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!

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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!

Plotting v Pantsing

I’ve got a project that I’ll be working on in July (maybe for NaNo???), and for the first time possibly ever I’m sitting down and really, truly, honest-to-goodness-ly plotting my ass off. Now, Dear Reader, usually I’m the kind of writer who flies by the seat of her pants. A pantser, if you will. I know generally what the story is about, who the characters are, where they begin, and where I want them to end up, and I just figure out the middle bits (read: the actual freaking story) as I go. This works…okay. Well, if I’m being totally honest, I think I’m pretty lucky that it works at all, but it was something that appeared to work when I had lots of distractions in my life (i.e. a full-time job). But now that I can actually focus on my writing, I’m finding that pantsing is for the birds (and for those of you who say it works: I trust you to know yourself much better than I ever have or ever will know myself).

Here’s my theory of why I thought pantsing worked for me: When I was drained (physically, emotionally, spiritually, all the allys) and I didn’t write for a couple days (weeks, months, whatevers) I would eventually reach critical-writing-withdrawal and get an idea that I had to put on paper. I thought this was divine inspiration (and consequently all the stuff in between was writer’s block), and I’d go on a kick where I could bang out a few pages whenever I got a chance. I’d have a day off, devote it to writing, and then when I’d get stuck I could throw up my hands and say I just had to get back to adulting.

What I didn’t realize was that I was kinda sorta already doing all the plotting stuff that a plotter would do only I did it very, very poorly and only in my head while I was occupied doing other things like taking phone calls or doing laundry. So it was with my vague and disorganized plot that existed in pictures and random bits of dialogue being shouted by disembodied voices from one end of my brain to the other that I would sit down to work and inevitably get stuck trying to get my characters from their meet-cutes to their happy endings.

Sometimes I could work these things out. The scenes would come to me, problems would get solved (more often than not while I was sitting on the toilet), and stories would be kinda completed, but the work it took to get there wasn’t as enjoyable and certainly not as quick as it could have been. (I’m not saying writing doesn’t take a lot of time, but I do think a first draft should be completed in a short-ish time so your voice is consistent.) And if all the half-finished stories on my Google Drive tell you anything, it’s that your blogger does not always get her own happy ending.

So this time, Dear Reader, I am plotting. And hardcore too. Like three act structure, planning each scene, total character bios, world built enough to live in PLOTTING. I’m not under the impression that this plot can’t and won’t change–at the heart of it, writing is still writing and a story is alive and evolving until it’s published–but I am going into combat with the blank page pre-fucking-pared. I’m basically unwilling to let myself down, because really, that’s what all those drafts are: a little graveyard for all the characters I let down, and what are characters if not just a tiny piece of you?

Will it work? Who knows! But I’d sure like it to especially since I’ve got about five other projects I’d really like to actually complete and it’d be rad if I could nail down a good way to do it.

If you have a working method or have tried both plotting and pantsing I’d love to hear from you in the comments below! At this point, I will take all the advice I can get!