Camp NaNoWriMo 2017: Aftermath

The first Camp NaNoWriMo session of 2017 is over, and I completed the challenge with 30 hours (1803 minutes).

This year I went with something completely different, even considering my past unusual projects for Camp. Planning, an unusual adventure to take considering I’m usually a pantser when it comes to writing. I discussed the reasoning behind my Camp project in a previous post, and all that reasoning still stands.

So how’d my planning turn out? I got a lot of planning and research and character development done during Camp NaNo, but none of these plans are complete. The Anxiety Girl novel still has a huge blank for the middle of the book because I decided to kill one character before the story starts (the main character’s grandmother, who died during the story in the first and second drafts) and decrease the role of another (the main character’s father). One major problem with this novel is that my main character isn’t well-formed enough for me to figure out what she really wants. She’s undecided about almost everything, doesn’t know what she wants in life, and is generally a passive person. This makes for a boring character and a boring book, something I’m still working to solve.

The other big project I did planning and research for is my parallel worlds novel that I’ve been dabbling in since 2010. I’ve been putting off the research and planning ever since finishing the second draft due to complications in figuring out parallel worlds and photography and the overall plot. But at some point I was just putting these things off with no good reason, so Camp NaNo gave me a chance to dig into this novel and figure out more of the science and story behind these parallel worlds.

Completing Camp NaNoWriMo with planning and tracking by hours was difficult in its own right. One thing I learned quickly was that sure, I can write 5,000 words in an hour if I’m pressed for time, but I can’t do an hour’s worth of work in 30 minutes. My goal averaged out to an hour a day over the course of the month, which I kept up with for the first week. But as the month went on, I fell behind. I was busy, I didn’t want to sit in front of a computer screen and think through a full hour of plotting and research, and sometimes those ideas just wouldn’t come. Sometimes I’d poke at character traits or plotlines and have no idea what to do with them. Other times I’d find myself switching between projects, trying to find some kind of plot hole I could fill in or some setting quirk to add. Falling behind meant playing catchup in the last week, often to the tune of planning for several hours at once over the last weekend.

But I did it, I won, and those novels are a lot closer to the third draft. Overall, I’m glad I embraced planning and research for Camp NaNo. I’m trying to keep the momentum going for as long as possible, although not necessarily at the rate I was working at during camp. That’s the only way these books will get written, after all.

Camp NaNoWriMo 2017, Week One: Adventures in Planning

If you’ve been following along on Twitter, you may recall that my Camp NaNoWriMo project is planning for 60 minutes a day. To be specific, figuring out plot, character, and pacing for three of my past NaNoWriMo novels: the pumpkin novel, the parallel worlds novel, and the anxiety girl novel. (Surprisingly, the last one is the only one without a pending title.) I’ve been tracking my progress via minutes, which has turned out to be the most useful metric for this type of project–tracking words is nearly impossible, and tracking hours makes it hard to track partial hours. Tracking minutes has also been useful since most of my progress has happened in chunks of less than an hour, usually in sessions of fifteen to thirty minutes.

Why planning? I hate planning. I’ve always been that kid who wrote the first draft of a paper, then outlined it whenever a professor asked for an outline. I’ve tried planning for novels before, trying to figure out scenes and key events in a story, but this usually results in me staring at the paper or the screen and saying “I could stare at this paper and figure it out or I could just write the freaking thing.” Or “Who cares what color the character’s eyes are? There are too many options? How can I choose just one? Can’t I just write the thing and figure it out that way?” It doesn’t take a genius to figure out which route I’d take instead.

So I avoided the planning process. Even the times I attempted to plan something, I’d quit a few minutes later and never come back. And then I’d go right back into pantsing my way through a new first draft (or the occasional second) out of a vague concept, even if it’s like pulling teeth at times. (But then again, what act of creation doesn’t involve some teeth-pulling at some point?) This method isn’t a bad one in itself; for me, it works great for the first draft, and occasionally for the second, provided I reread the first draft before attempting a second draft. But since I base the second draft off my first draft, both of them are still disorganized messes that require lots of time, attention, and focus to turn those messes into something less messy.

Therein lies my problem. I now have at least three past NaNo novels that I’d like to see developed further. I’ve completed first and second drafts for all three of them (and an adapted screenplay for one of them, RIP Script Frenzy). But since I took the same approach to both of those novels, I wound up with two messes. Messes with some salvageable gems, sure, but messes all the same. If I’m going to continue working on these novels, I need to take a serious look at what I’m doing so I don’t screw up the next version as much. And that’s what I’ve been trying to do for camp: figure out characters, events, pacing, and everything else a novel needs so I can write a third draft that I can use as a base for editing.

Most of my time so far has been spent on the anxiety girl novel. This isn’t surprising since I worked on this novel most recently of the three (2015 and 2016 NaNoWriMo). I did switch over to working on the other two projects a few days ago after getting stuck on planning for Anxiety Girl, but the next day I went right back to that novel with more inspiration than ever. On Wednesday night I found myself still full of ideas after half an hour but knew I needed to go to bed if I was going to get a reasonable amount of sleep that night. Alas.

Those flashes of inspiration are finally coming back. I remember that joy: the joy of coming up with an idea and furiously searching for some way to scribble it down. The small notebooks with the occasional page of novel concepts and character ideas. I used to have these flashes of inspiration for past novels, but for some reason they stopped. I don’t know what happened, but over the last few years, I rarely found myself getting excited over ideas and scribbling them down. Maybe it’s because I’ve been concentrating so hard on word count for the last two or three years. I don’t know.

But I do know some of that joy in writing is starting to come back. And I can only hope that it’s ready to hang out for awhile.

Coming later this month: things I’m good at when planning and things I need to work on

Camp NaNoWriMo approacheth

March has arrived, bringing with it pleasant weather, Pi Day, and the countdown to Camp NaNoWriMo.

This year I have no idea which project to pursue. Over the past couple of years I’ve worked on Wikiwrimo updates and blog posts for this site during Camp NaNo. This year, I started working on Wikiwrimo updates earlier than usual (gasp, right?), and while my list of possible post ideas is growing, I still haven’t posted all of last year’s posts yet. Oops.

So what now? So far my main idea is reworking the novel I rewrote for 2016’s NaNo. I have two separate first drafts, with the second version containing some major changes from the first version. The question here is what to do with this. Do I create an outline for the third draft? Do I create that outline now and then write the actual third draft? I’m leaning toward the former despite my inclination toward pantsing, simply because I can’t just keep cranking out new drafts forever. Eventually I need to sit down with what I’ve written and figure out what works, what doesn’t, and how to make the prose shine (because I assure you the prose does not shine at the moment). Next month can be that time.

I can’t back out now, though–I’ve already joined a cabin for this session of Camp. Last year I joined cabins with a mix of people I already knew and people I didn’t; while this was a fun experience, it also meant that I would chat with the people I knew elsewhere. My original cabin plan for this Camp NaNoWriMo session was to enter an randomly assigned cabin; however, that changed when someone from the NaNo forums invited me into their cabin unprompted. Why not? I thought and clicked Join. Randomness can wait for the July session.

What about you? Are you doing Camp NaNoWriMo this year?

Camp NaNoWriMo 2016: The Aftermath

Confession: I’m writing most of this post in July so it can count toward my Camp NaNo total.

Now that July is over, let’s look back at the month.

I wrote a total of 20,389 words in July out of a 20,000 word goal, which means I won both Camps this year. Hooray!

July saw me working on a total of 28 blog posts. This includes my monthly(ish) book review post as well as a few posts that have been published throughout the month. July also saw me lowering my goal from 30,000 words of blogging to 20,000 words mid-month. While it felt like the easy way out at first, now I’m glad I did it. Aiming for 30,000 words was stressful enough when I was trying to make those words suck less than usual, and it was easily eating up most of my evenings during the week. Lowering my goal let me concentrate on other things on top of blogging, giving me a chance to work more regular writing into my busy lifestyle.

I wrote a lot of the blog posts on my list of things to write, whether in my ginormous Google doc or already existing as drafts within this site. This is great! I’ve written a lot of the ideas that have made their way to that list, as well as some posts that weren’t on the list at the beginning of the month. The saying is true: writing brings forth more ideas. Even though there were several days of the month where I’d stare at the “Add New Post” screen for ten minutes, there were also days where a new post would magically show up in my mind and not leave until I scribbled it down in its entirety. Some days I’d spend three hours writing my daily quota; other days, the quota would show up on my screen in under an hour–nowhere near my fiction first draft writing pace. That’s okay. What really matters is getting the words down, no matter how long it takes.

Taking on this blogging project for July Camp NaNo has also forced me to look at that list of posts and eliminate the ones I’ll never write, for one reason or another. This has been an experience in itself, as some of those ideas are over five years old and have therefore lost all relevance. Case in point: one of my old blog ideas was about what I could buy with $1500 instead of Google Glass. Remember Google Glass? I went to one of their demos in 2014, and it was a good time. But much like Google Wave and Google Buzz, Glass just didn’t take off. No one would care about that post now unless I were a time travel blogger of some kind.

So, to answer the real question: when will you see these posts? Most of these posts are as edited as I can get them in one go. My current plan is to reread the posts for typos and making sure I don’t stop in the middle of a sentence anywhere, and then post them at about a rate of once a week (or about the rate I try to blog at now). If you didn’t know I was writing all these posts in one month, you’d probably have no idea I wasn’t just writing them a few hours before posting in the first place. But thanks to camp, there are enough posts in my buffer to last quite awhile.

You’ll get to read me talking about feelings and life and anxiety and spoilers and books and social issues and who knows what else. I’ll be getting down and dirty and personal and confessing things that haven’t found their way online yet (and sometimes not even on paper). There will be essays of an impersonal nature and about writing and the occasional whining over why I’m not accomplished yet, dangit.

But somewhere in all those posts, there’s a glimmer of hope–that maybe not everything is terrible after all.

I hope you’ll stay along for the ride.

Camp NaNoWriMo 2016: Mid-Month Update

Camp NaNoWriMo is halfway over.

While I’m making solid progress on writing a bunch of these blog posts that have sat in the pipeline for ages, I’m still terribly behind my 30,000 word goal for the month. Despite my progress and long list of blog posts, I’m not sure I have enough material to last another 20,000 words.

Writing these blog posts has also taken up a lot of time. I know the NaNoWriMo philosophy is to write now, edit later. I’ve been doing that for a lot of these posts in progress, often writing random sentences as some semblance of an outline and then later figuring out how to string them all together into something coherent. That’s how a lot of these posts are getting written: I write out whatever I can get out of my head, occasionally stopping mid-sentence, to get an idea of what I want to say in a given post.

As a result, I’m frequently writing three or four posts at a time, piecing the elements of each of these posts together and trying to figure out what exactly I want to say in a certain post. A day or two later, I come back to these posts, fill in the blanks, and then polish up the post and declare it finished. That’s what I did yesterday; I started one post (which I finished today) and filled in the blanks to finish four different posts that I had been tapping away at for several days.

The problem is that I’m just past 10,000 words and am starting to run out of material to write in a timely fashion. My brain isn’t churning out the ideas like it has in past years. Sure, I could count some of my other writing toward the 30,000 word goal, but to be honest, this already feels like substantial progress. I’ve finished enough blog posts to post content for at least several months, perhaps through the end of the year if I come up with a few more ideas.

There’s also the time factor. A 30,000 word goal means writing roughly a thousand words a day every day for a month. Even on good days, it still takes me at least an hour to reach that thousand words, sometimes two hours if I’m writing multiple posts or struggling to get my thoughts organized. This makes me feel unproductive, which brings my mood down, which affects other areas of my life. (Yes, I know I spend that much time–and more!–writing fiction in November, but that feels different because I find myself getting more done in those hours.)

I’ve officially lowered my goal from 30,000 words to 20,000 words. At first this sounded like cheating to me, but the point of Camp NaNoWriMo is to set an achievable goal and reach that. And for me, that goal isn’t 30,000 words of blogging–at least, not if I’m putting my mood on the line. So 20k it is.

What about you? How is your Camp NaNoWriMo going?

Camp NaNoWriMo 2016

I mentioned in my last post that I’ve been blogging for fifteen years. That’s over half my life, and I’m still having trouble wrapping my head around that.

What I forgot to mention (and half the reason I wrote that post in the first place, oops) is that I have about a page of blog post ideas and almost as many separate post ideas in progress, many of them stagnating to the point where I forgot what was actually supposed to go in a given post. Oops.

Fortunately, Camp NaNoWriMo is upon us. Since I seem to have better luck with projects that aren’t fiction, I’m giving myself a deadline for writing some of those posts. That’s right. Writing more material for this site is my Camp NaNoWriMo project, so this site will be active once again.

That doesn’t mean you’ll see all these posts at the same time. Far from it. I plan on scheduling these posts, so you’ll continue to see about a post a week on average until I run out of ideas. This is particularly important for November NaNo and the weeks leading up to it, since the one month of the year when people are paying attention to me is the one month of the year I don’t have time to take advantage of that attention. Funny how that works.

I’ll be back at the official @NaNoWordSprints Twitter throughout the month, along with some other fabulous Wrimos and volunteers, to lead writing sprints and get you across your goal finish line. Join us there and watch your word count rise!

And a very happy Camp NaNoWriMo to everyone! Write, write, write!

Are you participating in Camp NaNoWriMo? What are you working on?

Alumnae Weekend, Camp NaNoWriMo, and Life Update

It’s May, and that means lots of things are happening.

Camp NaNoWriMo was a bust, with my total word count on the new Wrimonia novel a lovely 2004 words. Come on, I couldn’t write ten more for 2014 or cut two words for the palindrome 2002? Still, despite the extra time I had later in the month, I spent that time on other projects, like other writing and code and reading.

Alumnae Weekend (the real one, not just the math bowl) went okay. I’m indifferent toward the idea of school reunions to start with. While I’d never go to my high school reunion for multiple reasons, I do like many of the people I went to college with. Problem is, the nature of such a reunion means most of the people you talk to are the people you were friends with while there. As someone who floated around social circles for most of her life, this was awkward. Add in the fact that some of these folks are people I wish I had gotten to know better and now we’re adults and that ship has sailed. Still, between vegan brunch and Waffle House at 2am and a secret party and a stolen songbook, I had a good enough time.

My Knee. Oh, the knee. See, my alma mater’s campus has a few very climbable trees. I passed these trees on the way back from my class party to the big college shindig celebrating the 125th anniversary of the college. And what did I do in my nice dress? Climb one of the trees, of course. Because why wouldn’t I?

This didn’t work out too well. I tried walking on the branch and fell out. Luckily (?) I landed on my feet, but then I decided it would be a good idea to try again. And again! I repeated this cycle a few times, landing on my feet every time until giving up and going to the fancy shindig. I thought nothing of this while getting dragged on the dance floor and going to Waffle House afterward. But the next morning my knee hurt. I hobbled to the kitchen for breakfast, pain in every step. I dreaded standing and hoped this injury would go away because knee injuries, in general, aren’t a good thing.

Thankfully it did. I stayed off my feet most of the week and by Thursday I resumed a mostly normal gait. I took the stairs! And took out the trash! I could probably take a long walk now, but for safety’s sake I’m giving it another day or two before doing so. Because you never know.

I’m also close to beating Pokemon Black. Well, not including all the postgame stuff. And wow. Pokemon Black/White is phenomenal. Seriously, if you like Pokemon (or even if you just liked it a kid), go play it if you haven’t already. I need to do a little more grinding before the very last fight, but that’s no big deal.

And the next post or two will probably be another book review post now that I’ve accumulated a good number, along with a tea post. Get excited.

Camp NaNoWriMo is almost here

Camp NaNoWriMo, the lightweight, set-your-own-goal and work on whatever you want version of National Novel Writing Month, starts on Tuesday. Eek! I’ve had mixed luck with Camp NaNoWrimo, mostly because I try to edit during camp and then fail miserably. This year I do have a new idea to write from scratch, so I’m hoping for a win.

What is that idea, you ask? Funny you should ask. I’m considering a third Wrimonia novel. (Haven’t read the other two? Go fix that.

Adventures in Wrimonia: Mia Goes to Camp

Mia Wonnor has never gone to camp before. She’s also never done Camp NaNoWriMo. But when April comes around and Mia finds several unfinished novels taking over, Camp NaNoWriMo looks like a great chance to complete both at once. With Wrimos from all over the world sharing cabins and working on any creative project they want, creativity is in the air at Camp NaNoWriMo. Mia is ready to finish all the novels and maybe decide which one she wants to edit.

The problem is, conflict is in the air. Just as with any camp, there are cabinmate conflicts, character conflicts, and merit badges to be earned. There are nature hikes and the occasional bear. And the Block Ness Monster lurks in the lake, halting progress of anyone who dares approach…

And as always with the Wrimonia novels, I’ll be posting in installments once I’ve finished the book and fixed the typos.

You should join Mia and me at camp! It’ll be a lot of fun. I’ll be back at @NaNoWordSprints on Twitter, leading some word sprints for camp for maximum word count increasing.

And if April isn’t for you, Camp will return in July for more writing fun.

Camp NaNoWriMo: Success!

I wrote word number 50,132 at around 8:30 tonight to finish Camp NaNoWriMo, and you know what that means.

Camp NaNoWriMo winner icon

That’s right. I’m a Camp NaNoWriMo winner. It was a real push to the end, but I finished with several hours to spare, and even a bug in the Camp NaNo website didn’t keep me from verifying on time thanks to Dan and Jezra fixing it before midnight in my time zone. For those who still haven’t verified yet, the bug should be fixed, so you should be able to verify if you haven’t already.

The story is finished. This is something I thought might happen before hitting 50,000 words based on the brief outline I made with 10,000 words to go, but luckily enough ideas flowed out of the brain to keep my six inches of post office receipt outline going for 10,000 more words.

The thing I’m most proud of during Camp NaNo is my 5,000 word hour. I didn’t think this would happen, but I had to try after missing the mark by roughly 200 words. So I set the timer for one hour and went to town, sliding in at 5,002 words an hour later. That one was close. It’s not something I want to do too often, though. It may seem like just a little faster than my typical word war speed, but those few extra words a minute every minute make a huge difference in my coherency.

A couple of other notes before I call Camp NaNo a wrap:

Daft Punk’s Human After All and Discovery are great magical writing albums. I wrote my first near-miss 5k hour to Discovery, which is almost exactly an hour long. Human After All is right around 45 minutes long, making it great for 45-minute writing sessions. I haven’t tested Homework because I don’t own it and because it’s almost 74 minutes long, not a very nice round writing session.

The other musical discovery is Dragonforce. A couple of people told me about them, one of them in passing. Today I was looking for good writing music and the name came up again. Grooveshark came to the rescue, queued some of Dragonforce’s music, and I wrote my 5k hour. Their music is ridiculously fast; the person who mentioned them in passing described it as speed metal. This is the kind of stuff I want to write to all the time. I’ll have to start exploring similar artists before Three-Day Novel weekend so I can have a nice big playlist of similarly fast music.

Congratulations to everyone to completed July’s Camp NaNo, and good luck to everyone doing the August session of Camp Nano! You have a fun month of writing ahead of you.

A new magical writing album?

Remember how I was going to write and write and write today? Well, a bit of back pain put a damper in that plan, so I wound up writing on my laptop in bed for a good bit of the day. If you’ve ever written in bed, you probably know that writing in bed isn’t conducive to writing at breakneck speeds, but by golly, I tried anyway. It didn’t work too well. I could write at close to my typical rate but only for a few minutes at a time. This was unacceptable, but I still managed three thousand words while lying in bed, mostly on my back with my laptop on my thighs.

Then the back pain subsided for awhile, meaning it was time to write for real. I put on the magical writing album, Shake the Sheets by Ted Leo and the Pharmacists, and went to town. The result? 3200 words in 40 minutes. Repeating this timing resulted in similar results but with different albums in my testing of potential magical writing albums. Now I have just over 20,000 words to write tomorrow. This is manageable. I think I can do this.

But instead of writing, let’s talk music. The two test albums were The Rural Alberta Advantage’s Hometowns and Andrew Jackson Jihad’s Can’t Maintain. Neither of these albums is very long, making them ideal for magical writing to happen; I can time word wars around the length of the album. The latter album turned out to be much better than the former for magical writing goodness. While there are some good fast songs with strong beats from Hometowns that are great for writing, it’s like Spoon’s Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga in that about half the songs are great for magical writing and the other half, while good songs, don’t have the magical writing vibe to them.

Can’t Maintain, on the other hand, has a lot of potential. I’ll have to give it another listen while writing tomorrow, but it may become my second magical writing album. The loud fast beats and folk punk influences make it great for my fast-paced word wars, especially since my writing tends to go more quickly if I write to faster music. The length is just right, too. At just under half an hour, I can queue the whole album, hit play, and time a half hour writing session that way. Shake the Sheets also has this advantage for a 40-minute writing session at 39:52. I can write for eight more seconds to a different song.

I’ll definitely be testing out some more candidates for magical writing albums and expanding the overall magical writing playlist before NaNo. It’ll be key for getting me through those days where I don’t want to write at all. Any candidate suggestions are welcome.