Preparing for Camp NaNoWriMo

Camp NaNoWriMo will be upon us in four short days. Dear Reader, I am psyched! Here’s how I’m getting ready.

Packed My Tent – Since moving, we’ve turned one of our two bedrooms into an office. I’ve got my desk in the back of the room, looking out onto it (so no demons or ghosts can sneak up on me, of course), and I’ve got a table set to my side holding important notebooks, my world’s “bible,” and my big desk calendar. That’s where I’ll be camping out.

Prepared For My Badges – I know I can write 30k words, I’ve done it before, and in the last couple weeks I’ve been ramping up how much writing I can fit into a day. Past success really is the best motivation which is kinda a bummer when you think about it because it’s a circle you almost can’t break into.

Practiced Relay Races – I’ve been working out regularly and intend to continue throughout camp. I find the time on the treadmill to be good for zoning out and letting my mind wander in my character’s world. Plus a healthy body can often keep a mind healthy, and the crazies are all too easy to set in on this journey.

Packed My Bags – And they’re mostly full of snacks. Seriously. I ordered two of those sample boxes from Amazon filled with protein bars and healthy-ish foods. Not that writing is a real physical thing, but if I’m on a roll, I don’t want to stop to make something, I just want to grab 200 calories of whey powder and chocolate and go! Similarly, I’ve been writing down recipes and cataloging my thoughts on them as they’re made and consumed, so I’ll be more decisive about what to cook for dinner. No hour of scouring the web for a recipe, everything will be planned out and set!

Prepared My Letters Home – My NaNo novel will be far from the only thing I’ll be working on in April, but one thing that I don’t want to compromise is Vacancy, so I’m getting every post for April queued up ahead of time. Just a warning, it gets pretty silly in the next couple installments .

But here’s where I’m a little stumped: Do I write out my camp itinerary? That is to say, should I outline? I’ve tried writing outlines in the past but usually I outline as I write so I can go back later and make changes without having to scroll through the whole document and guess at what I did. I typically get certain scenes in my head and have a good idea of where I want things to end up, with all the middle bits to be made up on the spot and heavily edited later. But has that served me well in the past? Or has that just lent itself to procrastinating? I know I succeeded (well, 30k succeeded) with NaNo last November because I had many of the episodes planned out, at least in general, ahead of time.

So my question here: do you outline? And if so, what’s your favorite method?

 

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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!

Letting Your Writing Sit

I wanted to call this post “Take A Break From Your Writing” but sometimes people just read headers, and I’d be remiss, Dear Reader, if that’s all someone took away from this post. Everyone gets overwhelmed and burnt out at some point, and taking a break isn’t necessarily bad, but I don’t think I’d really ever suggest a true break from writing.

This post is actually about taking a break from a piece of writing. I find the longer between writing a first draft and returning to edit it, the more clarity I have. Over time, your own writing can become almost foreign to you. I have much less a problem crossing through and suggesting changes to others than I do with my own work, and when I put enough time between writing and editing, my own work begins to feel like someone else’s. Sometimes I discover the bad: “Who wrote this? It’s garbage!” but (less frequently) sometimes it’s good: “Wow, that dialogue was convincing!” I become less attached to specific words or phrases, or even scenes and characters, so I can make changes, even big sweeping strikethroughs and plot disruptions, divorced from my original love for whatever my past self’s fevered brain thought was good.

There is probably a break point where you become too detached, your style evolves too far from where you started, or your passion for the topic has been snuffed out, but I’m not sure where that is, or if I could even council others on where it might be for them. Stephen King suggests a minimum of a six week break for the first draft of a novel. Close the file and don’t open again for a month and a half. That’s probably a pretty solid time to clear your mind and heart of what you created and long enough to complete some other writing task (because, remember Dear Reader, don’t take a break from all writing, just this writing). I put a solid month between NaNoWriMo and editing the latest part of Vacancy and that felt like a good amount of time. Another couple weeks would not have hurt, and perhaps would have helped had Vacancy been longer or I had worked on it for more than a single month. (King also suggests no project should take you more than three months/a season. Good thing I live in Florida where it’s summer 90% of the year.)

What actually did help was finishing up Blogmas, which I considered a writing project, if not traditional fiction. Filling the time between vomiting thousands of words and heading back in to edit those words with vomiting other words that held a totally different meaning (non-fiction) with totally different parameters (no word length, just a daily requirement and a very loose topic) felt like a reset. I let go of Vacancy and didn’t have pangs of missing it, desire to edit it, or conversely dread for having to edit it later (probably the more likely feeling for NaNo-ers), that was all replaced with another project. Blogmas also gave me a little boost of confidence because I completed it and felt particularly successful doing so.

So I came back to Vacancy with a new excitement because I already felt so victorious over Blogmas, and a fresh set of eyes that weren’t already fed up with Moonlit Shores Manor or too in love with some trash sentence that I couldn’t bare to drop in the bin just yet. Editing now is easier than it would have been a month ago and, more importantly, more pleasurable. I normally really enjoy editing, but this go around has been particularly fun. And I owe it all to letting my writing sit.

Reminder: Vacancy is coming back on January 1st!

This may only be exciting for me, but I’m very proud to announce that my serial fiction is coming back starting Monday, January 1, 2018!

VacancyCoverPhoto

Vacancy is a supernatural, fantasy fiction serial I began posting to the blog way back in 2016, then used as my project for NaNoWriMo 2017 and am planning to begin posting again every Monday starting January 1st.

The story follows Lorelei Fischer as she happens upon a mysterious inn, Moonlit Shores Manor, while escaping a life she wishes to leave behind. Can she secure a job at the bizarre bed and breakfast amidst its cooky inhabitants and, if so, will she even want to stay?

If you’d like to catch up or begin reading, there are currently four posts:

Vacancy – 1.01
Vacancy – 1.02
Vacancy – 1.03
Vacancy – 1.04

And many more to come, weekly, on the blog!

So Close, But Still So Far

There are just nine more days of NaNo, including today. NINE. That doesn’t seem like enough for 20,000 more words, but it really needs to be because ya girl is BEHIND.

On the plus side, this is the farthest I’ve ever come. I’m still excited about what I’m writing, I’m confident it can be edited into something really fun, and I’m so happy to be creating regularly again. Also, I’m creating content for this site which I’m pumped about. Of the cons, though, I feel overwhelmed and terrified of failure. I’ve been reminding others that it’s not really failure to not make it to 50k, and that’s true, but it’s a jagged pill to swallow nonetheless (thanks Alanis – you guys been listening to the new PopRocks channel on Sirius? #notspon).

So I’ve been pumping myself up for this last push, but the end comes during one of the most busy times of the year: American Thanksgiving. And it got me thinking; this is fucking dumb.

This is one of the worst times to be trying to write a novel, to be isolating yourself from your family and adding a bunch of extra stress on yourself. What the hell were they thinking? Well, I know the answer: they weren’t. I don’t care that they say it was “to more fully take advantage of the miserable weather,” they really picked November because it starts with an N-O and that’s more marketable. They were creating a website after all.

But we do it anyway, and we’re all probably better for it in the end. In fact, I’m hoping it’s a nice place to escape to if all hell breaks loose at the giving of the thanks gathering. I guess it’s an all-in thing: if I can do this, I can do anything. Right?

One of my bigger regrets is not posting enough during November here, but I do have at least four drafts, so get ready for some nonsense in December. That’s just to say that’s why I’m posting this now, to fill the void, which is really not a good reason to post a blog, but on the other hand, I DO WHAT I WANT.

Also, I’m headed to DC for Thanksgiving, so I hope I come back with some solid post ideas that aren’t just me flipping off the White House because I do want to keep my job. Wish me good luck!

 

Day 7

It’s been seven days of NaNo. This is exhausting, but I’m able to actually keep up the pace. How? I’ve got a lot of support behind me this time. People alongside me, working their butts off and being inspiring, people supporting me and letting me bounce ideas off of them. It’s making writing feel like more of a community event than it’s ever been.

But the truth is, writing is one of the most singular things you can do. Sure you can brainstorm, share, workshop, but in the end it’s your words. You choose what to cut and keep, what ideas get carried out, what you want to give to the reader. And that’s scary.

I’m becoming increasingly worried I’m producing lower and lower quality stuff. I know, in some ways, that’s the point, and I’m hoping to come to a break point where I finally clear out all the nonsense and start mining gold. Does that seem reasonable? Does that ever happen to anybody?

I hit 11,678 words a moment ago, and I’m both elated and disappointed. I wanted to be further along, but I’m so much further than I thought I could be. I’m worried I made a mistake working on Vacancy which is already a mish mosh of things, a million tiny stories to be tacked together. I didn’t do enough prep, I need to straighten these characters out a bit more, but on the other hand I love actually bringing them to life. I had them in my head for so long, I’m happy to evict them. I guess I just need to accept that these pieces are going to need a LOT of rewriting.

If nothing else, I’ve reminded myself that I love writing. Even though this makes me groan, and tired, and cranky, I’m ultimately much happier for it all. I’m discouraged to have produced crap, but I’m hoping it’s like working out. Yeah, I can only life five pounds and run for about three seconds, but after practicing and pushing myself, I’ll get better. that’s the secret right???

5 Tips to Keep You Going for NaNoWriMo

Seeing as I’m about 1000 words short of where I should be at this point, I figured what better time for me, the learned, prolific author, to craft a blog post of tips to help you, the struggling writing novice, reach your NaNo goals?

Here are my top five tips on how to keep the momentum going through National Novel Writing Month. You are so very welcome.

 

1. Get Snacks

When you’re in writing mode, or even when you’re not but supposed to be, hunger is a distraction you do not need, especially since walking to and from the fridge is a great procrastination tactic. Before sitting down with your laptop, notebook, chalk and slate, whatever, gather a plethora of writerly snicky-snacks to get you through. And when I say writerly, I mean foods inspired by some of the most prolific authors. Shakespeare was notably remembered for loving poutine and, in fact, credited the gravy, cheese-curdy dish for getting him through Hamlet which, coincidentally, he completed during a NaNo event (it was just called The Word Plague back then, and fell in March). Charles Dickinson, along with being paid by the word, credited his prose fertility to Gushers Sour Triple Berry Shock fruit snacks. Tweet at your favorite author, I’m sure they’ll take time out of their own writing schedule to tell you their favorite, inspiring treat.

 

2. Do Sprints

No, I don’t mean the thing where you set a timer for, say, 15 minutes and do nothing but write nonstop. I mean actual sprints–you’re going to need them after downing Jane Austen’s favorite Taco Bell order anyway. So strap on some running shoes and take off. But how will this help my writing? I can hear your unlearned little brains grinding away at the question. Simple: you will hate running so goddamned much, that if you give yourself two choices–run or write–you’re gonna write a fuckton. Also, running gives you endorphins, and endorphins make you happy, and happy people just don’t kill their husbands because he kept interrupting them.

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3. Get in Touch with Your Muse

Or, at least try to. There are only nine of them and they’re notoriously difficult to get a hold of. Mine is Thalia, and she’s shockingly busy for someone mythological. I send her a text and three days later my inspiration comes in the form of:

sorry, thought i already texted back! LOL! how bout adding in a love triangle to spice things up? LOL IDK  🏺🎭💙

She’s also always asking me to sacrifice a goat to her for better ideas, and I’m like, bitch, who do you think you are, the devil?

 

4. Get in Touch with the Devil

Summoning an imp or even a full-fledged demon is easier than you think, it just takes a handful of candles, a bit of human blood (doesn’t have to be yours), and the all-encompassing desire to trade in your soul for a temporary, earth-while gift that is very likely to backfire on you in some poetic way (which, as a writer, you’ll be too appreciative of to be upset about). Imps are quicker and more reliable than demons to show, even when you get the ritual a little wrong (Latin is hard to pronounce), but their suggestions can be a bit cliche. On the plus side, you can often trick them into trading something else rather than your soul for ideas. I don’t even miss my Nintendo 64. Demons, however, are smarter, so they have amazing suggestions, but can’t be tricked as easily. So here’s a bonus #sataniclifehack for this list: sign away your soul to multiple demons, as many as possible. When you die, they’ll be too busy squabbling over who gets you that you’re bound to be able to slip away into another dimension. Science.

 

5. Get Someone Else To Do It For You

If all else fails, pull a Tom Clancy or James Patterson and just get somebody else to write your NaNo novel for you. This shit’s hard work, just churning out word after word, unsure where the plot’s going, how your characters are growing, if the theme is coming through at all, so you may as well leave the grunt work in someone else’s hands and hire a ghostwriter. Then you can sit back and wait til December. Or January. Or whenever. It’s fine guys, it’s all fiiiiine.

 

Good luck on finishing up your first full week of NaNoWriMo, guys! Remember, you should have at least 8,335 words by midnight tomorrow. So what you’re only halfway there, strap on your sports bra, pick up an E.A. Poe Chai Latte, call up Beelzebub, and get to it!