Mystery Mondays M.H. Callway on NaNoWriMo

Mystery Mondays welcomes M.H. Callway to talk about riding NaNoWriMo Tiger.

If you don’t know what NaNoWriMo is: read on!

I know M.H. Callway as Madeleine. We met online through other authors. Madeline has a special place here as she provided an endorsement for my second novel, BLAZE. It’s difficult to ask another author for an endorsement and Madeleine said yes right away. Her generosity with her time and thoughtfulness in writing an endorsement has pushed my writing career along.

So please help me welcome M.H Callway.


Many thanks to Kristina for inviting me to her blog! I’m delighted to be here.  Today I want to share with you my experiences doing last November’s National Novel Writing Month or NaNoWriMo.


My friend and fellow author, TO Poet, encouraged me to join him and his friends for this 50,000 word marathon adventure. He has ridden the NaNoWriMo tiger no less than six years running.

So I jumped in feet first with little – well, let’s be honest – no preparation!


What is National Novel Writing Month?

November is pretty dull so every year hundreds of thousands of authors around the globe try to write 50,000 words to fill up the 30 days. Chris Baty and 21 of his writer friends came up with the idea in San Francisco more than 15 years ago. Thanks to the internet, participation has since gone viral. In 2015, writers located as far away as central Russia and Micronesia took part. No restrictions, no writing experience necessary.

How did y’all keep going? 

TO Poet set up a Facebook page for our team, the NaNoWriMo Misfits.  He kept us inspired with daily posts and we logged on to report our progress. Peer pressure proved to be a compelling motivator for me.

And coffee. Lots and lots of coffee.  TO Poet’s coffee mugs rival goldfish bowls.

Why embark on this marathon?

Like most newly published authors, I’d spent the past 12 months promoting my debut novel, Windigo Fire,  through conferences, meet-ups, bookstores and libraries. On my own or with our group, The Mesdames of Mayhem, I literally did hundreds of events. I needed to do get back to work on the second novel in my Danny Bluestone series, Windigo Ice.

Not that my keyboard was idle. I managed to write a suspense novelette, “Glow Grass”, for the Mesdames of Mayhem’s second anthology, 13 O’clock.

What plan / approach to use? 

As a scientist and MBA-type, I knew that an overwhelmingly large project can be broken down into incremental steps. That meant 1700 words over 30 days to reach the required 50,000 word count. I did a couple of test runs to prove to myself that I could pull it off. November 1st dawned and I was off and writing!

How did NaNoWriMo go? Did you make 50,000 words?

I did indeed make the grade: 50,048 words to be exact.  Here are the stats from my trusty Excel spreadsheet: my daily output ranged between 1600 and 2200 words. On my last day, I wrote 3300 words just to get done – my record for the month! It’s “the barn door syndrome” familiar to runners: we get a charge of life-saving energy when we spot the finish line.

What worked with NaNoWriMo?

For me, NaNoWriMo was a lifesaver. I refocused on writing and pushed aside life’s nagging demands to make it a priority.

Meeting my daily word count meant turning off the editor in my head. I tend to be a deliberate, measured writer so NaNo felt immensely freeing. I got to know my characters again, resolved tricky plot problems, churned out fun action sequences and created an encounter between Danny and Santa, the escaped villain from Windigo Fire that was a joy to write.  I now have several ideas for the core theme(s) and a goodly chunk of words to draw on – or to store for Books 3 and 4.

What challenges remain? 

After the freedom of NaNo, the hard work really begins, the tough thinking especially. I had to put my “plotter” hard hat back on while surrendering my “pantser” plumage with a sigh. I reviewed the 50,000 words I wrote and organized everything into a plot-logical order.

Right now I’m developing the details of the crime at the heart of Windigo Ice. And fleshing out the villain who made his first ghostly appearance to me during NaNo.

A thriller runs 80,000 to 100,000 words so even if all my 50,000 words were useable, I’d only be halfway there. That’s the keyword: useable. Editing is the next big step so in February, we NaNo Misfits are will be supporting each other during our Edit Month.

Would you recommend NaNoWriMo to other authors?

Most definitely! I’m pumped about Windigo Ice and can’t wait to finish writing Danny’s winter adventures. It’s a great way to get refocused on writing and to bond with fellow authors.

In an ideal world, I’d recommend having one’s plot meticulously laid out so that one’s first draft would be done by the end of November. But no matter, anyone who participates will be infinitely farther ahead than sitting around worrying about finding time to write.


Madeleine’s BIO:

madeleineM. H. Callway’s critically acclaimed debut novel, Windigo Fire (Seraphim Editions) was short-listed for the 2015 Arthur Ellis Award for Best First Novel. Under different titles, it was nominated for both the Unhanged Arthur and the Debut Dagger Awards. Margaret Cannon of The Globe and Mail called her “a writer to watch”.

Madeleine’s crime fiction stories, many of which have won or been short-listed for major awards, have appeared in anthologies and magazines. Most recently, her speculative fiction story, “The Ultimate Mystery” in World Enough and Crime (Carrick Publishing), was a 2015 Derringer finalist.

Madeleine blogs regularly about the weird things she encounters and about the wonderful people in her life. Visit her at

In 2013, she founded the Mesdames of Mayhem, a group of 15 established Canadian women crime writers. Two anthologies showcase their work: Thirteen and 13 O’clock. Stories in Thirteen were finalists for the Arthur Ellis and Derringer awards. Learn more about the Mesdames at

Madeleine is a longstanding member of Crime Writers of Canada and Sisters in Crime. An avid cyclist, runner and downhill skier, she has participated in the Toronto Ride to Conquer Cancer every year since 2008.  She and her husband share their Victorian home with a spoiled cat.


Thanks for reading…

Next week we welcome Lisa De Nikolits



2 thoughts on “Mystery Mondays M.H. Callway on NaNoWriMo

  1. Interesting post and great for you on NaNoWriMo. I’ve signed up the last two years and it has the opposite effect on me. I feel as if I’m back in my corporate world days with all the rules I always hated (so often I felt like a tiger in a cage) and so my creativity is actually quashed. In fact, both Novembers, I wrote about 1,000 words in total — it was like my mind refused to cooperate. The first year (2014) I blamed what was happening in my life at the time (dying dog, some other issues) but this year I just accepted it. I am not the sort of person who can write xx words a day because I’m supposed to (and I tend to edit as I write — my first drafts are very clean). But I admire anyone who can write 50k in a month. It was nice meeting you at OLA.

    Liked by 1 person

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