CampNaNoWriMo: 50k Words And Winning

For the first time ever, I’ve won National Novel Writing Month. Yes, it’s July, it’s really just camp, and yes, technically the only thing I beat out was myself and the only thing I got out of this is a 90+ page document that I’m both exhausted and enthralled by, but wouldn’t really appeal to anyone else, BUT I FUCKING DID IT.

Camp-2018-Winner-Twitter-Header

10K  /  20K  /  30K  /  40K

Let’s get the stats out of the way first:

50k

My writing times were all over the place the last week. My mom was visiting, so I wasn’t able to devote myself to sprints like I normally would and did a lot of my writing at night instead because she conks out early. I did get a bit nostalgic, though, writing late at night in my room instead of on the couch or in my office-turned-guest-room because that’s how I used to write as a teenager: between nine and midnight, typing furiously into the silence that was my room when I should have been asleep. But I had more energy then, and I thought I was good, so the words came a bit easier. Ha.

First 10K – 426 minutes or 7 hours and 6 minutes.
Second 10k – 352 minutes or 5 hours and 52 minutes
Third 10k – 287 minutes or 4 hours and 47 minutes
Fourth 10k – 295 minutes or 4 hours and 55 minutes
Fifth 10k – 308 minutes or 5 hours and 8 minutes

I gathered a bit of steam with words 1-20k, and then averaged out the rest of the novel. I think I would have continued to improve, if only a very small amount, had my plot been better fleshed out further into the story, but as it stood I knew very specifically what the first 10ish chapters would entail down to exact scenes, then from there had a more vague idea. You can see too the “part” I worked on for the last couple days was the antagonists’ story. I intend to pepper in scenes of the baddies as the story goes, but had skipped those in favor of writing out the main narrative from beginning to end. The problem came when that narrative got a little muddy and I panicked–I didn’t have time to stop and plot, but I did have a better idea of what I wanted to go on with my antagonists, so the last about 3500 words are just evil-doers up to no good, written out of order. Also lots of birds. I don’t know, but it’s a thing; dark elves love ravens, and I don’t know if that seems cliche or not.

I have a bit of a dilemma now, largely focusing on this: the story isn’t done, and I already missed my Vacancy Season 2 self-imposed deadline. I think the wisest thing is to finish the first draft of my Camp project (its working title is She’s All Thaumaturgy by the way, I don’t think I ever mentioned, not that that will be the end title because I’m terrible with titles, and while I actually love this title it’s very unlikely it would ultimately be accepted by a publisher) because I am on a bit of a roll, and I think it’s good advice to complete the first draft and then put it away for a while. I think it would be too risky to set aside y current work with plans to come back to it just to finish up another, say 20k words later, then again sit it aside: I’ll be too tempted to edit and perhaps too removed from the story to jump back in. I do want to get back to Lorelei and co., but working on the podcast, at least, keeps me connected to those characters and their stories.

What I’ll probably do is push Vacancy‘s return to the beginning of September (the 3rd, I think). My niece is coming to visit in August for two weeks, so I don’t know what my writing time will be like then, but in the interim I think I can devote a couple days to plotting out the end of the novel, then a week or two writing it up, then I can pull out the plot for the second season of Vacancy I have sitting around here in one notebook or another, dust it off, and get a few episodes down on paper–er, uh screen–and be set up to go with that. I think??

Regardless, getting these words out felt utterly magical. I’ve never been so confident or excited about an accomplishment. Most everything else in my life I knew I would do: graduating high school and college, nailing job interviews, bleaching my hair, but this was frightening in a different way. I thought, if I couldn’t do it this time when everything else in the universe was aligned perfectly for me to write, then maybe I could never do it. Maybe the only dream I’ve had my whole life would always be just that–a dream–and I needed to let it go and focus on something possible.

But now I know it is possible. Fuck yeah.

P.S. While I was making sure I spelled Thaumaturgy correctly, I came upon this video. You’re welcome.

10k | 20k | 30k | 40k | 50k

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Camp NaNoWriMo: 40K Words And The Finish Line Is In Sight

10K Post
20K Post
30K Post

As excited as I am about hitting this mark and having less than 10,000 words left to write to meet my NaNo goal, it’s become abundantly clear to me that this book will be well over 50k words. That’s pretty typical for fantasy quests, and I’m not surprised (in fact, I’m excited about just continuing on and churning out words) it just makes the potential of hitting 50k a little less of an achievement and more of a marker along the way.

REGARDLESS, we are so damn close!

Even with me missing a few days while we had visitors (writing is a very solitary task and as hard as I’m working to turn writing into a skill it’s still emotionally draining), I sailed through 40k like it was nothing. Sprints are a godsend and treating writing like it’s a job is the way to go. Don’t wait for inspiration, wrap your hands around your muses’s neck and choke out the damn motivation!

I’m still not sure I’m getting particularly good prose, but I do know there are some gems on those 80 odd pages and the foundation for something pretty great. This isn’t to say I know this whole thing will be gold in the end, I just have quite a good feeling about it all. I’m not second guessing the plot or even getting bored of it, but discovering more about my characters and loving their journey.

Here’s what the last few days looked like:

nano 40

My sprints kind of fell apart today (also note I didn’t adjust for military time there at the end, oops!), but that’s because I kept having ideas that made me jump around the story. I’m not in favor of that in general (going back and adding feels too much like editing), but I’m at a place in the story where certain occurrences need to call back to other things, and I pop back to enter those details, even if only in a note.

For instance, in a very early chapter, my main character, Ellyson, looks out on a patch of trees and reminisces very briefly on her childhood. Later, in chapter 16ish, she tells a story about a specific tree, so I made sure to pop back up to that initial reminiscence and reference the specific tree so the call back is more meaningful. I don’t want the reader to hear about this very significant-to-Elly tree for the first time in chapter 16 because if there’s no basis to the tree existing for the reader, then it’s just a damn tree (and the emotions she attaches to her story feel fake). But if they saw her look at it longingly early on, even if they don’t know why she gave a shit about it then, the seed of significance was planted, so later it means more. Look at the fucking tree, Dear Reader. You can forget about it immediately, if you want, but you’ll fucking remember it when Elly tells you about climbing it.

First 10K – 426 minutes or 7 hours and 6 minutes.
Second 10k – 352 minutes or 5 hours and 52 minutes
Third 10k – 287 minutes or 4 hours and 47 minutes
Fourth 10k – 295 minutes or 4 hours and 55 minutes

So have I hit my stride? There is a part of me that likes to see some consistency, but of course I want progress. It should be noted that the further I go into the story the less specifics I know ahead of time. I know, for example, my heroes are about the head off to a bay city to look for some pirates, but I don’t know anything about the city except that it’s in a basin, and I don’t know anything about the pirates except that they’re not going to be exactly all they were cracked up to be (whatever the hell that is). This is hugely different to when I started out in chapter one when I knew right down to some of the dialogue how those scenes would pan out. I imagine if my plot were even tighter and better thought out this thing would be going by much more quickly. Plans for the future, my friends.

The next time I drop a camp update it should be about winning NaNo for the first time in my entire, ridiculous life, and I can hardly believe it. July’s been pretty good to me, so thanks, birthday month, you always bring surprises.

10k | 20k | 30k | 40k | 50k

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!

10k | 20k | 30k | 40k | 50k

Just A Little Something About Your Voice

When I was in college I took a few writing-centered courses. I was in my late teens/early twenties and developing my “voice,” as one does, and learning through practice. I tried to write like someone who knew what they were talking about, but that didn’t really feel very good, so instead I focused on what felt more natural.

I turned in a few pieces as the voice came to fruition. I tweaked it each time, and when I started to figure out what I really loved about it and how I would apply it to the big project in the class I was taking, I got this advice from my professor: “You’re really good at this voice, but I’d like to see you do something else.”

Damn, I thought, I had it planned out. It wasn’t going to be easy, but I’d gotten to know her, and I wanted to use her. And therein, I think, lay the problem: She wasn’t good enough.

A lot of my classmates, women and men, were writing from a more neutral perspective, and let me be clear: when I say neutral, I mean male. There is no such thing as neutral in American culture, there’s just the un-feminine version of a thing that’s not so masculine that women can’t pull it off. There’s no pink-neutral, there’s no skirt-neutral, there is only grey and pants.

So I started to feel bad about that voice. I was one-note, I was too specific (and fuck me, I thought that was what made comedy), I only had one trick. So I abandoned her, and sitting here right now I can still remember the piece I wanted to write as the final for that class, but the piece I actually wrote? Who fucking knows. I eroded the voice I was cultivating so much that it became generic, trying to appeal so much to everyone that in the end it was for and by nobody at all.

Here’s the thing: that voice was by no means perfect. It needed work, and there’s nothing wrong with getting out of your comfort zone, especially when you’re learning, but when you’re on the cusp of learning who you are, I really think you gotta go for that first. Trust your gut, or your heart, or whatever organ appeals to you.

It’s taken me a long time, and I’m not sure I’ll ever get her back, but I’m trying. Here’s to you never losing yours.

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.

10k | 20k | 30k | 40k | 50k

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!

10k | 20k | 30k | 40k | 50k

*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!