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Kobo Writing Life Podcast

The Kobo Writing Life Podcast brings you insights and inspiration for growing your self-publishing business. We feature interviews with bestselling authors and industry experts, who share practical advice you can use to improve your writing and sell more books. Hosted by the Kobo Writing Life team, you'll also get the latest news and updates about Kobo and the KWL platform. Self-publish today at

Dec 8, 2014

This podcast includes a roundtable discussion with Mark Lefebvre, Director of Kobo Writing Life as well as three other Kobo employees (Bessie, Camille and Shayna) who participated in NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) 2014.

The round table discussion includes the following:


  • ·         Camille talks about the fact that during last year’s attempt, she wrote about 25,000 words and that this year she wrote the entire 50,000 words. This year she took on a completely new project (rather than attempting the same one she attempted in 2013. Camille says she felt she got trapped in the wrong direction with last year’s project, and that might have been what prevented her from completing the novel. This year, she prepared a synopsis in advance, and that is what she felt helped her.
  • ·         This was Shayna’s first attempt at NaNoWriMo – though she has written novels before – and she wasn’t sure, going in, how she would do with the 30 day deadline involved.  Though she completed the 50,000 word limit, she is still, in no way finished the book she is working on.  (She estimates the book’s length will be in the realm of 100,000 words)
  • ·         Bessie, a self-confessed math nerd, admits this is the first time she has attempted writing of this nature. The whole experience was new to her and when it first started she was quite excited and wrote quite a bit, but then the “fun” aspect fell away, and so, too, did the writing. Her feeling was that the pressure of the deadline pushed her in the opposite direction – now that November and the NaNoWriMo deadline is out of the way, the writing has become fun for her again.
  • ·         Mark got to 50,000 words at the “11th hour” cranking out close to 18,000 words in the final two days, so did complete the goal, but is still several thousand words away from the conclusion of his novel.
  • ·         Shayna found that the deadline worked for her, despite her initial thoughts that it wouldn’t be a good experience for her.
  • ·         The group discussed the question about pre-planning and reveal who was a “pantser” and who was a “plotter” – who went just from notes and who created a chapter by chapter outline
  • ·         How the roadmap of the chapter by chapter outline helped Camille, even though she didn’t follow it precisely the entire time.
  • ·         The fun that can happen when your characters make their own decisions and take you to places or situations that you hadn’t originally intended or planned.
  • ·         How Shayna doesn’t always have her characters completely fleshed out in advance and how they discover their own voice as the story rolls out.
  • ·         There is a discussion regarding whether or not they approached writing their novels in a linear fashion (ie, from the beginning of the novel to the end of the novel in the manner it would be read), or if they skipped around and wrote a number of scenes to be pieced into order for the final draft later.
  • ·         Conventions of inserting notes into the manuscript in order to keep writing, such as Mark’s use of inserting square brackets [with a note like this] inside the text for spots in which he might need to do research later on and fill in gaps, or Shayna’s use of the letters TK as inserted into the text to denote spots that required filling in later (based on the principle that this is a very uncommon letter combination – thus, searching the document text later for ‘TK’ returns those spots you need to find and fill later.
  • ·         The importance of avoiding the research rabbit-hole that can happen to a writer, but with an example of how one of those rabbit holes actually helped inspire Mark with an entire scene (based just on looking at a particular area of Toronto using Google Maps)
  • ·         A discussion of what’s next for these particular book projects now that NaNoWriMo is over.
  • ·         Is it harder to write serious literary fiction as opposed to some of the other more “fun” genres
  • ·         The answer to the question: What was one thing that you learned from NaNoWriMo that you’re going to take forward in your writing?



Mark then discusses the concept of “winning” or “losing” NaNoWriMo, with a thought that, ANYTHING you wrote during NaNoWriMo, regardless of your final word count, means that you are a winner. Drawing from his own personal experience of having “not won” NaNoWriMo in 2006, yet managed to take the project he had started more than half a dozen years ago and work it into a novel that will be coming out in 2015, means the effort he put into it back then was part of the process of getting that novel done, and well worth it.




Shayna's KWL article entitled "Dear Writing: I Hate You!"

The KWL article Shayna wrote about the importance of daydeaming

Mark's appearance on The Writing Show podcast (in 2006) in which he did NOT win NaNoWroMo