Featured Fig: Al Howard

So you’re at about 26,000 words, and the prospect of reaching 50,000 by the end of November seems overwhelming. You’re tired of your characters, and you’re even more tired of writing about them. Our advice? Dress up one of your characters in hot pink tights, a cowboy hat, and a Dr. Who T-shirt. Then take him/her to the mall. Alternatively, you could read this Fig feature for some inspiration . . .

Every week until December 1, when NaNoWriMo ends, we’re featuring a NaNo-Fig to inspire you, give you writing tips, and help you procrastinate just a bit. This week, we’ve got 16-year-old Pennsylvanian Al Howard, whose interest in the space program propels his NaNo entry, “Around the Moon.”


Describe your inspiration for your NaNo story.

I only committed to doing NaNoWriMo a week before it started, so I hurriedly started making my plans. I tried to think of something to write about, and I couldn’t think of anything. My inspiration came from one book I had already written about current NASA spaceflight programs, so I decided to write one about the future programs. I started by filling out character sheets for the three main characters. One of my friends wanted to make a character as well, so I gave him a sheet to fill out and I worked his character into the story. After having the characters, I made a plot diagram and waited for November to begin. While I have the main points planned out, I don’t have everything in between the points planned so I make that up as I go along.

What’s the best writing advice you’ve ever received?

The best writing advice I have ever received is to write how you are most comfortable, and let your imagination flow. Unless you’re writing for school, follow your own guidelines that adhere to your strengths and stay away from your weaknesses. Also, you cannot write something if you don’t let your imagination take over. You have to be creative; otherwise the story will end up going nowhere.

In your opinion, what’s the best book-to-film adaptation ever, and why?

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. Between the two movies, they included just about everything that J. K. Rowling had in her books, which is unusual for book-to-movie adaptations.

What cliché would you most like to see erased from YA fiction?

One cliché I would like to see erased from YA fiction is that nerds are never popular and never have any friends other than other nerds.

Fill in the blank: “At 2 a.m., I’m most likely . . .”

Sleeping, but dreaming of where the adventures in my books will lead.

Your NaNo story, “Around the Moon,” is full of technical language and famous quotations. Did you do a lot of research before you started the story? If so, what research advice can you give your fellow Figs? 

I didn’t do a lot of research, but I did do a little. The technical talk I learned from watching NASA TV, as well as from watching different documentaries about spaceflight. Most of the quotations were also taken from documentaries and TV programs I’ve watched. I tried to find quotes that went along with what each section of the book was about. I did have to research a little about the Constellation Program to make sure that I got the details as close to correct as possible. Some advice I can give is make sure that the topic you are researching is something that you are passionate about; otherwise, the research will be boring and make you not want to write about it.

As your book progresses, time slows down, and a chapter is devoted to every hour that the characters spend on the moon. Can you explain your decision to do this, and describe what it’s like to write in such detail?

In the beginning, I start with the final Space Shuttle landing, then jump ahead to the first Constellation mission and jump around from there.  The reason I do this is because it allows for background information without giving too much detail and keeps the reader engaged. After the mission starts, I find it important to be able to show what is going on during the mission. Writing in so much detail isn’t that bad. The worst part about it is that I never know how much detail to write in. I want to give enough detail to explain what is going on and not confuse the reader but not too much as to make it boring.


Are you participating in National Novel Writing Month? Join Figment’s official NaNo Group to participate in adrenaline-filled writing sprints, tag your story nanowrimo11 to get a spiffy new badge, and scribble away!

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