EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: Jason Hough on National Novel Writing Month

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The Author of the Dire Earth Cycle talks about his work and for NaNoWriMo or National Novel Writing Month as we also know it.

We recently reviewed the first book in the Dire Earth Cycle The Darwin Elevator and will be reviewing the rest of the trilogy soon. Here Jason talks about writing for National Novel Writing Month.

NaNoWriMo runs for the month of November and is a great place for new writers to get their start. This year NaNoWriMo have got over 300,000 novels submitted. You can get feedback on your work and track your progress. To find out more go HERE

Do you remember when and why you decided to be a writer? What influenced your decision?

Jason Hough: I’d left the game industry for a more boring corporate job, and needed a creative outlet. Writing seemed like something I could do and not be constrained by anything other than my own energy and time. For years I struggled to make progress though, until I did NaNoWriMo.


What stage of your writing career were you at when you first entered NaNoWriMo?

JH: Extremely early! I started toying with writing in 2004 or so, but by 2007 I’d written a total of 8 pages or so.  That was about the sum total of my creative writing, at least since my youth.


Did you have any doubts or hesitations about entering? How did you overcome these?

JH: Mostly I was just worried I’d find excuses to flake out. To overcome this I made sure to get very involved in the local NaNoWrimo “scene” — went to write-ins, met other participants, etc.  And, I told friends and family that I was going to write a book that month because I knew at least a few of them would ask me about it later.  I resolved to have a good answer for them.


How much planning went into your entry novel for NaNoWriMo – did you find it difficult write it in 30 days?

JH: For my first Nano I had almost no plan going in, and it was a huge struggle for me to finish.  The result was a dreadful book. I resolved the next year to go in with a detailed outline.


In what ways do you think NaNoWriMo is important in helping aspiring authors?

JH: First and foremost it teaches you the benefits of writing every day.  If the goal was to write, say, 1 perfect page, you might pull it off but you’re left with very little to show for it. Having the bulk of an actual book written in such a small amount of time makes it abundantly clear that a healthy chunk of progress every day pays huge dividends.  This is true with most skills in life.


What are the biggest challenges you have come across in your writing career?

JH: Fighting past self-doubt.  Doubt about the story, the writing quality, you name it… it’s amazing how often you sit back and think what a load of crap it is you’re writing.  I can’t tell you how nervous I am every time I’ve sent off a draft to my editor at Del Rey, absolutely positive he’ll hate it.  So far that hasn’t ever been the case, but this hasn’t eased my nerves one bit.


Tell me about the journey from entering your novel as a NaNoWriMo project to turning it into a published book- what was the process?

JH: I finished Nano 2008 with 50k words of a rough first draft, and just kept going. By February 2009 I had a complete 125k word draft.  I spent that spring and summer revising it, and finally came to the conclusion that I needed some professional help to improve it.  So, I hired a freelance editor and revised again based on his feedback.  Finally in late 2010 I thought it was good enough to show to agents, so I queried one (my top choice) and was lucky enough to get signed.

This meant the work was only beginning, of course, as she acted as my editor for the next 10 months.  Finally in September of 2011 she submitted it to publishers and about a month later we had multiple offers and chose to go with Del Rey.


What tips would you give to someone writing their first novel?

JH: This is a tough question because everyone is different when it comes to their approach.  I’ve been amazed talking to other authors how varied our techniques actually are.  So one piece of advice is simply to understand that fact.  As one instructor I had put it, “with writing there’s no rules, only tools.”  You’ll get tons of advice or hear about various techniques along your journey. Early on, try as many as you feel comfortable with.  Soon you’ll start to recognize the ones that at least sound plausible and the ones you know you can ignore.  Eventually, one day, you realize you’ve invented your own technique.  Even that will continue to evolve.  So, be at once skeptical and respectful when you’re told you have to do this or must do that in your writing.


Is life as a published author just as you imagined it would be?

JH: It’s only been a few months, but so far yes.  Sure there’s been plenty of surprises along the way, but hey, I get to lie for a living. Who am I to complain?


What makes ‘The Darwin Elevator’ different from other zombie novels?

JH: Well for one there’s no zombies in it. Okay, that’s just a technicality. The creatures in my book are called subhumans, and they’re very much alive. They live like wild animals in a world basically depopulated of humans, a virus having mangled their higher brain functions.  But, fine, many still point and say “zombies!”  So beyond that there’s two things.  One, this world has a safe zone, the city of Darwin Australia.  The space elevator referred to in the title was built by the same mysterious aliens who triggered the virus, deliberately giving us a small patch of land to survive on if we can.  Which leads to the second point: along this space elevator are a series of space stations, which ultimately makes this book apocalyptic but also something of a space opera, and the two are tied to together in a literal sense.




Source: NaNoWriMo / Waterstones
Reporter: Montoya

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