5 Essentials to Surviving Camp Nanowrimo

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I’ve embarked on a new WIP for Camp Nanowrimo 2019. Every time I think about this new one, I’m not sure I understand it yet. Which is part of the fun, because first drafts are for mistakes and too much dialogue and too little description and INSERT CHARACTER NAME HERE moments and plot holes and being continuously surprised by your characters and where they take you.

However, first drafts are daunting. And when you’re doing something like Camp Nanowrimo, it can be intimidating staring down a new project and not knowing what to write next. For me, there is fear of failure, of not meeting word counts, of writing myself into a corner.

Believe me when I say I worry about this a lot. During November 2018, I failed Nanowrimo. The official novel writing month challenges asks you to write at least 50k in thirty days. You’re supposed to sit down every day and write at least 1,666 words. You’re supposed to make a dent in that story that’s been weighing on your mind. You’re supposed to let go of self-control and perfectionism and just write.

That is hard.

Which is why Camp Nano is one of my favorite times of the year. Because there is more flexibility (of course, you’re not signing away your soul or your firstborn during November and can loosely cheat if that’s your style) with the camp version. You can declare whether you’re editing or writing or rewriting or whatever it is you need to do to finish the current draft. You get to pick your ow word count goal, meaning you can aim high or low and make it easier or harder on yourself.

No matter what, showing up every day to write can be difficult. I decided that I still wanted to write at least 50k this month. My current draft was sitting at a meager 8,377 words before I started, which means it’ll be around the 60k word count by the end of April.

We’re eleven days in and I have no idea if I’ll actually reach my goal. I’ve been wavering around 1k words per day now (but I’m hoping that once I catch up on my GOT re-watch and season 8 premieres, I’ll be back on track).

But I’m still writing every day. And here’s how:

5 ESSENTIALS TO SURVIVING CAMP NANOWRIMO

1. A Pre-Existing Idea

I’ve found that in previous years when I went into Nanowrimo without any solid idea of what I was going to write that month, I always failed. So, this year, I decided to return to a partial draft that’s been sitting in my .docs for a while. with only 8k words, I haven’t put so much time into it that it’s well on its way to being finished, but it’s also not so new that I don’t know anything about my hopes or my intentions for this story.

Knowing the general trajectory of the plot helps me keep writing and doesn’t keep me constantly in a “create” mode, which can be hard to maintain for a week, let alone a whole month.

2. A No Rereading/Rewriting Rule

I struggle with perfectionism, and will often times write several pages only to highlight and delete them moments after. (Sometimes, I really regret that decision and will ultimately undo it). But I can’t spend time this month getting caught up in small details that don’t require my immediate attention or damage the story in any way.

This time around, I’ve instated a new rule that I cannot reread or rewrite any of my scenes. (Admittedly, I’ve broken this rule once because it was very apparent halfway through the chapter that it was not at all what I was envisioning for it). But rereading and rewriting make me lose my momentum. I get caught up in things that don’t actually need to be fixed right away and once I get too focused on the minor problems, I can’t move on. I eventually just stop writing.

3. A Draft 2 Notepad

Because of the above rule, I needed a way to please my inner editor. Sometimes, she just won’t shut up. Like she’ll see something on the page or think of something better and won’t let me move forward until I’ve fixed whatever problem has caught her attention.

So, this time around, I’ve kept blank pages in my project notebook to scribble down ideas for things that need to be changed/reworked/rewritten/deleted in the next draft. It’s not as satisfying as going back and just rewriting everything from the very first line, it’s making it easier to keep moving forward.

(You might me noticing a pattern and it really is all about momentum and keeping writing and not getting caught up in the mistakes.)

4. A Scene Jar

Inevitably, I will get stuck. I will most likely write myself into a corner, or realize I’m missing a crucial event that needed to happen several chapters ago or that I just don’t like the current direction the draft is taking. And since I’m not starting with a random idea and no words, I went ahead and scribbled down different scene ideas on notecards. I dropped them into a mason jar, and now, whenever I’m feeling stuck, I pick a random scene to write.

I’ve found that it works great for a project in which you know the general gist of the characters/place/plot because the scene ideas feel like specialized prompts.

5. A Reward System

Finally, I created a word-count tracker. I’ve been using the pacemaker.press websitte as well as a notebook. At the end of the night, I scribble in the box if I’ve met my word count goal and jot down my daily progress regardless. Each week, I get to reward myself with something as long as I have shown up every day to write. It’s a simple but effective way to hold myself accountable, but also not guilt-trip myself either.

 

These are just small pieces of my process for Camp Nanowrimo. They’re all relatively simple, but I’ve found that they keep me writing, which is ultimately my goal for this month.

Do you have any tips or tricks to tackling a draft in one month? Drop them below, I’d love to know how your project is going!

Each WIP Requires Something Different

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It’s Day 5 of Camp NaNoWriMo, and I’m once again at Barnes & Noble. When you live outside of the city, there aren’t very many small cafes to escape to. So, I always end up at the same place, at the window seat, where the view isn’t more than the parking lot and trees in the distance.

Right now, I’m craving nature. All I wish for are sunny days and warmth and hours spent in the woods. What I’d really love is a writer’s retreat: a weekend in a cabin up in the mountains with two or three other writers, several bottles of wine, and conversations about writing. But there are currently too many things up in the air right now to make that happen, so instead I settle for this chair near the window.

I’ve found these days that my writing is very much dependent on my space. It’s so important during this drafting stage for me to just get the words out on the page, which is interesting, considering that when I was a teenager and writing mainly to post on Wattpad, I could write just about anywhere.

I’m still accepting that my process is an ever-changing thing. This is both encouraging and frustrating.

It has a lot to do with the fact that each WIP requires something different. When I was writing my last project (for this post’s sake, I’ll refer to it as Project B), I was a different person. I was fresh out of a heartbreak that shook my entire world. I was running three times a week just to clear my head, relying heavily on my friendships, drinking far too much, and battling shame and depression and change.

I’m a much different person now, so what my current WIP is asking of me is different. While set in the same town with a few reoccurring characters, I’m tackling a whole new subject and a completely new voice.

With Project B, I was able to sit down and write all day. There was just so much built up emotion and frustration and sadness, I found that the best way for me to deal with it was to write about it. Once the words starting flowing from my fingertips, I often couldn’t stop. I’d write and write and write, most days forgetting to eat, forgetting to hydrate, sacrificing sleep to write whenever the urge struck me.

This time, I can’t do that. Not only does my job really interfere with my writing time, but I’ve tried to spend an entire day at my desk and it doesn’t work. I’m fidgety and maybe only ever really writing for two hours at a time. Forget any sort of linear trajectory. I write whatever comes to mind (thank goodness for Scrivener).

At first, I thought that maybe it was because I don’t quite yet feel like I understand the voice of my current main character. During Project B, I felt like I was just pouring my heart onto the page. After my mom read the second or third draft, she said to me, “Kammi, this sounds just like you.” I hadn’t mentioned to her how much I felt like that character was a part of me.

This time, I feel kind of the same way the further I get into the story. My current MFC is just a different version of me. If the one from Project B was a reflection of the person I was two years ago, my new one is a reflection of who I was as a teenager and perhaps the things I haven’t yet outgrown or dealt with. Our situations are vaguely similar, and if anything, her journey is shrouded in the same confusion I’m still dealing with, especially when it comes to a political divide in her household and who she is versus who her parents want her to be.

I decided to use a lighter tone, to have this character use humor as a defense mechanism. (If you know me in real life, you know I am definitely not funny. And most of my humor is based around sarcasm and genuinely me just being a pretentious asshole). Regardless, I think at times this is why I’m struggling to really get into the story because both the form and the voice are so different from what I usually write.

That’s part of the beauty of writing a book. With each one you write, you realize it requires something different from you. In the end, though, it teaches you something in return. Sometimes it’s something about yourself, about your process, about your outlook on life, and sometimes you just can’t pinpoint what about you has changed.

I’m not entirely sure what I’m going to get from this draft. And maybe that’s because I’m also not entirely sure what is happening with these characters or where they will take me.

And with Project B, I dreaded all of the unknowing. I felt like I had to have absolute control over the story and the characters and the message, and if I didn’t, it meant I would ultimately fail.

But this time, it’s different. I’m excited about the newness, about the adventure, about how I haven’t the slightest clue how it’ll all end.

I think that finally means I’m just excited to be writing again.

The Bright Side

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So…it’s been awhile.

I know at the beginning of January, I had all of the intentions of posting weekly, but I started a new position at my job that quickly deterred me from a lot in life (and ate up almost all of my free time). It’s not glamorous in any way, and more often than not, I’m left exhausted and angry at the end of the night.

Let’s just say that 2019 isn’t exactly turning out to be the year of my dreams.

If anything, I’m quickly realizing that this might be the year that challenges me, that will continuously ask me how far I’m willing to go and how much I’m willing to sacrifice to achieve these dreams.

I’ve been holding onto a lot of rejection lately, which has led to a lot of dissatisfaction about my current place in life. After feeling incredible about the interview I had with a publishing house in New York, I ultimately didn’t land the job. The last agent who had the full draft of my last book didn’t want it. These were two things that could have changed the trajectory of my life. (I should be clear to point out that all I really want right now is some form of stability, which only one of these could have truly offered. I’m well aware of how competitive the publishing field is and I’m so grateful for these opportunities.)

Anyway, it felt very much like the publishing world wanted nothing I had to offer.

Admittedly, there was a lot of anger and frustration and many tears because these are things I’ve wanted since I was a child. Things that I have spent more money than I will ever have in order to be educated to increase my chances, to have internships, to have spent time writing, to buy books. Things I had romanticized as an escape from this very present stuck feeling that I cannot shake no matter how hard I try.

I am ridiculously hard on myself. Failure is a word that makes me deeply uncomfortable, but I have always gotten back up. Sometimes, I just power through it and suppress any and all emotions until fate brings them rising to the surface and I have no choice but to confront them.

So, this time, I tried to deal with it. I felt it all. I spent the Friday evening that both rejections landed in my inbox at home alone. I read my book, pretended it didn’t hurt, dug the knife in deeper by telling myself I’d never get my foot in the publishing world door and that I wasn’t good enough to be an editorial assistant or an author anyway. I watched too many episodes of Bob’s Burgers and cried through the funny parts (because losing out on both opportunities felt like going through a break up), and then I took a bath and went to bed.

It’s been about a week now, and I feel a little better. I talked to a friend about it, someone who has always been upfront with me, whether it was about my manuscript or life. She told me about a friend of hers that made her realize writing/publishing could be a career. But this friend ended up taking every rejection very personally and just gave up.

That’s something I refuse to do. Even when I feel I’m at my worst, at my lowest, I will always try to stand back up. It might take some time, but I’ve learned through the years of rejections arriving in my inbox that this is proof that I’m trying. And, yes, it’s extremely hard to look on the bright side when you feel further from achieving your dreams than ever before. But isn’t it worse to just walk away? To not keep trying?

Because in the publishing world, all it really takes is one yes.

And it was that alone that made me sit back up. Yesterday marked the first day of Camp NaNoWriMo. I’ve been sitting on a third of a draft for some time, but have hardly written anything in months. But I woke up yesterday morning with one thing on my mind:

it is time to begin again.

Hi, Hello, Happy 2019

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At the end of every year, I like to sit down and make lists: one for the lessons I learned that year, and the goals I’d like to accomplish in the following. It’s a great moment of reflection for me. In the making of the lists, I tend to uncover something I hadn’t noticed during the year. Like the changes I went through, the way I see myself now, the friends I lost along the way, how necessary almost all things are.

This year had a lot to do with rejection. In my personal life and in my creative life, I faced rejection. I began 2018 letting things hurt, really focusing too hard on things I couldn’t change when it came to partners and love and myself. I learned that I couldn’t make anyone stay. And it wasn’t worth changing myself to do so.

Creatively, I did a lot. I wrote ten drafts of a book I wrote for myself. I read more widely than other years. I studied the market. I let my closest friends read my book. I queried when I was afraid to. I applied for Pitch Wars. Out of the handful of agents I queried, two asked for the full. It was one of the most vulnerable things I’d ever done. And, in the end, being rejected stung. It hurt more than I can really put into words, but it’s all part of the process, of becoming a better writer.

None of those moments were fun. Sometimes, reflecting isn’t either. It’s so easy to get lost in nostalgia, and that often leads to acknowledging the uncomfortable, painful moments that led to the realization. Growth is never easy, that much I know for sure.

So, this year, when I sat down to do my yearly reflection, I wasn’t sure what I’d find. In many ways, 2018 was a quiet year. Quiet but overwhelming. Loud and painful. There were so many moments I dreaded before they ever began, and so many I still wish would have never ended. In the end, I’m thankful for the good and the bad, because I grew due to both.

Here we are, the beginning of 2019. I have big hopes and dreams, but also broad goals that don’t necessarily require accomplishment. They simply require my effort. I’m still learning to not be so hard on myself, for the inevitable times when I will not live up to my own expectations, when perfection cannot fit into my vocabulary.

In 2019, I don’t want to simply be more productive. I want to thrive in creativity. I want to enjoy the process of drafting again. I want to fall back in love with writing. And that’s why I’ve been so absent on my little corner of the internet. I haven’t enjoyed writing in a a long time. Heck, these days, even writing an Instagram caption is too stressful.

I know that January 1st is just another day. For the most part, we’re all still the same person as we were before the clock struck midnight. But I can’t deny that I love the idea of a clean slate. Of the opportunity to continuously reinvent myself, my craft, this life of mine.

So here’s to a year of creativity, to falling in love with whatever and whoever, to pushing myself, and to practicing more self-care when necessary. I hope that you thrive in 2019, that you aren’t too hard on yourself and that you spend your days doing what you love.

What are your goals for 2019?

Breathe (This Makes Me Wanna Listen to Michelle Branch)

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So, it’s been a minute. I know, really, it’s been a lot of them. But I’m forever learning that life doesn’t always go the way you plan. Things most certainly don’t unfold in the dramatic scenes you play in your head, and, unfortunately, there’s a lot of disappointment down the road. Not to be cheesy, but there is beauty in that, too. I guess there’s just a lot of lessons to be learned.

Lately, I haven’t been in the mood for the world to prove me wrong. For the sake of my ego–and my mental health–sometimes you just gotta take things as they come. As I’ve learned many times in the past year, you can’t control everything.

Recently, my life has pulled me away from creating. It’s a weird headspace for me, being so focused on practical things–saving money to move out, trying to figure out where I even want to go, if I can handle moving to another state and leaving behind my family, what I even want to do these days–that I’ve lost that part of me that loves to create.

The further I drift from writing, the further I drift from myself. Me not writing is a reflection of my brain.

All I want is to get back into the fun (and hell) of a first draft. I want the mess, the characters that do whatever they want, the plot holes, and that feeling of being so involved in the story that hours go by without me noticing.

Countless times I’ve started and scrapped something. I even made it fifty pages into a draft before I stepped away because I couldn’t work my way through the plot.

This new idea scares me. It’s intimidating. In size. In emotional heftiness. In all of the world-building it’ll require. In all of the essential character development. In maybe prying open a wound I’ve left festering for too long. Also, in this new idea, my characters are older. It’s even a different genre. So this is way out of my comfort zone, which is exciting yet terrifying.

Ultimately, I think this is about me not getting ahead of myself. I have all sorts of ideas, and I need to remind myself that writing is about the adventure. About the love I have for it. How it has saved me time and time again. That it’s okay to take a break. That I will find my way back to it when I’m ready.

I mean, in May of 2017, I thought I would never write again. And then I opened a random Scrivener document and there was nothing but a single note about a basic plot idea. That sparked the novel I’ve spent the past year working on, a novel that I will always love regardless if it goes anywhere.

So, maybe, I should just breathe.

Let life do its thing.

And see how it all works out in the end.