NaNoWriMo Q&A With Gail Carriger

This post spawned off of a forum discussion, Gentle Reader.

During NaNoWriMo I usually get an influx of questions on places like Goodreads regarding the craft of writing.

So I puttered about and pulled together some interview questions that I felt might help the baby-booking NaNoWriMo-er.

How do you break down your book into chapters? 

My chapters are usually around 6k words long or 10 pages, for the novel length Parasol Protectorate and Custard Protocol series. However, it’s more like 4k for the Finishing School YA stuff and novellas. If I were intending my 50k NaNoWriMo project to resolve at 50k, then I’d likely go with a 4k/chapter length. And yes, you do need to get comfortable with thinking about your book in terms of word count, not page count. In the internet age, page count is too flexible.

Professionally speaking?

On deadline, 6k is perfect for me as it’s about one week of writing/rereading. Also, that works out to 16 chapters, (plus any starting bits or epilogues), giving me a 96k book. I like to stay under 100k, so that works for me. Plus, 16 feels like a nice satisfying number. Of course, a novel rarely actually comes out that tidy. But I’m optimistic.

“Writing is not necessarily something to be ashamed of, but do it in private and wash your hands afterwards.”
~ Robert A. Heinlein

What makes you decide to end a chapter and break flow?

Flow breakdown is a consequence of pace, climax, and tension. Usually, it’s something like: 8 chapters end on a cliff hanger, 6 chapters end on an up note, 2 end on a downer. These are intermixed with each other and are a result of my genre, author voice, comedic bent, and style. Someone who writes horror, or suspense, or dark epics for example, would make different choices.

Gail Carriger Poof Pass Tea Cat

How do you discipline yourself to write?

I use shameless bribery: cup of tea if I finish the chapter, sushi every 25k, new shoes when I finish the first draft. I also punish myself. If I haven’t made my word count I can’t watch TV. Not even GBBO.

“You must learn to overcome your very natural and appropriate revulsion for your own work.”
~ William Gibson

How do you make your writing funny?

This is so complicated, I actually teach a course on it.

Mostly I take ridiculous characters and put them into absurd situations. I don’t know about you, but the times I find myself laughing the most are when I’m chatting with my friends. So, I use friends ruthlessly as inspiration.

My other tactic is when something comes up in the plot, I ask myself not “what would my character do next?” but “what is the most bizarre solution to this problem?” Sometimes this backfires on me in a “Douglas Adams kind of way” in which case I have to switch tactics and ask myself “what would PG Wodehouse do?”

Other ways to add humor?

There are intrinsically funny words, situations, and characters – so throwing any one of those into a scene always helps. I watch and read a lot of comedy, and I’m always alert to funny things around me. I’ve developed an inconvenient tendency to step back while reading, watching, or talking to ask myself, “Why was that funny?” I don’t necessarily copy the occurrence, but I do file it away as technique. I have an addiction to bad puns and ludicrous analogies, so sometimes I go overboard.

“My most important piece of advice to all you would-be writers: when you write, try to leave out all the parts readers skip.”
~ Elmore Leonard

That’s all I have for now.

Please remember, I have a whole section of my website that features resources including those written for beginning writers.

Enjoy writing dear NoNoWriMo-ers, and remember my old adage?

Don’t forget the funny!


Miss Gail


Heroines Journey Gail Carriger free pdf ripped download

  • Tired of the hero’s journey?
  • Frustrated that funny, romantic, and comforting stories aren’t taken seriously?
  • Sad that the books and movies you love never seem to be critically acclaimed, even when they sell like crazy?

The Heroine’s Journey is here to help.

Multiple New York Times bestselling author Gail Carriger presents a clear concise analysis of the heroine’s journey, how it differs from the hero’s journey, and how you can use it to improve your writing and your life.


Your Infusion of Cute . . .


Your Writerly Tinctures . . .  

Gail Carriger's Office Writing SAS

Gail Carriger’s Office Writing SAS

Quote of the Day:

“Tea has been one of saviors of mankind. I verily believe that, but for the introduction of tea and coffee, Europe might have drunk itself to death.”
~ Sir James Crichton-Browne

Questions about Gail’s steampunk world? There’s a wiki for that!

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Posted by Gail Carriger

4 Responses

  1. Crystal said:

    Sushi at 25k? I’m nearly there! YEEEESSSSS. Actually I will be treating myself to pancakes at Denny’s with a dear friend, which holds a special place in our hearts. Key local NaNo events were held at that Denny’s until our group grew too large to keep monopolizing half of the restaurant. (“THE Denny’s?” I asked her. “Of course THE Denny’s!!” she replied.)

  2. Bridget Now Novel said:

    Great post Gail (and thanks for the mention). ‘Shameless bribery’ is definitely an effective motivator. Thanks for sharing insights into your process.

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