Tag Archives: NaNoWriMo

Camp in July: Motivation Stops Here

Camp Nanowrimo has famously been difficult for me, except for a couple of times. I do this to myself, of course, over and over, because I must be a masochist. Really, I’m just ambitious. After finding my groove with an older story again, wanting to finish and spurred on by my great energy with the revision of my erotica in April, I picked up where I left off.

And got firmly stuck in the mud, days later.

This has had to be my worst month. I didn’t really keep track of wordcount. I could barely get myself to write every day. I was avoiding the camp website. It was sticky and awful and kind of depressing, to be honest.

I was also having the hardest time trying to figure out why it was so hard for me. When I know there’s a goal in sight, I’m usually steadfast toward it, and make great strides and bounds. This time it was like my neck was craned back, staring up at a billboard that I thought was too high to climb, with a ladder right in front of me.

I refused to think it was motivation. I’ve wanted to write and finish this novel so badly. Inspiration was all there, I knew how to tap into more, how to get my mind going.

But there it was, at the eye of the storm. I wanted to write but I didn’t want to. Were my ideas good enough, was I making enough sense? Had I really read through the more crucial chapters again and actually gotten a feel for what was going on, so I knew the tone to start off with? How was my pacing?

Every question just came at me. I didn’t want to accept it, but I couldn’t deny it, either.

More commonly known as Writer’s Block, it sucks. And sometimes there’s really nothing you can do about it but let it pass and relax and not worry until it leaves you the hell alone. Trying to force it away may or may not do something for you.

Even now, I’m having a hard time getting through this. I question my credibility and my ability and whether or not I’m getting off topic or staying on track. Everything is questioned, because I don’t know if I should trust myself or not just by plowing through something. Quieting those questions can be harder because there’s always a nag at the back of your head wondering if you’re doing it right, and that you don’t want to have to overhaul it completely…

It’s the Hot Mess Express, and I’m the conductor, apparently.

But it makes sense, when I think about it boiling down to trust. Trusting myself and what I do and how I do it makes me less likely to move forward. Friend has been having a particularly nasty case of writer’s block as well, where he’s very uncertain of himself. Along the same lines, where he wants it to look good and be a long, great read, but it’s a lot of pressure. It’s a lot for him to live up to with every piece and he’s not trusting himself to simply write and come up with something, at all, that’s readable.

The big hurdle here is to let go of all of those insecurities and just do it. Forget everything holding you down and just go. But that is much easier said than done.

Hopefully my NaNoWriMo experience won’t be this terrible. I’m looking to do just as well as last year, if not better. I just have to find a story I want to write…

-The Novice Wordsmith

 

Return

Last year, in January and onward, I was working on a piece that would turn into a project I’d pick up in April and try to work on for the Camp Nanowrimo of that month. I was sluggish and it was difficult to maneuver through it; though I had a general idea of what I was doing, that was pretty much all I had.

I’ve been thinking about it a lot lately, when I’m about to close out the front of it after doing something of an overhaul on it.

I find it kind of funny, really. I’d sort of been on autopilot with it after camp, and then I just kind of faded and stopped working on it. In August, I found new momentum with it. Parts of the whole story that had once been difficult to tell and sculpt together were coming together with ease. I knew how the story got started, I had villains, I was making a stronger novel out of it. A proper one.

A year after going into it somewhat blindly, with only some interest to back me up, I finally found out how to run with it.

It’s sort of odd in its own way. Usually when I find myself interested in writing something, I actually manage to turn out a decent story. Now I wonder if I just plainly wasn’t ready to write this one at the time. It’s a new experience, to deal with this, seeing myself flounder at first and now flying through it with renewed fervor.

Partially, it reminds me of the ideas we have when we’re young. Our first ideas, the less developed ones we’re rapt with in the beginning and then they fade off, and we pick them up and then they fade off until eventually we get our fingers around them again and don’t let go, to the point we finally finish and have a product we’re immensely proud of and were excited to finish in the first place.

I have yet to get to that part, the forever-with-me idea from my youth, turning it into something, but I’ll get there eventually. It being a supernatural story in essence, I fear it’s been done to death.

But other than the undead story that off and on held my attention, I seem to always come back to one genre. I think we all do, really, we have that go-to that speaks to us and finds us better than the others, because we enjoy writing in it and we’re confident with our knowledge.

My go-to genres seem to be sci-fi, but not action, and not horror or thriller or crime (though I have a space opera waiting to be worked on some more), no. It’s drama. The nitty gritty of social gossip and class warfare in the name of romance. Maybe not so much class warfare, but I think you get the idea.

And for having all of these incredible actiony ideas and blow-you-away profoundness, I feel like it makes me come off as frivolous or silly. But I’ve always loved love. Writing erotica this November was like breathing. Nothing felt challenging about it part from working out pace and flow and how it ended and when things were figured out, so nothing to do with the genre. Writing romance is just my passive skillset, I think, and I love it.

One guess as to what this story is from last April that I’m bounding through now. Yeah. No surprise, right?

Which is why I mention coming back to that genre. You always have something you return to, something that feels comfortable, something you know you can push through with ease. And you’re so good at it because it interests you so much, it gets you thinking, it pulls you in and doesn’t let go.

And no matter what it is that brings you back, over and over, don’t ever feel bad about it. Embrace it.

The Novice Wordsmith

PS- One last little mention. Speaking of Camp NaNoWriMo, it is coming up this April and in June of this year as well. It is unlike NaNoWriMo because you can set your own goal, even if it is just revisions. Give it a look-see over at campnanowrimo.org.

Crossing the Finish Line

First of all: Holy shit. I just finished my first novel ever.

This past November had rough parts, but overall it has turned out to be not only my most productive, but my most successful as well. I wrote the epilogue and final words to the novel this morning at 4:30 am.

After pushing myself through with the mantra of, “Just get it done, edit later, don’t worry about anything but getting through the chapter, you know what you want to happen,” I reached the finish line, almost a whole month later.

I kept meaning to post about NaNo during Nano, but it never happened. I mean to do so many things for this month that I didn’t get to on the blog. I wanted to keep encouraging everyone and give progress updates and say awesome things and show off things I’d found through the Facebook group for my Wrimo region, there was so much on my mind, but I had just kept diving into the novel further.

Which is the right thing for me to have done anyway, but again I find myself looking back at how I push myself and causing undue stress because of my ambition.

Either way, I muscled my way through to a finished first draft and I couldn’t be happier. I only hit 85k at the end of the month, 5k off from my personal best, but overall this was a much more successful time than any others.

I’m ecstatic that I finally finished something. That I had finally forced myself to stay on task and get through to the finish line like I had written about so many months before. It is an incredible feeling to know you can finish something, like reading a huge book and looking back and saying, “you know what? I did that.”

And I did. And all it takes is to push through. Shove away the thoughts that it’s not good enough. You’ll get to it later, there’s always the chance that you can go back and fix it when the time comes, but what’s most important, always, is to get to the end. Find a first draft. Make mistakes. Screw up. Make epiphanies to new hooks and ideas and go back and work on them later, but do it, at all.

The hardest part will always be getting through the initial stages. Do not work for perfection, just work. Think about the ideas and get to them. “Just so many more chapters or words until I get to this,” and keep setting goals, mini goals, things you can reach for.

It is so satisfying to look back at what I wrote and to know that I managed to get all of my ideas and visuals out on a document.

I remember getting discouraged about Friend pushing past me in a blaze of glory last year and the year before. “I should be hitting 100k too,” or “I should be at what you’re at,” and his response was the same: “I’ve been doing this far longer than you have.”

You aren’t going to get it on the first try, but that does not mean that you are not going to get it at all. It takes crap attempts and bad months and really shitty drafts, but you’ll eventually find what makes it through to the end.

I was pleasantly surprised to see that an erotica was the first thing I finished. It was the first time I had written a novel for that genre, and I enjoyed writing every word of it. Well, almost, some were more boring than others, but it was still an incredibly fun experience for me. Something new and it turned out to be the spark to a fire I hadn’t discovered yet.

But everything takes time. It’ll take time to hone your skills and get better at writing and developing a style. It takes time to learn how you work and how you build characters. You have to figure out how you work and then find something that works with how you do.

Still, I know it’s not as easy as saying just that, but seeing someone say it helps. If you’re like me, not being the best can be discouraging. Just remember to keep your chin up and worry about what’s on your screen, not anyone else’s, and eventually, you’ll get where you need or want to be.

-The Novice Wordsmith

Traveling Again

Back out to California, kicking off NaNoWriMo this year near the Napa Valley. I leave today, I have about three hours before I head out to the airport and if it isn’t obvious I cannot sleep anymore. After waking up twice to say goodbye to my dad and sister, I’m just done going back to bed. Right now I’m just counting down the minutes before I need to go.

As per usual, I am really excited about the prospect of people watching, which I have a hard time shutting up about. There’s something about finding random people and being able to do something with how they are, how they look, or what they say around you that just gets me.

Which is ridiculous because I remember years ago in that fiction writing class when I couldn’t care less. I didn’t think it was crucial, and now I can’t get enough of it.

Among other things, being in a new place for this event allows me to explore and meet new people. Of course, Friend is going to be there with me, like he was for Utah. He’s been up in that area of California before, hell, it was his suggestion, but there’s just something about going somewhere you don’t frequent and checking in to their write-ins and experiencing stuff there in the mean time.

I wouldn’t mind keeping this up, either. We’ve talked about it before, collecting spots we’ve done NaNo in all over the country would be an awesome tradition, albeit a little bit of an expensive one. In the end, 100% worth it.

Though, I will admit that my experience in Utah with NaNo was my first social gathering, and I don’t think I did a write-in locally until the year after. Like I mentioned recently, these gatherings are an awesome way to connect, not only to the community but to meet other writers who are in the same boat or can act as inspiration.

But if you live in a city as big as St. Louis or bigger, you’re going to have to pick and choose what you go to because some things just are not easy to get to.

… Well, really, that’s the point, isn’t it? Find something close that’ll motivate you to go and write and talk and enjoy the company of other writers while you scribble your way recklessly through your novel. Because everything is better when you add friends.

I am waiting to get to the airport and die completely because I forgot something. Either packing is becoming second nature to me and I’m too good at it and I’ve actually got my shit together for once, or I’m definitely missing something crucial.

As per usual, I will probably wait until the last second to shut the laptop down. A day of traveling awaits me, but my fun new smart phone will help me with that. Hopefully it doesn’t die before I touch down…

This was definitely, mostly, a way for me to get my thoughts out. Nothing too important to learn from this one. I will try and make a post tomorrow for NaNo Prep Pep. This time last year I was a lot more active, so it feels odd doing so little for this month, but I imagine you all understand. And there’s only so much I can say before I’m just repeating myself.

I’m still too excited for my own good, and I remain cautious but optimistic about this year’s work. Let’s see how much better I do than last year.

(I’m hoping the answer is: holy shit so much better)

And best of luck to everyone, whether I post something tomorrow or not!

-The Novice Wordsmith

NaNoWriMo Prep: Intimidation Factor and How I’ve Never Finished a Novel

This past Saturday was a “kick off” party for NaNoWriMo in my area. It wasn’t kicking off into writing, but it served as a party for a lot of us to get to know the others who will be writing in November. It’s where you learn about everyone’s goals, how long they’ve been participating, what they hope to accomplish, how many novels they’ve finished, and where you eat cookie cake and mingle and talk about what a book might be about based on its cover.

It was also where I got incredibly intimidated by a lot of the people I came in contact with.

“I feel so unoriginal,” I told Friend as I was on my way out. “They have so many ideas. All of them are so creative.”

A few had even been published. One had brought in two of her own books to be raffled off, and she acted like it was nothing. Nonchalant. (“Don’t pick that book, I wrote that one eight years ago, the other one is much better.”)

My mind boggled. I felt so small within the group. In comparison to those who had books published, those who had even finished things, I have been staring at three NaNoWriMo projects that haven’t reached the finish line yet, though one is dangerously close. The other two I want to start all the way at the beginning again and re-write.

“Have you gotten published yet?” Was a big question around the room, and one a lot of people could answer quickly, whether it was out of hopefulness or because they’d actually done it.

But to me, the answer was the same. They had something ready to publish. The one woman had said she’d done a bunch of research for it. The one who had two books, she had gotten a contract by putting one book out for an open call (I think that’s what they called it).

I felt– I feel– like a kid in a sea of adults, like this is just something I’m playing at still.

I started to think about it, though. That’s me in a room full of writers, maybe about 20 or so, give or take about five or ten. There’s an entire world out there filled with writers. How many people are even participating in NaNoWriMo? There’s got to be at least ten times more than that all over the world, every one of them having ideas and creativity and imagination that they want to let loose for the rest of the world to see.

What the fuck am I worried about? I’m one of those thousands, if not millions, of people. Whether I know what I’m doing or not shouldn’t matter right now, and on the other side, it is perfectly okay for someone else to be published, to know what they’re writing, and to do it well. Because it can happen, and it does, every day.

It’s back to my competitiveness. Back to my Type A personality, which tells me that I need to be the best forever.

But on the other hand… Isn’t it awesome to be in the middle of something like that? To be around people who are so creatively charged that you aren’t the only person in the room who has wild, crazy ideas that are all over the place, it’s another way of fitting in. It’s belonging. It’s finding your group.

It’s a common bond that brings us all together, no matter what our color, size, gender, etc.

They aren’t there to intimidate, they’re proud of what they’ve accomplished, because it’s still a ridiculously rough path for anyone who decides to take it. Those who publish, those who finish, are there to inspire, because for as many who have, there are just as many who have trouble finishing anything large (slowly raises hand).

So I’m going to try and embrace it, instead of letting it make me feel smaller. Because god dammit, just because I haven’t finished something yet doesn’t mean I won’t.

-The Novice Wordsmith

Stubbornness vs. Rightness

In the past couple of months, I’ve been working a full time job at a very busy veterinary hospital. And when I say hospital, I mean it: it’s 24 hours, there’s urgent care staff on ’round the clock, they have an operating room, they book several surgeries a day ranging from simple (spay, neuter) to complex (mass removals, etc), and they have as many as 20 doctors employed.

It had been a job I wanted for years, literally. When I was unemployed, I applied twice, interviewed twice, and was rejected twice. I loved the idea of being up front and helping people, and being able to reach out and be part of the help they were seeking for their pet.

The problem was, despite the fact that they were so intensely, crushingly busy, and I never reacted well to that, I still took it up eagerly. It was a very quick process that left my head spinning, and my first day there was disastrous, but I was determined to stick with it. And so the second day was better, and the third, and I kept learning and getting better at what I was doing until I was turned loose as an independent part of the system.

And it got worse from there.

It is really hard for me to admit that I am absolutely bad at being under pressure in a constant cycle. I can do it when it happens every so often, I’ve found ways to handle it before, but when it springs up unexpectedly and often, it gets to me. It’s hard to handle, and I make more mistakes because I’m just trying to get through things.

I was not going to let that get in the way. I felt like it was just circumstance, and I’d get better. Even though I would come home, feeling the lack of communication with certain close friends and the huge cut in free time I had, considering moving on to a different job, I stuck it through.

Shit, I even pined for the old job I had some days, but I figured I would be fine. No big deal. It was just me having a bad day.

And then I lost the job.

On top of feeling depressed about the outcome, I felt relieved. I kept finding reasons to be okay with it. I mean, I was still flabbergasted at how out of the blue it was, the final day of my probationary period, and I was getting axed because they could do that still, but part of me was glad for it.

And it came to me yesterday, that the job really wasn’t for me. I came home from the interview (which was a simple observation for two hours) feeling the emotional drain and knowing it might be a bit much for me. The first day was nightmarish. I had been considering not saying yes to it in the beginning, but I went with it anyway because it was an opportunity, it was what I wanted.

But you have to realize that sometimes, what you think you want isn’t always going to be what fits you.

I wanted to write this to impart this wisdom on everyone, as it applies to writing and challenging yourself to genres you aren’t used to or characters you don’t do so well with, or really anything, whether it’s someone else’s suggestion for you and your wish to see it out, or your own thinking that you should be able to do something.

It is 100% okay to not be cut out for something, no matter what it is. 

Just that the hard part is convincing yourself of that, if you’re as stubborn as I am.

If something becomes too much, or it isn’t enough, or it’s just overwhelming, you reserve the right to tell it no and move on to something that feels better. Do not worry.

This pertains as much to NaNo as possible, too, considering you may be trying something new out. If it doesn’t work, find something else and jump on. Shift gears. Get comfy somehow else. You’re allowed to. It’s all part of the learning process, isn’t it?

-The Novice Wordsmith

NaNope

I think I had already mentioned that April’s Camp NaNoWriMo was less than thrilling for me. It went “well” but I was having the same problem I had in November. Stuck. Taking too long. Adding more than I needed to. I think I’ve mostly fixed it by now, but I can’t be certain. And that only makes me more worried for November.

This November, which has been creeping up on me and reminding me over and over again that it’s right effing there. That I keep forgetting about. That I feel like I don’t have enough time for anymore. That I’m realizing is a whole hell of a lot closer than I thought it was.

I’m at least more decisive this time. I have two ideas, a thriller and an erotica, both of which I haven’t done before. One is set in Antarctica and the other is another tribal village setup. I started out strong with the erotica, but the thriller’s getting a little bit of my attention. Another’s come up, earlier, inspiration from a History show my dad was watching about the Wild West criminals. Steampunk Wild West, actiony. It lost steam after the erotica showed up in my head.

Anyway, I’m still more worried, despite what I’ve got here, all my inspiration. I want to finish something. I want to get a strong start and forge ahead. I don’t want to fall behind and lose interest. Again.

I’ve found myself wanting to re-write the last year’s NaNo novel though, almost completely from what I made it to be. I remembered that I had wanted it to be a-romantic but because it was easier for me, I went the romance route to try and get better at working on it.

I’m really hoping I have my head straight on my neck this time and that I can give my first win a run for it’s money. But I’m worried that maybe I’m holding myself back because of that win. That I’m making that my sort of end-all be-all without meaning to.

Also, I have a full time job. Having eight hours cut out of five days out of the week is going to hurt my numbers, I think, because I won’t be able to write at work unless I bring a notebook with me and do things on my break. I’ll have to write as much as I can while I have the time, and what if I don’t have the inspiration or the go or the ability or care to really write when I have that in front of me?

It’s a lot of what ifs and maybes and I’m just hoping I can move past it. There’s been a lot of change in the past month and it’s shaking up my routine. Being in unknown territory can unsteady my balance, and I just want to make sure I don’t fall flat on my damn face.

I don’t know if I’ll be able to do 92k words again, but at least I’ll get some serious writing done. That’s what NaNoWriMo is about anyway, right?

-The Novice Wordsmith

Boston versus Camp

If you’ve been following this blog for a while, or even for a little bit, you already know that I have a relationship between running and writing. I’m in love with both, and I see parallels in both quite frequently.

So it should come as no surprise that I’m drawing another parallel, one between the biggest US marathon and a smaller, less stressful month of writing. Both, this year and last, have happened within the same time, with one Camp month of two falling on April. Boston has annually been in April.

This parallel is brought to you by my camp cabin. It had come to me while I was reading about the winners of the marathon, and the times of each. Men are obviously up ahead of women by at least 15 minutes because of natural physiology. Depending on ethnicity, physiology also plays a huge role in how fast a runner is and how much endurance they have. There are a lot of factors that go into what makes that person win, including what they eat, their previous injuries and recovery, and their style of running. Genetics can also have a massive effect on things like endurance, recovery time, and and speed.

Though pace is less important in writing, depending, there is still an instinctual stakeout that I do of the top writers, those who have gotten the furthest in the month. I may not have been able to write as early as others in the cabin, but consistently, I was ahead of the pack.

If you don’t know, Camp NaNoWriMo has a feature that allows you to “bunk” was 11 other writers in a cabin, to help push you through the month and influence and inspire you. That is the charm of camp, it’s not just you, there’s more with you trying to achieve goals unique to themselves and their writing. Both Friend and I are a bit competitive and definitely ambitious, and seeing others up where our wordcounts were made us want to surge forward.

Being toe to toe with others in a race not only helps you push yourself, but it helps you understand what you’re capable of. Sometimes, you’re going to push too hard and fall out of the pack. The pace is going to get more than what you can handle with everyone else, too much for you to sustain.

Other times, you’re going to be the one setting the pace, and it’ll pull you ahead of everyone else by a longshot or a short one.

I have had very little competition this month so far in terms of wordcount. The closest behind me is 13k short of catching me. I am going to probably break 50k by the end of the month when my goal was 35k and I hit that on Thursday.

This morning, while reading the live tweets of the Boston Marathon, after the women’s winner was announced, I found out that her last time in the race was 2012, and she didn’t finish. This time, she surged ahead in a sprint to win it.

I know it’s ridiculous to compare, but it made me think of struggling through November, how difficult it was for me to finish that novel and do it well or do it any justice. How worried I was about my work and progress. I limped out of November 4k above the goal, and had even stopped writing two to three days before it ended.

Camp is different. Six months later, I’m above my goal and searching more to finish the small novel instead of stopping just because I got where I need to.

Writing, unlike running races, doesn’t stop when you break the tape at the end. It stops when you say it does, when you’re satisfied. In the case of NaNoWriMo and the Camp series that they have, the end of the event may serve as simply a checkpoint for some of us, depending on just how big the story is. Writers have a race to run that takes much longer than two hours and nine or twenty-four minutes, but ours can be taken as slowly as we need to, and with as many people as we want to involve.

In the mean time, I think I’ll grin at my early victory and hope this November goes a whole hell of a lot better than the last one. My training for it should be fairly simple. 😉

– The Novice Wordsmith

Slow Your Roll

In the midst of challenges, pushing yourself and reaching for ambitious goals way above what you’d set for yourself, there’s a need to slow down and take things easy. That need is often overlooked.

I’m not unique. I’m not the first person constantly looking for challenges to round out my writing and make it better, and I doubt I’ll be the last. Usually, my option, and my desire, is to go above and beyond, that when I decide to relax, to go slower and pick up an easier prompt, it feels like cheating. Or I simply feel bad for going easy on myself instead of using all of my ability.

But sometimes, you need to slow down and be good to yourself. Just because it’s easy doesn’t mean it’s not going to be work.

The inspiration from this comes from Camp NaNoWriMo being around the corner. My choice for next month is to pick up a mild story, something short. I love writing, but being able to sink into it at my own pace instead of gunning for fast and furious feels good. To enjoy what I’m writing and mold it how I feel fit.

Like many of my other posts– though probably not enough– I stress that it’s good to slow down, to take a break. You’re allowed. It doesn’t always have to be push and shove and ambitious reaches for the sky. Breathe and let your writing flow, or take the day off.

I realized a little too late that most of the motivational things I’ll see aren’t very good at reminding you that some days, you’re not going to have the push. You won’t be able to get behind the ball you’d been rolling and keep it going. Some days, that ball is going to feel like a ton and others it’ll feel like a feather.

And consciously choosing to make sure the ball is light is perfectly fine. You know yourself best. Don’t let anyone else tell you that you should be doing more, because they don’t know what your disposition is like. They’re like Jon Snow in that they know nothing!

Nothing is saying you won’t crank out quality work if you go with something simpler, either. It doesn’t have to be groundbreaking to be good.

If you want to write a short story about vampires, go for it, find what works, and what you like best, and run. Just because it’s been done by other writers– and made worse by some…– doesn’t mean you can’t try it yourself.

The point of Camp NaNoWriMo, and any writing in general, is to enjoy it. Whether that means pushing your limits or kicking back is all you.

-The Novice Wordsmith