NaNo, National Novel Writers Month, is an exercise in writing as much of a novel as you possibly can in one month. The aim is 50,000 words.

I tried it last year (when a bunch of stressful things like changing job and moving house were happening) and I got to around 26,000 words. Since then I’ve added a further 2000-odd words, and done some editing to make it less awful. It’s too awful still to add more to without even more editing (the text is peppered with things like “TODO: Palmer takes Blake’s seat”), so this NaNo I shall aim to resolve three TODOs per day (currently there are 42 todos – the last one I resolved added those 2000-odd words and took five days to write) to give me a full half of November to plan the rest of the structure.

I like the idea of NaNo. It encourages people to write without judging themselves at all. I worry a little about people trying such a big task without an experienced guide to give them positive reinforcement and lead them away from pitfalls; I’m a big believer in the value of teachers.

I’ve learned a lot about improv longform in the last year, a form of storytelling, and I’m going to try to apply what I’ve learned to this story that I’m trying to tell. Here are some things I’ve learned in the last year:

*Your characters have to care. If they don’t care, why should we? Characters shouldn’t be flippant.

*Flashbacks can be an excuse to be jokey, and my job as the author is to protect the present tense in the novel and not just wander off into some backstory. Tag-out, give the context we need, tag back in to where we were and carry on with the story.

*Sometimes we want a big group scene or description of the landscape or world which is there to cleanse our palette and give us a break from the story.

*Be super-fucking-clear. Where are we? Who are we? What are we doing?

There are lots more; I feel lucky to have found improv and found such an array of good teachers that help me with writing in this way. Anyway, I should be working on Chapter 4.