Life After NaNoWriMo by Suzanne van Rooyen

This week, I am happy to present guest blogger Suzanne van Rooyen. She has a success story I’m quite proud of. Turning a hectic NaNo Frenzy into a published novel. Enjoy!

Life After NaNoWriMo

by Suzanne van Rooyen

It started as all stories start, with a grandiose idea needing to be whittled down, distilled into chapters and syntax. My initial idea was for a short story of the tech noir persuasion (that’s yet another subgenre within the speculative fiction genre, think films like “Equilibrium” and “Strange Days”) but then something else happened.

A friend mentioned the strange and arcane acronym: NaNoWriMo. What is that? A rhyming poetry competition? National novel writing month – a month in which all aspiring novelists pound away at the keyboard to the exclusion of all else, desperately trying to reach the 50 000 word mark. When I first took on the 2010 NaNoWriMo challenge I never expected to meet the 50 000 word count, all previous novel writing attempts having faded before reaching 20 000 words. And I didn’t. I only wrote 32 000 in the month because November is academic hell month and exams and assignments kept interfering with writing time. However, I ploughed on into December and by January I had something resembling a semi-decent story of the tech noir, dystopian, post-apocalyptic, hardboiled detective persuasion.

Through a contact on DeviantART (great website for networking), I discovered Divertir Publishing – a small press looking for short stories, the original home intended for that tech noir short story, now a monstrosity of almost 80 000 words. I sent off the submissions package not really knowing what I was doing, hoping for a personalised rejection, expecting a form rejection and ready to accept that rejection as all writers must at some point.

Despite a bungled synopsis, the Acquisitions Editor requested a full manuscript and a few weeks later, the impossible happened. I received an email saying they wanted to publish it! They actually wanted to publish my manuscript! I was amazed, overwhelmed, exuberant, thrilled, but mostly terrified.

The ink was still drying on the contract when I received my first batch of edits, which resulted in rewriting the novel from 1st to 3rd person; a lot of work but definitely worth it in the end. My editor, Elizabeth Harvey and I worked for more than 6 months together, readying the manuscript for that final phase of typesetting, printing and publishing. After too many hours to count, my novel was ready, front cover done and dusted, printed and listed on Amazon.

So, my first attempt at NaNoWriMo resulted in a published novel. I wasn’t even going to try and top that this year, and I didn’t. I failed miserably and only managed to scrounge 9000 words, 9000 words of fiction that is. Again, November is hell month across all sectors as everyone hurtles towards deadlines before the Christmas holidays. As a freelance writer, November saw me inundated with projects, which is what I’ll blame for my measly word count – it definitely wasn’t because I’m a pantser, adamant I don’t need a detailed outline before starting to write.

So a bit about Dragon’s Teeth. I thought I was being very original when I started writing what could be labelled dystopian noir (a variety of cyberpunk) but it’s a genre that has been done by others such as Toby Ball in The Vaults. As Ball wrote in his the article, Writing Dystopian Noir, one can expect “tough, cynical protagonists, bleak settings, femme fatales, an atmosphere suffused with threat and violence… the sense that the protagonist is in over his head against forces that are bigger than he/she is and indifferent, if not actually hostile.” This is exactly what you can expect in Dragon’s Teeth. Here’s the back cover blurb:


You can never outrun your past…

After years of war ravage the globe and decimate humanity, civilization is revitalized in the city of New Arcadia, a cybernetic playground where longevity treatments promise near immortality.

Detective Cyrus, fond of fedoras and narcotics, is hired by Benji MacDowell, heir-apparent to an eugenics empire, to find MacDowell’s long-lost biological father. Employing his network of shady contacts within the underbelly of the city, Cyrus uncovers a murderous web of corporate corruption and political conspiracy with ties to the old Order, a tyrannical organization whose sole intent was perfecting the next generation of genetically engineered soldiers.

Now Cyrus knows too much and finds himself caught in the cross-hairs of super-soldier assassins while the dark secrets of his past snap at his heels, forcing him to confront the truth he’s been running from… and discover his own terrifying purpose.


There is life after NaNoWriMo, for both the author and the words crunched out in those hectic 30 days. It just takes hard work, dedication and a little faith to go from NaNo novel to published NaNo novel.

Dragon’s Teeth was released in November and is available as a paperback and eBook from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Book Depository.


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