Red Lettering

Stories will not be written easily. A story without a heart is dead, and the only place it will get a heart is from the author.

Archive for the tag “Camp NaNoWriMo”

Preparing for Camp

Preparing for CampEvery year—sometimes twice or thrice a year—my family experiences an upheaval to our schedule as a few of the writers in the house participate in a National Novel Writing Month Event—whether the National Novel Writing Event in November, or the two Camp NaNoWriMo events in April and July. A good portion of you writers know what they are, how they work, and what I think of them. For those of you who don’t, you can click the websites for the first two, and look at my other NaNoWriMo posts for the second. NaNoWriMo events are some of the most exciting and helpful things for writers, aside from writer’s conferences and publishing deals, and NaNoers join up from all corners of this world to write (occasionally a writer will participate from Narnia or Arwiar, but internet signal is bad there, so it’s pretty infrequent).

Some writers come away with 50,000 words of nonsensical words, and others come away with a workable first draft (one friend of mine also uses NaNo events to edit, but I’m fairly certain that she has superpowers, so I wouldn’t recommend attempting this for the rest of us). Sometimes we succeed, and sometimes we don’t; either way, it tends to be okay. Either we gain twenty thousand words of story, or we learn something.

For most of the five years leading up to this post, I’ve come away from a NaNoWriMo event with decent words. Never perfect words, but decent ones for my stage in writing and in drafting. In November of 2015, I came away with a fifty thousand useless words, mostly beginnings which I quickly marked as useless. Among those words (which I assure you has found a dusty, shadowy corner of my hard drive to hide in), I learned something.

You can’t SotP it all the way.*

While I doubt any of you planners have this problem, sometimes us seat-of-the-pants writers occasionally say, “Oh, we don’t plan; why would we need to know this before we start writing?”

From my experiences during NaNoWriMo last year, I learned that there are certain things that you absolutely must be clear on before you begin any sort of intensive writing.

The Camp NaNoWriMo website just went live for July, but before you begin writing your grand novel, there are certain things you need to work out.

Your characters. You don’t necessarily have to know everything about your characters before you begin— even hard planners don’t do that. Characters change and develop more deeply as the story progresses; you’ll never know a character fully until they’ve come to the end of their story (unless, that is, they’re a two-dimensional Mary Sue, which is to be avoided at all costs). Whatever method you use to develop your characters should be done before the month starts to avoid needless frustration on your part. You can either develop your characters before going in to draft one, or you can develop them in post. Doing it in the beginning is always easier.

One piece of vital information about your character is their character motivation. What is their want that drives them to do what they do? What thing do they need? The two things are rarely the same thing, but occasionally they’re directly in conflict. A character’s want/need drives all aspects of their action. You can know what their favorite type of ice cream is, but it will never help you as much as the simple knowledge of what their goal is.

Your setting. Your setting will influence all of your novel—your plot, your character, the way other people interact with your characters. Your setting includes everything from your political and cultural climate to your actual physical setting. Politics always play a part in world-changing events; be aware of what is going on in the background.

Before you start writing, know what sort of region your story is set in, to avoid accidentally switching around mid-way. Consider which setting is best for your story before you begin telling. It can always fixed in editing, but again, it’s easier to set out with the knowledge than to have to change things after you’ve finished. Avoid having to edit out guns because you decided partially through the story that your tale would better be served without pistols.

Your concept. Clarify your concept. Know what your story is about—if you write strongly from themes, consider what your themes may be (though most people who include themes in their story find out half-way through, it still may do you some good to think about it before you start). Think about the direction that you want your story to go in, even if you don’t plot it out entirely. Having a general idea of where you’re headed helps to keep you on track.

Your concept can include your original idea, what sort of story you want to tell (a war story, a coming of age story, a space story?), any major plot points or plot twists; it can be however in-depth you want it to be. Just be aware of what sort of story you want to tell before you start trying to tell it.

How in-depth you go depends on your personal preference. If you feel like you need to plot all the way to “The End”, by all means, do so! If you’re more comfortable with little planning, there’s no need to plan it all the way out. But always, always remember.

You can’t SotP it all the way through.

Are any of you planning to do Camp this July? What is your plan for the month? Planning or SotPing?

*For those who are unfamiliar with this particular writer term, SotP stands for the phrase “Seat of the Pants”, meaning that a writer goes into their writing with little to no planning or idea of where the story is going.

To Camp, or Not to Camp

To Camp or Not to Camp(In case of curiosity, aye; I did change the wording of the picture simply so I would not be quoting Shakespeare.)

It wasn’t very long ago that I wrote about NaNoWriMo or Camp; most of you who are here now reading this post will remember both. A few of you are new here – and for ye who haven’t read the other posts, the next paragraph is for you.

Ever since my first time doing NaNoWriMo , a challenge to write 50,000 words in the month of November, I have continued to come back. I’ve won all four times I’ve participated, and twice during the three times I’ve done Camp (in which you can set your own word goal). Ever since my first time doing NaNo, I’ve supported it wholeheartedly; in fact, I prefer to write my first drafts in a short period of time. A month full of stats, web badges and encouragement just makes it all the better.

November is my favorite month of the year, with April and July coming in close behind. One of my (unofficial) goals for this year is to participate in every event (and edit in between… oh, joy).

I have, for these four years told people that they should try it; that it is a very good writing tool for every writer.

Now I am older and perhaps slightly wiser, and, while I still love NaNo and will still participate every chance I get, I now know that NaNo may not be best for some writers.

Those of you who are full-fledged NaNo supporters are now staring at me blankly. “What…? But–!” You say.

No, wait. Let me finish.

I prefer to write my first drafts as fast as possible. In fact, I epic-ly failed a 100 words for 100 days challenge, for that is not the way I write – I write all at once, as fast and hard as I can, to reach a specific overall goal.

Yet some writers need more time to write as they go. They write slowly so they can be sure the material is good. They work to smaller goals on the way to the bigger ones.

We are all writers, but as different people, we have different styles. As we learn the way we write best, we will produce the most quality work we can.

If NaNo makes you feel rushed, don’t do it. If editing as you go makes you lose your creativity, don’t do it.

Try out different methods, even if your writing friends do it a different way, or you’ve heard it done in a particular manner. As soon as you learn how you write, you’ll enjoy it, you’ll be more productive, and you’ll be more likely to keep up with whatever goals you choose to set. Do try out NaNo, Camp, or other writing programs, but be ready to change your strategy if necessary.

If you do participate in Camp, I would love to know what you’re working on and what your word goal is.

Why We Go To Camp

Participant 2014 - Twitter Header 2

The wind whooshes around you, pulling at you and kidnapping your breath, holding it for ransom. Your feet do not touch anything, and though your eyes are open, you see only blackness.

Finally, you feel ground solidifying underneath your feet and the rushing wind slows, then stops. After blinking a few times, you are able to make out your surroundings; several stylishly rustic-looking cabins dot the area around you. A few trees are scattered here and there, as though someone walked past with a leaking bag of seeds, but your attention is quickly taken from the way things look, and given to the way things sound. You have been outside before, as most people have, so you find it unusual that there is no natural sound. No crickets chirp in the knee-length grass. No birds sing from the tops of the trees or the insides of the roofs.

Then you notice that the lack of natural sounds is not the only thing unusual. You can hear a clack, clack, clacking coming from the cabins surrounding you, a loud version, and a softer version that reminds you of typing on computer keyboards. Determined to investigate, you make your way cautiously toward the doorway of a nearby cabin. The door is open, so you step in.

It takes your eyes a moment to adjust to the difference in light, but soon you see with clarity the odd sight in front of you. Eleven people sit, stand, or pace in the cabin in front of you. Boys and girls, men and women, they have only one thing in common: the fact that each of them is writing. One writes at a typewriter; another with a pen; yet another dictates their words into a computer program. 

If you are confused, reader, you might be pleased to know that you’re just walked onto a website labeled Camp NaNoWriMo. It should sound familiar to some of you, but to others it might be an alien term, so I shall explain.

Camp NaNoWriMo is what happened when the National Novel Writing Month branched off into separate sections, creating two smaller but similar challenges in April and July. A writer can join the website, set a word goal, and write for the entire aforementioned months to meet their goal. Whether their goal be big or small, whether the writer be walking, jogging or sprinting, many writers gather on one website to write their novels.

Separated into “cabins” of eleven people, the writers face writer’s block, lack-of-time, procrastination and distraction with each other for one month.

One of the obvious questions when faced with such information would be, “Why in the worlds would I want to do such a thing as that?”

Well, dear reader. I searched the internet for just such an answer, and Google told me several things that I think apply to writer just as (more than!) they apply to children.

Why Children and Writers Should Go To Camp

  • To Try New Things
  • To Challenge Themselves
  • To Get a Change of Routine
  • To Meet New People
  • To Learn New Skills
  • To Get More Active
  • It Builds Self-Esteem

Most writers will know what’s best for themselves better than I do, and perhaps Camp is not right for everyone (talk to your doctor before using Camp, and it should not be used by young children or… ah, sorry. No.) but I know that I’ve grown substantially as a writer every time I did Camp NaNoWriMo or NaNoWriMo. Whatever regular summer camp may be, whatever children might learn if they go to camp, writers learn when they challenge themselves.

Will you go look at their website?

Will you challenge yourself?

Will I see you at camp?


On the Longest Fortnight Ever…

Sitting on the floor with her knees up, a notebook propped against them, a girl stared blankly at the near-white paper in front of her. A purple mechanical pencil lay unmoving in her hand as her head whirled, trying to think of what to write, but keeping stubbornly empty. Taking a deep breath, the girl leaned forward and looked forlornly at the paper. It looked back at her, expectancy filling its eyes, strangely non-existent though they were.

She had never meant to stay away that long.

Apologies, she had found, seemed only to make people feel awkward and uncomfortable, but this time, she would give one. They deserved one.

She leaned forward, set her pencil lead to her paper, and began to write.

I’m sorry.

When we moved, I did the best thing I knew to do; I paused in the maintenance of this blog. Yet moving became more complicated, and the crazy idea (yet epic and most appreciated) of doing Camp NaNoWriMo in spite of moving was suggested. When the move was completed, I continued steadily working my way up to the 50,000 word mark, but every time I opened a blank document to write a post for here, or ran my options for posts and interviews through my head, my mind seemed to come across a brick wall. How was I to start again after the slightly-longer-than-expected absence?

And there I made my first mistake; I let the matter rest.* I moved on with life and ignored the constant whispers of the blank cyberspace pages begging to be filled, ignored how they were reminding me of my dedicated readers.

As Camp NaNoWriMo ended, I found the obvious staring me in the face: I had been away too long. It was far past the time I should have posted again.

When a friend asked a question, I found myself on the blog page, and it pulled up the statistics page for me as it usually does when I open the website. Staring at the bars to indicate the views on my blog, I was astounded. Though I could see to the fourteenth of April, there was only two days that I could see to be void of views. Amazed by the dedication of my readers and thoroughly chastised for my abandonment, I came to my senses and a decision: within the week, there would be a post on this blog, no matter what happened.

And so, fair readers, you have found the circumstances surrounding my suddenly lengthened disappearance. What say you? I hope that you will not hold against me my mistakes, and I know that I will have to build up your trust again. My hope is that you will never again be unsure of when the next post should come, and instead you should know that I will regularly post. Forgive me, please, for my tardiness; I will not disappoint you in the future.

A new house, an exciting few weeks, and fifty thousand more words later, I have returned. The word “fortnight” was for a moment longer than it usually is. Hopefully the meaning will go back to normal now.


* If you got that reference, that’s awesome. You can probably guess what I’m reading.

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