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

The Liberation That Comes With Asking Questions

I suggested in my how to not fuck up 2018 post that if you want to make any kind of change in the new year, you shouldn’t be afraid of asking for help, and I think part of that is just in general asking questions.

This may only apply to me because I’m a god damned weirdo, or more broadly to people with anxiety, and probably also people who were praised a lot as a kid for being smart, but hopefully some of you will be able to identify with this sentiment: I used to be terrified of asking questions. Like legit sweat dripping, red-faced, fluttering heartbeat, all that bullshit at just the thought of asking someone what something meant or how to do something. With the ability to look back now, I know I was afraid of looking stupid or being a nuisance, not to mention my underlying fear of just speaking up in general, so the thought of doing any of that threw me into an almost instant panic attack.

Thankfully, I didn’t need to ask questions very frequently because I was very well rounded as a kid and inquisitive on my own. I watched a lot of (adult) television so I was exposed to many things that I was lucky enough to retain, and I had access to the internet from the time I was about eight-ish, so I could easily look just about anything up (granted it was significantly harder 20 plus years ago!) From doing my own research and basically never taking anything at face value, I quickly learned that people believe in a lot of things that just aren’t true, and since I was privileged enough to be exposed to so much, I was super judgey as a kid when other kids asked questions that I already knew the answer to, so I had a very “damn, I don’t want people to feel that way about me!” mentality.

That changed when I was in college and tutoring English and writing. I worked with so many different students, kids fresh out of high school, people in their fifties coming back to school, English as a second language students, and students who had a really great grasp on writing but knew a second set of eyes on their work could only help. Sometimes, especially early on in my tutoring career, I’d use words or phrases with students that they didn’t understand, and they would sheepishly ask my to clarify. Almost every single time they would then apologize for not knowing. This kind of knocked me for a loop because while I felt the same way these people did, embarrassed to not know and apologetic to bother someone for an answer, when I was being asked–when I was on the other side of that experience–I very passionately believed they should not be embarrassed or apologetic. See, I knew these people, I knew they were intelligent, and I knew their stories, and for the most part they didn’t know certain things because they never got the chance to know them. I quickly adopted a “no stupid questions” policy, and was always quick to admit to them when I didn’t know something, but we always had a laptop handy to look anything up together.

It still took me some time to cultivate my own ability to ask questions because you cannot reason anxiety away, you just have to fight through it, so while I knew it was okay to not know something, I couldn’t get over that sweaty, scared feeling. I flopped like a fish on dry land over that hump one day when the tutoring lab supervisor, my boss, called me “reticent.” I didn’t know what that word meant, and even though I was in front of him and a number of my tutoring peers, I decided that was the best time to break myself, so I asked. And you know what happened? Nothing.

He thought for a second, defined the word, then we all moved on. I didn’t feel like a moron, and no one tried to make me feel stupid either. Of course, this isn’t everyone’s experience, and since then I have had literally dozens, maybe hundreds of times where I’ve asked “what does that mean?” or “what’s that?” and been met with the dreaded and incredibly unhelpful, “You don’t know what X is???” But let me tell you something: if someone says that to you, you look them right in the eyes and say “No, I fucking don’t.” Chances are they are just being a self-centered prick and are reveling in the fact they’re a gatekeeper to some kind of knowledge and are superior. They probably don’t get to feel that way very often, so just pity them and then google your answer, showing them they really are as useless as they just proved themselves to be.

I find myself now asking “what does that word mean?” most often because I love words and want to collect as many as possible in my tiny brain. I rarely feel stupid asking questions, and I rarely judge other people for asking “dumb” questions. And even if I do think a question is stupid, I work really hard to not let it show on my face and to explain everything. I think I’ve kind of perfected this after working in IT for the last almost two years. And to those of you with anxiety that I just made this worse for: don’t worry. I don’t associate that once time Susan in accounting asked me how to copy and paste with Susan’s intelligence forever especially not if she retains it and uses it going forward. There’s hope for us all!

And now I realize: I CAN KNOW SO MUCH MORE. WHY WAS I SO DUMB BEFORE? The thing I was afraid of being I actually made myself into being by not just asking questions when I should have! And I feel so fucking free.

So ask questions. Don’t be afraid. If someone acts like you’re dumb for not knowing something then chances are they’re actually pretty stupid, or at least mean, and in either case unworthy of you caring what they think about you. Free yourself and learn some shit.