Camp NaNoWriMo: Over The Hump And 30k Words

We’ve sailed past the halfway point of camp and I’m excited to report I hit 30k words yesterday. THIRTY THOUSAND. This is the farthest I’ve ever gotten during NaNo. This is monumental for me!

Check out my eval of 10k and 20k if you’re interested in how I got here.

I got to 30k faster than I expected, and I’ve got myself an almost 5000 word buffer with the official camp schedule, and yet when I look back at the last few days I’m a bit like “wow, you sucked for a bit there.” Take a look with me:

Nano3

I bumped up the sprint length to 20 minutes, but only for the last two days. I started off strong with a great day then the weekend came and I just kind of ran out of steam or something. I did one sprint on Saturday and then just a random little free write at 10:00pm just to say I did something that day, but…BUT Monday I came back strong with a solid 5000+ words, just like my day one! And I know what happened: I got excited about my story again.

To be clear, I was never really bored of the story, I was just a little stuck. My plot was murky around this section, generic questing was all I had in mind and it was just too vague. The characters were also getting a little lifeless, playing their roles, but not doing much more than existing. “Grow, damn you!” I screamed at them, but they just huffed and stomped and acted like they’d only been in existence for a few days which, to be fair, yeah that was kinda true. Then genius struck, and I paced around my living room and kitchen, asking the cats what they thought of throwing some trolls and dwarves into the mix. They didn’t really care, but I thought it was fantastic!

So 30k came up on me fast yesterday, and you can see in my “section” column that I broke away a little from my pre-written plot. At first I started adding in the ideas to the plot I had written, but that wasn’t working, so I opened a new sticky note in Google Keep (another really great application I’m integrating into my writing roundhouse) and just quickly plotting everything that needed to happen between where I was and the next major point.

I’ve also been keeping track of how much time is passing and a simple-to-skim list of what is happening in each chapter. This is going to help me immensely in editing, I can already tell, and I really recommend it, but I’ll go more in depth in the future when I see how it pans out.

I’m pretty much doubling my words when I double my sprint time, so thankfully I’m not going backward, but I’m bummed to not see progression. Then again, that progression is probably more likely to come with the completion of more books, not just more days writing. Patience is a virtue, they say, whoever they are.

First 10K – 426 minutes or 7 hours and 6 minutes.
Second 10k – 352 minutes or 5 hours and 52 minutes
Third 10k (words 20737 through 30319) – 287 minutes or 4 hours and 47 minutes, so I guess that actually is progress. I mean, I cut off about 2 hours total to produce 10k words, that’s pretty freaking good!

I’ll be sticking with 20 minute sprints going forward, I think, since I just started using them, and since I drink so much water, my bladder needs really frequent breaks. Speaking of, time to pee and start another sprint! Dwarven summit, here I come!

Advertisements

Camp NaNoWriMo: 20k Words, Obstacles, and Achievements

Well, it’s Thursday and my post today should have been a Vacancy podcast, but I did not get that done this week! I have had quite a busy past few days, but with what is unimportant, it would all be excuses anyway. The fact of the matter is, I failed at keeping up with the cast, but I DIDN’T FAIL WITH MY WORDS SO FUCK YEAH!

I’m right on schedule with Camp NaNo with 20,737 words completed. The day 12 goal is 19,354 so I’m chugging along nicely overall, but on the micro-scale I’m not quite as pleased with my progress, or lack there of. Let’s take a look and evaluate shall we? (If you’re confused by anything in the below chart, take a look at my first 10k eval for more info.)

camp 2

So right off the bat you can see there are fewer sprints here, but a longer sprint time (all but the first are 15 minutes as opposed to the 10 minutes I was doing before), but I did accomplish the same amount of words.

First 10K took 426 minutes or 7 hours and 6 minutes.
Second 10k took 352 minutes or 5 hours and 52 minutes (not including the two “all days” which were trash anyway so forget those!).

There are a number of possible reasons for this including that I’m getting back into the swing of writing or I’m getting more comfortable with the plot and characters, but I’m fairly certain that there is actually just more value in a longer sprint. I find myself writing slightly less intensely during the 15 minute sprint, and take a moment sometimes to think, but I started out consistently putting out more than 1.5x the words of a 10 minute sprint. Admittedly I fell off the wagon a bit on the 9th, but extenuating circumstances, people!

The story itself is getting more complex now, and over the last week I bumped into my first real “uh oh, I dunno what’s going on here” part. I have a few scenes with the antagonists that I am skipping for now as I’m not exactly sure how I want them to play out, but our main characters’ quest also has a couple holes I’m needing to fill in. Having the mostly fleshed out plot, though, has been a real godsend: if I ever really get stuck I can just move on, but having this map to follow, knowing where I came from and where I’m going, makes filling in the little path from A to B even easier.

One thing I’m not sure is actually improving, though, is the state of the prose. I know this is a first draft, and I’m okay with it being word vomit, but I’d hoped it would improve a bit as I went on. I’m not sure that’s happening, but I am pleased with the dialogue which I always felt was my strongest suit.

Tomorrow will be my first full day at home in a week, so I’m hoping that I can knock out a whole lot of words and set myself up for greatness to come. My characters are really getting into the thick of it now too, so I’m pretty pumped about where they’re going. Bonus: I’ve used the word “fuck” five times so far, four of which all happen within the same couple lines, so here’s a little sneak peak which will no doubt make absolutely no sense out of context:

“To fuck the king?” The twins looked at one another with mounting confusion.

“To fuck Quilliam, I gather.”

“Please don’t talk about my sister fucking anyone,” Voss pinched his nose and closed his eyes, “It’s bad enough she’s been fucking my best friend.”

Like I said, they’re not all great words, and some of them aren’t even good ones, but at least four of them are fucking superb.

Camp NaNoWriMo: An Evaluation of 10k Words

Today is day six of Camp NaNoWriMo. I haven’t written yet today, but I have completed 10,079 words so far, so I’ve already surpassed how many words I’d need by the end of today (9677) to stay on track for 50k by month’s end (I think this book will end up a fair bit over 50k though). I’m not saying these are great words, and some of them probably aren’t even good, but they’re words nonetheless, and they’ve felt pretty flipping good coming out.

So I wanted to do a quick rundown of what I’ve done to get here and try to evaluate how I can improve. First, I need to throw a huge shout out to Chris Fox whose book (which you can get for free at that link if you sign up for his mailing list AND YOU SHOULD) and videos have been inspiring the fuck out of me. I haven’t actually read any of his fiction yet, so for all I know it’s crap and I’m going to produce crap by following his method, but I highly doubt it because I’ve been listening to him speak and reading 5000 Words Per Hour and he’s no dummy. Additional disclaimer: I haven’t finished the book yet either, but I’ve put into play a lot of the things he suggests by listening to his videos and watching interviews and podcasts with him as a guest.

Sidenote: I watched most of his 21 Day Novel Writing Challenge series while I cooked dinner and played video games throughout June. Chris’s voice is really pleasant to listen to, and I think regardless of if you enjoy his work, you can benefit from listening to him or reading his nonfiction. He knows what he’s talking about.

So I don’t follow his guidelines exactly, but pretty freaking close. I think the single most important thing that has lent itself to my success this week is having a well-structured and thought out plot ahead of time, and I’ll do a separate post on that once I finish writing the first draft of this book. The second most important thing is utilizing writing sprints, which is something Chris advocates for a lot, to knock out a bunch of words. I decided to keep specific records during these sprints, utilizing a spreadsheet. Chris created an app for this, but it only works with Apple products. That’s fine because I prefer to manually write this stuff down anyway as it gives me a weird sense of accomplishment. He also has created a spreadsheet you can use, but I have my own. Here is what the last five days have looked like for me (note, I didn’t write at all on July 4th because it’s particularly unAmerican to use your brain):

2018 Sprint

I use Google Sheets for tracking because it’s free, easy, and I can access it anywhere I have an internet connection OR offline if I preload it #GoogleBless

I’ve got some weird columns here, so let me explain them all right off the bat:

A: Day – Just the dang date.
B: Time – This is when I’m starting all my pre-writing bullshit, but you can see I don’t record something everyday here.
C: Yoga – I had a lofty idea that I’d do yoga and/or meditate before every writing session, but I was TOO EXCITED to do this after day one!
D: Drink – I’m using caffeine as a stimulant to get my brain to focus during these sessions, so I’m recording what I’m drinking. To be fair, I’m mostly drinking green tea which is pretty low in caffeine, but I usually don’t drink any caffeine, so even a little has a big affect on me (*key at the bottom of this post for the drink acronyms if you care, but it’s bonkers).
E: Ambiance – Sometimes I like white noise to clear my mind, sometimes nothing, sometimes I can’t help the background noises (like the washing machine on 7/2). I really like Noisli for background sounds. The “Day 1” denotation is a sound I “crafted” out of Noisli’s sliders of a happy spring morning.
F: Place – From where was I working. This is in conflict to Chris’s suggestion that you need to carve yourself out a specific place to write so you can get your brain in the habit of writing when you’re physically in that place. I think there’s a lot of merit to that idea, I just feel good when I move around a lot.
G: Section – I have my plot numbered out in a very specific way, and I’m keeping track of the part I’m writing here. I’ll talk more about this in that future plot post.
H: Review – When I start reading over the plot points for the section I’m about to write. Sometimes this involves reading back a bit of what I’ve actually written as well and working very hard to NOT EDIT that stuff.
I: Sprint Start – When I click start on my timer (I use the one built into Windows, your phone or a watch would work just fine too).
J: Length – So far I have focused only on 10 minute sprints, many back-to-back, with row 24 being the exception (more on that later).
K: Words – How many words produced that sprint.
L: Total Words – In the document.
M: Sprint Avg – How many words on average during that day’s sprints.

I was thorough because you can only evaluate data if you HAVE THE DATA.

So far I’ve only used 10 minute sprints for a couple reasons. In the past I have done writing sprints (without a solid plot in mind) and around the 5 to 10 minute mark my mind would wander too much, so I didn’t want to give myself that opportunity. I also wanted to keep my sprints consistent for a few days so I could evaluate how I was doing. That last sprint I did on day one where I noted “WTF” stands for “write til failure” (and it makes me chuckle). I got the idea from working out with weights where you “lift to failure.” That means I wanted to finish the section I was in before I stopped for the day, but I didn’t want to constrain the time, so I just wrote until I was done. This ended up being 26 minutes long. I didn’t include these results in any of my sprint averages, it’s just there.

I wrote a shit-load on day one, half of my total words so far. That was a great boost to my confidence and to the story in general, but you can see on average I was getting ~200 words every 10 minutes, so I had some trouble getting back into the swing of writing. The next three days that I wrote, I averaged much closer to 300 words per every 10 minutes, but I did fewer sprints on those days as well. It’s also interesting to note how long each section denoted by column G took and what they produced.

Section 1.1.1 – 120 minutes, 2433 words
Section 1.1.2 – 126 minutes, 2568 words
Section 1.1.3 – 80 minutes, 2378 words
Section 1.2.4 – 80 minutes, 2372 words

So I can see over just four days that I’m improving at least a little bit, or I’m just getting into a groove. More data is needed to evaluate that really, but it’s encouraging to see this so far!

Today I’m bumping my sprints up to 15 minutes and going to stay at that length until I hit 20k words and I’ll drop another post with some comparisons. Wish me luck!

*Drink Acronyms:

I = Iced
H = Hot
GT = Greet Tea
HL = Hazelnut Latte (yes I have two Hs it ain’t perfect!)
MS = Maple Syrup
RaspPom = Raspberry Pomegranate flavor
ProB = This weird probiotic drink I had once because I was not feeling good

Extra sidenote: Everything was homemade except the Diet coke, obviously. You can make cheap, delicious lattes at home and control the calories #CaffeineBless

Day 1 – Care About It

I sat down and did 10 sprints of 10 minutes each this morning broken up into two blocks by breaking my fast with a smoothie bowl, and I’m going to be totally honest with you, Dear Reader: they felt really fucking good. I’ll get into the specifics of what I’m doing in a post later this week after I have some numbers to look at and (over)analyze, but so far I’m pretty pleased.

I took a break after nearly finishing chapter one and skimmed the opening letter we got from the Camp NaNoWriMo team (specifically Tim since I’ll be quoting him) this morning for Day One. It was the normal “you got this” kinda stuff. Motivating? Sure! A little sappy? Of course! (And I don’t think that’s a bad thing.) But when I came across this line, I had to stop because I legit felt tears prick at the back of my eyes:

I’m writing this because I care about it, and because I want to take a few steps closer to being the writer I want to be.

Wow. Yeah. That fucking resonates.

I joked with Husband that this was going to be the book that made us millionaires. Would I like to sell this thing in the end?

hell yeah
heww yeeeeeeh

But I really do care about it, and I want to be better. I want to be able to be productive, and to produce good stuff. I want to put something out in the world that brings people joy–that is at the core of why I write really. I’m a people pleaser, it’s in my blood, but also I want to give to people what I got from other stories: fun, excitement, escape.

And I can’t do any of that if I suck. So here’s to day one of sucking less! So far I’ve got 2032 words down, and I’m ready to start in on another sprint. Noom!

Camp NaNoWriMo Redux

I’ve been going back and forth on whether I should blog about this or not and came to the conclusion that…it really doesn’t matter, so I may as well. I’ll be taking part in Camp NaNoWriMo again in July (aka to-freaking-morrow). I tried camp out in April and failed miserably, so miserably that I didn’t even follow up my original posts about it, but I was winging it in April and juggling a lot of balls (ha). Now, I’ve put Vacancy on hold, I have a good grasp on what it takes to produce an episode of my podcast, and I’m set on working on a completely new project that is almost entirely fleshed out which means I should be able to create some real momentum word-wise in the beginning.

I wasn’t sure I wanted to take part in camp, something about filling in that word count is equally exhilarating and depressing, but the timing worked out perfectly. I’ve had the general idea for this story for a while, but it was literally just an overarching concept. I’d played with the characters in my head, but only wrote down a couple words about it in my note app on my old phone. I started seriously plotting it on May 31st (I know because that’s when Google Docs says I created the document), and I knew I wanted to limit myself here: if I plotted for too long I knew I’d just kind of work the idea to death, and similarly I knew I wanted to plot the majority of it before I started writing so I didn’t write myself into a huge “and then what happens?” hole. I also didn’t want to write the story over a large span of time because I knew my voice would change too drastically (you can see this pretty plainly in the first four episodes of Vacancy compared to everything else), so I planned to write the whole first draft in a condensed amount of time. Season one of Vacancy just ended at the perfect time for all this to come to fruition.

I’ve also been researching writing methods recently, and I wanted to put some of the theories to the test, but with a totally new project and my most recent voice. I tend to pick up old projects because I truly love those old ideas, but I don’t want to abandon what I’ve already written, and I get stuck trying to mimic my old self. Per Stephen King:

The first draft of a book–even a long one–should take no more than three months, the length of a season.

Even without even accomplishing this, I know it’s true. Humans change a lot in a short amount of time, and even if your interests don’t wane, your environment sure does. I find it a lot easier to write happy stories in the sunshine and gloomy creepy stuff in the dark, and that’s probably pretty universal, and while you can fake your environment and you can argue that if you’re a good writer you can put yourself in whatever headspace you need to be in at the drop of a hat, that’s fine, but why force it?

But speaking of headspace…more so that cranking out words, I want to train my brain to get into the flow needed to write quality words. There’s a truth to my writing (and I bet a lot of other writers too): my fastest words are my best. That isn’t to say when I’m writing stream of consciousness, just word vomiting, race-against-the-clock type bullshit that that is my best work. No, no, that’s the warm up, the get-into-the-groove stuff. My actual best work is the work that comes quickly and needs to get out of my brain. Those are the words that feel truly inspired. And that headspace? It’s not divine, but it’s one you can train yourself to be in. At least, so they say. Those hours where you drop a couple words, google something, meticulously craft a sentence, edit it, delete it, rewrite it, then finish up a paragraph? That writing usually sucks. You might get a couple good phrases here and there or you might have a break though plot-wise, but you’re not producing much that’s worth the time put into it. So I’m going to try and train my brain into the “flow state.” And I guess we’ll see how it goes!

Here We Go Again: Camp NaNo

Remember NaNo? Well, apparently they do a spring edition (and I think a summer one too), and I guess I’m on board!

I consider last year a success even though I didn’t win. I completed 31,882 words over the course of the 30 days that was November 2017, and it felt pretty damn good, especially now that those words are being put to use in Vacancy. So why not try again, eh?

The difference between November and April is apparently the April “camp” is a bit more laissez faire. You write whatever you want (of course you can do this during November as well) and you set your own goal which is appealing as fuck. I know I can complete 30k words, so I set my goal there. Not really challenging myself, I admit, but if I can succeed, and perhaps succeed again come July (and maybe at 40k?) then by November, 50k words should be easy peasy, right?

I plan to write these words on a new piece, the second in my nameless dragon trilogy (which is all saved under a folder called “Medieval Vampires” in my Google Docs which really gives you a sense of where my head was at years ago when I was brainstorming this stuff), while maintaining Vacancy, my blog, and a couple other side projects, but I think it’s doable. 1000 words a day is a nice number, don’t you think?

As an aside, it’s come to my attention that I’ll have been working on this blog again for six months when we head into April. There have been times when I’ve posted very little, and when I’ve posted every day, but she’s been in the front of my mind for a good half a year now, and that seems pretty solid, because what is a habit or practice without time?

And that, Dear Reader, is partially why NaNo doesn’t necessarily work to make you a better or more prolific (because those are two very different things) writer: you create a habit by doing it every day, but “it” must be sustainable. Vomiting out words to reach a numeric goal isn’t sustainable. But like, it has to work, right? Something has to!