Tuesday, November 16, 2010

How Many Words was That? An Interview with Renda Dodge

Renda Dodge is a local writer, recently published novelist, liaison to the Seattle NaNoWriMo writers group and five-time NaNo champ. Recently, she took a break from churning out her sixth NaNo novel to answer a few questions for us about the event.

Joseph Lambert: How long have you been a liaison to the Seattle NaNoWriMo writing group?

Renda Dodge: I have been a municipal liaison since 2007, so this is my fourth year. I love the organization (Office of Letters and Light) and what they do for writers, especially young writers, and it’s my way of giving back. Anyone who knows me knows that September-December are sucked into the NaNo volunteer void.

JL: What was your original inspiration for participating in NaNoWriMo?

RD: In early 2005, I joined a writing group. That group wasn’t doing much for me. We’d have small assignments and put out some short stories, but I spent a lot of time trying to figure out how to tackle the daunting task of writing my novel. The idea became a thing to be feared instead of something ambitious I could be excited about. I spent a lot of time in the writing reference section of Barnes and Noble, I was searching for a book that would make it all make sense. Even after years of college creative writing classes, I still hadn’t written anything longer than 4,000 words. I stumbled upon "No Plot, No Problem!" by Chris Baty. It wasn’t the title so much as the sub-title that got me "A Low-Stress, High-Velocity Guide to Writing a Novel in 30 Days." (I personally believe that no plot is a big problem, but that’s not really the point of the book.) I read it in a day (it’s really tiny), and I loved the concept of putting aside all inhibitions and writing 50,000 words in one month. Apparently, all I needed was permission. Luckily I found the book in October. My first NaNoWriMo was that November.

JL: How many years have you participated in NaNoWriMo?

RD: Every year since 2005, so this is my sixth. I didn’t "win" the first year. The goal is 50,000 words and I hit 24,000 (or so, I can’t remember the exact number any more). The thing is, I was really proud of those words. It was a lot more than I had ever written on a single story. I was giddy. The difference between my first year and the years following is that I didn’t reach out to the community. And really, the community is the reason I keep doing NaNoWriMo. Because while NaNoWriMo gave me permission to write a novel in 30 days, it also gave me the confidence to write novels outside of November. I write all the time now, as a career as a matter of fact, but I keep coming back and participating in NaNo for the community. Writing is such a solitary craft, it’s so exciting to see others as excited as you are about writing.

JL: Your first novel, "Inked," was written during NaNoWriMo. Did you keep working on the novel into December, or did you set it off to the side for a while? What was the process like after finishing the marathon of writing and having this massive stack of papers to sift through?

RD: I took about a week off, but I was too excited to set it aside for too long. It was the first novel that I wrote during NaNoWriMo that I was truly excited about. I knew that it had the seed to grow into something much bigger and better, and it did. It took five full rewrites, characters changed and plots became more fully developed. It took months. Writing the first draft took me 30 days, but revision took me about a year of full-time work. The term "National Novel Writing Month" is slightly deceptive. Yes, you’ll write a novel, it will have a story and characters, but there’s a lot of work to be done once you’ve finished. I tend to tell serious writers, who are often the biggest skeptics, it’s more like "National Novel Drafting Month." But the difference is that you now have something to work with, you got black on white, and you didn’t have that before you started.

JL: You mention "skeptics" of NaNoWriMo, and your rebuttal is that the event is more akin to nation novel drafting month. Do you see NaNoWriMo as a vital part of the literary scene at large, considering every November thousands of people produce millions of words, even if those words never become a "published novel?"

RD: I do, because of the level of passion that those writers bring to what they do. It increases literary awareness, brings young writers a challenge and surrounds them with support. I think as writers it’s not something to be dismissed, but embraced. That doesn’t mean that it’s a community or a challenge for every writer out there, but I do think it helps a lot of people find their voice. It certainly worked for me.

JL: And because I can't help but ask at least one silly question: What would Renda Dodge fire from a cannon?

RD: I love silly questions, so I’m cool with that. This question actually caught me off guard because I thought you asked "who" I would shoot out of a cannon, and after a few names rushed through my mind I realized you asked "what." I’ve never really thought about this, but I like happy things, so probably confetti and possibly bunny rabbits (if they wouldn’t be harmed in the process, but could just rain down their happy fluffy bunnyness on the world).

Renda is, as of November 11, sitting on a mountain of 15,300 words. Go Renda! And go Seattle WriMos!

You can find Renda's website and podcast here, as well as the Seattle NaNo Twitter and Facebook, along with the Seattle NaNo writing forums.

And if you need a place to WriMo, come to Hugo House Saturdays from 12-5 p.m. in November for our NaNoWriMo write-ins.

Happy writing!

[Joseph Lambert / Hugo House Blog]


  1. Nice blog, hi friend, i found that there is one website offering free puzzle games. Just take one minute to sign up then you will receive one free puzzle game. Its URL is http://www.684899.com/en/CosmicCreature/project_1.htm I've done it and now i am enjoying it. Click the below button of the page to get in. I've done it and now i am enjoying it.

  2. Making a show is a good idea, im sure you have a lot of experience to tell.
    utah dermatologist

  3. Thanks for the interview.