Lessons from a NaNoWriMo Virgin

Not an Anasazi Story by Jeff Posey.

A quick hat’s off to veterans (of whom my father is one: WWII, B-17, missions over the English Channel into Germany; many unpleasant memories for him, along with a few good ones).

# # #

I just passed the 50,000-word mark after only ten days. Woot!

I tepidly entered the National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) challenge of writing a minimum 50,000-word novel in one month. I begged my best writer buddy, Jason Myers, to talk me out of it. “Do it!” he said. I should’ve known. His cure for everything is, “just write.” At least he’s consistent.

An interesting thing happened. I honored the “don’t start before November 1” rule, which meant I had a couple weeks to noodle it in my head. So I did. Now that I’m almost finished with what might be called a “flash” novel (as in written in a flash), here’s what I’ve learned so far from my first NaNoWriMo experience.

  1. Simple is good. For me, three characters, one driving goal.
  2. An experimental POV or voice is energizing. Think: playful; and see #8.
  3. Spend at least as much time imaging the next scene as you do writing it.
  4. Take long walks to let your story talk to you. (Feeds #3.)
  5. Read out loud daily to a good listener (my wife is perfect, but you’ll have to find your own).
  6. Write the first quarter or third of the story even if you don’t know where it’s going. You’ll discover what’s next on your long walks (#4).
  7. Be freewheeling. This is an exercise in experimental writing. (See #2.)
  8. Write in the voice that narrates your daydreams. It’ll flow like water because you know it so well. You may feel a bit psychotic, but you can recover in December. (Yes, cross-reference #2.)
  9. When things begin to bog down, throw in a monkey wrench. Watch your characters squirm. Enjoy their pain. Remember, you can recover in December.
  10. Never negate anything that happened in a prior scene. I learned this lesson from my days in an improv comedy troupe. Nothing slows down story motion more than denying what has already happened.

I have to confess something: Being unemployed (laid off in September) really helps give you the time to take long walks and smash through a lot of words.

Do you have any NaNo-virgin tips? Add them to the comments below. I’ll collect them and we’ll vote in a week or so to see what comes up tops.

Meanwhile, watch for my upcoming guest appearance on the Warriorwriters’ Blog next week. It’ll be about Bob Mayer’s techniques and advice for manuscript revision. After you finish your NaNo novel, you’ll need it.

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7 Comments

Filed under NaNoWriMo

7 responses to “Lessons from a NaNoWriMo Virgin

  1. Pingback: Top 10 NaNoWriMo-tivators (plus Some Cute Penguins) « Away with Words

  2. I concur with every point on this list. Especially the monkey wrench. Thus far, I’m 80% monkey wrench writing (around the 17k mark), and y’know what? I LIKE IT ! A lot. It turns out I severely under rated my subconscious prior to NaNo.

  3. Kathleen

    Congrats Jeff you rock! Can you still call yourself a NaNoWriMo virgin when the month’s half over? 😉 It’s my first NaNo experience too, loved your post.

  4. jasonamyers

    You suck.
    10 days.
    Sheesh.
    I said write it! I didn’t say go all crazy!

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  6. My mouth is hanging open…
    Way to go!

  7. Pingback: Tweets that mention Lessons from a NaNoWriMo Virgin « Anasazi Stories by Jeff Posey -- Topsy.com

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