Sunday, November 3, 2019

Ready or Not, Here We Are: Brian Matuszak Shares His Experience with NaNoWriMo 2018

Brian Matuszak in engaged conversation before
addressing NaNoWriMo troopers.
If you've been a writer for any length of time, you are undoubtedly familiar with annual National Novel Writers Month, a.k.a. NaNoWriMo. I'm not sure why it's in November, other than perhaps because Novel and November share the same first three letters (and in the same order.) .

To help local wannabe novelists get motivated for this year's undertaking, the Lake Superior Writers invited local writer/performer/humorist Brian Matuszak to share insights from his grand fling in 2018. The actor, teacher and playwright is also a public speaker who knows the first rule of public speaking: Don't be boring. He also knows, and exemplified the second rule of public speaking, which is, "It's better to speak ten minutes too short than two minutes too long."

The meeting began with Jessica, a librarian staffer since 2012, introducing Brooks Johnson, Vice Chair of the Lake Superior Writers, who introduced the speaker after reminding everyone of the benefits of being a member of Lake Superior Writers. On December we will reconvene here to see what we learned during this 30 day sprint.

We were also informed of an upcoming workshop with Alice Marks titled "Clean Up your Manuscript!" which will take place on November 16 from 9 a.m. till noon at Peace Church, 1111 No. 11th Avenue East. The three hour session is designed to help writers declutter their work and help them avoid the most common mistakes writers make.

Brian's talk could be titled "My Experience." Like a lot of us, the idea of participating in NaNoWriMo is intriguing, and was something he considered several times in the past. Last year, after his wife and daughter wearied of his years of saying, "I'm gonna do this someday," he caved in and made the plunge. (Thirty days is a longer commitment than the Polar Ice Plunge that takes place in these parts each year mind-winter, but less likely to kill you.) Matuszak noted that "Writers don't talk about writing. They write." (Source: a line from "Throw Mama from the Train.")

(I will interject here that the talk was well-crafted, and well-delivered. He's much funnier than me and makes it look effortless. There were no stitches showing in the seamless storytelling, as far as I could tell.)

So, getting down to the basic objective, we were told that the aim is a 50,000 word novel in 30 days, which when parsed is 1667 words a day. The aim is not to produce a masterpiece. It is to produce 50,000 words of copy that can, after surgery, be shared as a novel. (After the Alice Marks workshop, you may even be able to transform it into a masterpiece.)

Matusczak is an expressive speaker. 
The biggest challenge is to get real about the objective. Perfectionists will drive themselves nuts. Just write and keep writing. You have the rest of your life to edit. The key for him, he said, was this: "It didn't have to be good, just done."

Brian shared that he didn't have an outline or even a plan other than the concept and an ending. His concept involved time travel, inspired in part of Back to the Future. (Other good time travel flicks worth seeing include Peggy Sue Got Married and 12 Monkeys.

The first day felt like a burden until he realized that he did not have to make something great. The pressure to produce a marvelous manuscript will suck the joy out of your month-long misadventure. Once he got past this hurdle, he said it was like opening a spigot and the stream of words poured out like a firehose.

The writing should be fun, he said. The editing is the work.

He kept track of his word count each day, and noted that the NaNoWriMo website also has a place to plug in your daily word counts. In the end, if you succeed, you'll get a certificate. You can also buy a NaNoWriMo T-shirt.

After his talk there was a Q&A which produced a few additional insights. Matuszak is already an early riser and writing each morning was something he could do fairly easily. If, however, he was unable to complete his daily target he brought his laptop with him for the rest of the day and would write in a variety of spaces and places whenever he had a few undisturbed minutes.

When asked about the plan for his story he reiterated, "I had no structure, no plan other than how it will end."

It definitely produced in him a sense of accomplishment.

TODAY is Day 3 of NaNoWriMo. If you're doing it, congrats. I commend you. I'd also be interested in hearing more about your experience at the end of the month. What did you write about? What did you learn? You can share those comments here or email them to me for a future blog post.

If you need a little luck along the way, read yesterday's blog post about our Clover Man friend. I believe $30 will get you a 4-Leaf Clover pendant like this one. (Includes shipping.)

Related Links
NaNoWriMo: Who Cares If You Don't Win

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