A standard piece of advice for writers is: write what you know. When you've only got a month to write a novel, that truism has a corollary: use everything that happens to you.
Lifehacker readers will perhaps have read that yesterday I got stuck in a lift with a dozen or so colleagues for 45 minutes. This happened right before the two hours of the day I'd scheduled for writing. I couldn't defer that slot, but there's no denying that the experience had been somewhat distracting and was playing on my mind.
The solution? I decided to add a "stuck in a lift" scene to the novel. In one of those happy coincidences which writers always rave about, the scene I had left myself in the middle of took place in a CBD office, so getting to the elevator wasn't any kind of stretch.
I'm writing fiction, so I didn't just recycle what had happened wholesale. The cause, the rescue and the consequences were all different by the time I was done for the day. But I actually made good use of the incident; it provided an impetus for some important conversations between characters who otherwise might not chat very often. And by drawing on what had happened, I'm sure I was more productive than if I'd tried to write a different scene entirely, while constantly thinking "OMG, I was just trapped in a lift!"
One other observation: after my initial brain dump on the first day, I've been writing more or less in chronological order. I hadn't expected this: I always figured I'd end up producing lots of fragmented scenes and then have to devote a chunk of time in weeks three and four to properly stitching them together. Instead, I've spent most of the week so far writing a continuous sequence of events. I'm pleased — I always thought plotting would be the biggest challenge — but there's still that small inner voice wondering what will happen if the narrative flow dries up. Nervous bunch, us novelists.
Throughout November, Angus Kidman will be blogging about his participation in NaNoWriMo to unearth lessons about writing, project management and creativity.