By Marsha Nash Sultz

I’ve always loved to write. Aimlessly, gloriously, imaginatively. But not, unfortunately, with a lot of form or purpose. I had filing cabinet drawers full of half-finished drafts of stories, essays and one precious novel. For years I was a blitzkrieg writer.  If I had an idea, I’d attack it with vigor but not a lot of style. I had the desire, but not the foundation of good practice.

And then I heard about a class at FVCC taught by Kathy Dunnehoff on writing a novel in a month. 


I signed up immediately. NanoWrimo – National Novel Writing Month – is an interesting concept for writers. The goal is to write fifty-thousand words in thirty days. For a month, no editing, no fixing, no second-guessing. 

Just write, write, write. 

When embarking on a journey of fifty-thousand words, careful planning is required. Kathy encouraged us to fill out a calendar containing our word count per day, our days off for Thanksgiving, medical appointments and mental health days. 

Above all, Kathy told us to remember what Hemingway famously said about first drafts. “All first drafts are shit.” 

I kept that in mind when my eyes roamed over the scenes I had written the day before. I had to physically restrain myself, at first, from going back and fixing mistakes. Thankfully, Kathy reinforced our ‘rules’ each week in class and I muddled through a draft, knowing I had eleven months stretching before me to edit to my heart’s content.

I have participated in NanoWrimo six times. Twice I finished drafts of novels that I had started the year before. One year I wrote a novella. One year I started a novel and did a do-over two weeks into the month, so I only wrote about thirty thousand words that year.

NanoWrimo is a great way to jumpstart a novel and I’m grateful for the structure that it gave me. Now, three drafts of novels are on the shelf and I can choose whichever one calls to me. With experience, I realize that writing a first draft is merely the beginning of novel-writing. As I learn more about the craft of writing, more about the framework of scenes, plot and characters, I have those drafts in reserve to take out and refine.

If you are a beginning writer or a writer who struggles with how to dive into a new novel, give NanoWrimo a try. It’s a little like mind vomit, but the ideas you’ll come up with, unconstrained by trying to be perfect, will surprise you and lead to good content that can be corralled into form and structure as you edit after the month is over.

Remember: write, write, write!


2019.04.23 The Newbie gets to work


By Diane E. Bokor

Hello again from the Newbie Writer, who a few months ago decided to get serious and develop professional habits.  I am happy to report that I have been chipping away at my essay project, producing lots of words on the page. Hooray!

I write to you from Camp NaNoWriMo (the thirty days of April).  My days here at the (virtual) Camp have been significantly rearranged.  Well before dawn’s early light, well before the first bird sings, I wake to the inner trumpet call, the reveille, the call to the keyboard.  

A Writer told me, “Write before your inner critic wakes up.”

That advice seems to work.  

Work. The word keeps coming up.  When I discuss my project with non-writer friends, I often get,

“Oh, that sounds like a lot of work,” as they shake their heads, no-no-no-not-for-me.

Work, as in that school essay they were assigned.  

Another Writer told me, “Give yourself space and time to really wander, to really enjoy the process, especially of the first draft.”

So daily, here at Camp NaNo, I get lost each morning, playing in the woods of words, writing only about things that interest me. It is becoming a habit.

I have a strong work ethic. I admire those with a strong work ethic. But the work of creative writing versus the work of chores on the mundane to-do list…Aye, there’s the rub. I’ve been trained to get up before the birds to keep my household running smoothly.  It comes naturally to me to start a day by tidying the house, responding to emails and calling customer service about yet another situation that needs to be resolved.

Here at Camp, I get the writing done first and go about the day with this funny virtuous feeling in my heart.  I fed my starved inner Artist (who has been hiding in the dark for decades). I worked toward my Goal.

As James Brown would say, “I feel good!”

A new way to live.  Writer with a capital W. Thank you to the women of Montana Women Writers, who show up to share and support and show the way.

Your new friend,

The Newbie

Luxury Problems

Ann Minnett MWW photo

By Ann Minnett

The current draft of my second novel takes up more space in my head than it does on my desk. Honestly, this novel needs to simmer unattended in a file drawer for a few weeks while I regroup. We’re a little sick of each other.

second draft

Two luxury problems fill the void almost immediately: 1) autumn is my favorite time of year in NW Montana, and 2) a dream of my third novel, the fresh promise of ‘the not yet written.’

(Pause here to stroll outside, take some photos, breathe clean mountain air, and talk to my husband working on an old MGB in the shop.)


Luxury problem #2 is not so easily handled.

Lucky for me, there’s no better time for a new project than NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) which takes place in November. I’m taking the challenge for the first time. This declaration is my way of holding feet to the fire in hopes of following through.

Our own Kathy Dunnehoff spoke about NaNoWriMo at the Flathead River Writers’ Conference last month, encouraging novices to set any personal writing goal for the month. However, most participants set a goal of 50,000 written words. That’s 1,667 words per day, every day. Even on Thanksgiving. Even traveling to Tennessee mid-month for a family reunion. Even…  Aside from self-discipline, all it takes is determined writing without second guesses or edits. That and some planning in October—a story arc and an understanding of my main character.

October 12th finds me without a plan for my NaNoWriMo project and nothing sketched out on paper. Undaunted and with the confidence of one who doesn’t know better, here’s where I start:

The novel will take place in small-town Montana.

The protagonist is a woman who has taken the geographical cure, but no matter where she goes, there she is.

So much for page 1. A rough outline of what happens on page 2 and beyond will fall loosely into place in the coming 19 days. My intentions are clear.  Starting on November 1st, I vow to write with a vengeance and describe my progress next month both here and in my own blog. Ernest Hemingway once said, “All first drafts are shit.” Yes! His famous quote permits my modest expectation for quality—a vital ingredient for NaNoWriMo success.

I’m jazzed. How about you? Have you almost finished that first novel and need a kick in the rear to complete it? Do you have a story that simply won’t stop bugging you? Join in the NaNoWriMo fun. Get inspiration from other writers, and together we’ll finish a piece of writing.

November 30th will come around whether or not I’ve written 50,000 words. The manuscript I’ve set aside today will molder for my attention whether or not I write 50,000 new words. So why not try?