million words to be a master. Well, I'm well past that for total NaNo words alone, and I still don't consider myself a writing master yet. Maybe I'm on the remedial course. But I do know that the only way to get better at writing is to write, and I'm definitely doing that.
KLB: And it works, right?
SMW: Yes, I do notice myself getting better at writing. I've read my first NaNoWriMo novel, and it was terrible, especially when compared to my novels last year.
KLB: And you learn more than just how to write?
SMW: Definitely. First, I really can do whatever I put my mind to. I found myself doubting that my first year when I was still at 12k on the 15th. I even thought about quitting, but something in me wouldn't quit. So I kept going and found myself a winner on the 30th. I assure you, I'd have a completely different life if I had quit that first November. Being able to finish what you start, that's worth a lot. I've done lots of things because I knew I could write a novel in a month.
KLB: Do you think doing NaNoWriMo is sexy?
SMW: Well, I dated a guy I met through NaNo about six or seven years ago.
KLB: Ooh, tell me more about that.
SMW: Every year, new WriMos can adopt mentors to guide them through NaNo, or returning WriMos can adopt newbies. He was a newbie looking for a mentor, and we hit it off. He finished his first NaNo, so yay!
KLB: Anything else to say about that relationship?
SMW: He used the wrong pronunciation of NaNoWriMo. Drove me nuts. It is WRYMO, and you will pronounce it my way! We're not together anymore, so that tells you something.
KLB: What did you learn from that experience?
SMW: Dating through NaNo can be interesting. There's always the risk of the partner not doing NaNo anymore if you break up. This has happened both times to me. I haven’t seen them around the NaNo community since. I won't be driven from NaNo that easily!
KLB: So this has happened twice for you—finding love and losing love through the WriMo forums?
SMW: Well, the second time was through a local NaNo write-in, but yes. It’s an interesting aspect of NaNoWriMo for sure, maybe even a cool novel idea. I'm not sure if I'd date another WriMo, though. Something about seeing them not do NaNo again really concerns me, especially if they were super into it when we knew each other. Some folks did a musical about NaNoWriMothat explored this.
KLB: What advice do you have for NaNoWriMo newbies this year?
SMW: They can do it. Seriously. And I’d tell them about that time I thought about quitting. Even if they don't finish, they've still accomplished a heck of a lot, and that in itself is a good thing.