Day Six of NaNoWriMo
Written by
Marilyn Fried
July 2010
Written by
Marilyn Fried
July 2010
Thousands of people have done the novel in 30 days project (NaNoWriMo) as outlined in Chris Baty's book. What an amazing learning experience this has been for me. I can see that I am using many of the same skills writing fiction that serve me well in the nonfiction genre. Prior to this project, I believed that fiction writing revolved primarily around having a lively and creative imagination. Of course I knew that many fiction authors do research that rivals anything I've done academically and that plots and character descriptions don't create themselves. Still, I saw myself as not having the imagination to think of story lines or histories for characters and wrongly concluded that fiction writing was something I could never do. After five full days at this, this is what I've learned: 1. Although Baty says it's fine to just start writing (his book is called "No Plot--No Problem" after all), developing even a minimalist bio, time line or outline to get started is better for me. Then the writing flows in a direction. I don't have to know the ending, but I do need to have an idea of where I'm going. 2. Because I'm trained as a lawyer, I tend to always play out "what if" scenarios about life choices. (That's normal isn't it, fellow-lawyers?) I don't obsess over it but it helps me to be prepared for any possibility. So, for example, if a person wants to ask for a raise at work, what if the boss says no; what if the boss says "okay, but we're transferring you to Anchorage" and what if the boss says "we've been meaning to talk to you about your performance" and sacks you? I'm finding that I play the "what if" game with my story line as I write fiction too and it is useful because it actually requires imagination, which, it turns out, I do have after all. 3. Internal consistency is just as important to me in fiction writing as it is writing an essay or a legal memo. Loose ends have to be tied up or at least acknowledged as a loose end in the novel. The format of getting a novel written in 30 days is a great exercise for someone like me who leans towards perfection as I go. The calendar forces me to push past the desire to keep editing before moving on. Still, it is good for me to learn that the skills I use in nonfiction are still in play in my novel writing, but I'm allowing myself to have fun and be a little outrageous too. (That means I don't have to footnote and use citations!!) Oh, and another thing I've learned.... 4. Chris Baty is right to suggest getting out of the house to write. After about 3 or 4 good hours of writing, the siren call of my bed calling me to it is just more than I can stand.

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