Mikaela Nyman shares her writing hints and tips for NaNoWriMo

With NaNoWriMo now in full swing and scores of people busily writing away at various branches of our library network throughout Wellington, we thought now might be an excellent time to step back for a moment and check in with some New Zealand authors for any helpful suggestions they might have to help people on their way.

Next up, debut novelist Mikaela Nyman — author of Sado — shares her writing hints and tips for NaNoWriMo.

Sado, by Mikaela Nyman on our Catalogue

What personal tips or hints would you pass on to new writers?

I would say: just start writing to find out the nature of the beast you’re dealing with and your own writing style. Don’t overthink it in the beginning. You might be surprised where it takes you. Depending on the project and your personality you might want to do some background research first, but at the end of the day nothing will come of it, unless you start writing. Even 150 words a day is a step in the right direction. If you feel passionate about an issue that’s fertile territory to lean into and explore further. Passion can carry a writer through a lot of rough patches. If you get bored with your own text, readers are likely to pick up on it too.

Do you have any writing rituals you follow before starting writing ?

Kids off to school so I can get some peace and quiet at home. Breakfast. Coffee. Apples in the fridge. I’ve found that I can’t write in cafes, unless I bring a small notebook. With a laptop I feel too conspicuous and become very self-conscious that I’m taking up space. All these people wanting my table, glaring at the woman with the laptop who’s pretending she’s still drinking her coffee …

Are there any writing traps that people fall into you can warn them about? 

It depends on the writer’s own personality and experience. Anyone who is the “constant editor” type, compelled to go through what they’ve already written from the very beginning every day, may struggle to get to the end of a first novel draft. I find I need to get to the end to know what I’m really dealing with; what to cut out, what’s missing. Find out what time of the day produces the best writing and block that time out to write. I used to hit my stride around midnight, now I find mornings produce the sharpest prose, which is exactly when friends want to meet up for coffee. Whereas poetry writing follows its own impulses.

Are there any best practices you follow when starting to write or to keep you focussed whilst writing? 

I write most days, even if I don’t feel like it. At least I have something on the page that I can edit later or discard. I also try to give myself a real break every now and then, without having a bad conscience. Specific music can be a great way to get into the right mood and time period. Other days quiet works best. But peace and quiet is hard to come by in a family of five, where both adults work from home, so I’ve invested in headphones to shut out TV, games and kids.

Is there anything you do to keep motivated when things get bogged down strategies, approaches etc ?

I read widely, in different languages, for inspiration and to see how other writers have resolved things that I’m struggling with. I derive pleasure and satisfaction from a beautifully crafted sentence, an astounding insight, and try to hold on to the joy of writing whenever it starts to feel like a slog. Alternating between long and short fiction, non-fiction and poetry is a way to come unstuck.

We wish to thank Mikaela for her invaluable advice! Check out her novel Sado on our catalogue below:

Sado / Nyman, Mikaela
“Tropical Cyclone Pam makes landfall with devastating consequences. Vanuatu is bruised but not broken. . Cathryn is an NGO worker from New Zealand who has a ruined home, a teenage son and a Ni-Vanuatu boyfriend she hasn’t heard from since the phone lines went dead. Faia is a community organiser, a radio journalist and a survivor who fights for women to be heard. Together and apart they navigate their places in the complex cultural and social systems of Vanuatu, where tradition clashes with modern urban life.” (Catalogue)

Coming soon: award-winning author Catherine Chidgey shares her NaNoWriMo hints and tips.

For more helpful suggestions, have a read of our interview with author Breton Dukes.

Don’t forget as well, we have ‘Come Write In’ sessions happening at some of our libraries, with dedicated space set aside for NaNoWriMo writers during these sessions. Find out more on our Event Calendar.

Come Write In for NaNoWriMo

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