Things I’ve Learned From Camp NaNoWriMo

Camp NaNoWriMo officially ended yesterday and I didn’t meet my goal. My final tally was 15,487 words, a little over half of my initial goal. And that is perfectly fine by me. This project got me writing again, and that was my real goal.

When Camp began, I started out working on a cozy mystery novel that I’d outlined, but four days into writing I realized that I didn’t want to write that story. Instead, I began working on a romance novel that I had last worked on two years prior. I’m a flip flopper when it comes to deciding what genre to write. This is an issue that’s kept me from moving forward. I’m also an overthinker, which is not a good thing. For the longest time I wanted to be a romance writer, but for various reasons I’ve talked myself out of making that leap. Mystery is also a genre that I love, particularly psychological suspense, and a genre that, once again, for various reasons I have talked myself out of making that leap. This past month I’ve learned that my hangups are all tied to one thing.

Fear.

Fear of failure. Fear of success. Fear of wasting my time. Fear of not picking the right project. Fear of looking stupid. Fear of what other people think. Fear that I might reveal too much of myself. And any other fear that crosses a writer’s mind every time they sit down to write.

Once I started working on the romance novel, the words began to flow. It’s just the first draft, so I gave myself permission to write the shittiest first draft ever and that seemed to do the trick this time. I’ve written quite a few rough scenes, some being pages and pages of only dialogue and some scenes that consist of long paragraphs of description. Either way the ideas are out of my head and on the page. At some stage they will be rewritten into a better second draft. And that’s the whole point. To get those ideas out of your system so that you can mold them into a structurally sound, cohesive, and, hopefully, compelling story.

Here are a few things I’ve learned while participating in Camp NaNoWriMo:

1. It’s okay to switch projects if you want to. It’s often said that you should always finish a writing project…no matter what. I get it. The only way to learn how to write is to write. The only way to get better at writing is to write, and that involves finishing your writing projects. But if what you’re writing is holding you back or keeping you from writing altogether, then by all means switch to a different project. You’re not beholden to follow someone else’s rules of writing. Do what works for you.

2. It’s okay to not write every single day. There are days when you just can’t write for whatever reason. You’re tired. Your job needs you to work overtime. You have hemorrhoids. Whatever. Don’t beat yourself up about it. It doesn’t make you a lazy ass. It doesn’t make you want it any less than the next writer. We are humans and sometimes it’s just not humanly possible to write every damn day of the week. If you have a day where something has come up or you’re just too freakin’ tired, go to bed, binge watch an entire season of Bosch, work that overtime at the job that pays your bills…it’s okay. Write the next day, even if it’s for only five minutes.

3. Writing in small bursts adds up to a lot of words on the page. Before Camp, I wrote down all of the tasks I do from the time I wake up until the time I go to bed each night. After a couple of days of tracking my activities, I was able to figure out when I had free time, as well as when I was wasting time doing less important stuff, like vegetating in front of the TV binge watching an entire season of Bosch. I figured out that I have one hour available each work day before I have to make dinner and then I have about two hours before bedtime to write, and I made sure that on most days I took advantage of that time.

4. The final (and most important) thing that I learned is that, yes, writing is hard and sometimes downright boring, but man I love it and I want to get better at it because it’s something I want to pursue. Yes I want to be a published author some day. Yes I want to earn a living as a novelist, even if it’s just a supplemental income. But I know now that whether I get published or not, whether I’m good at it or not, I will always be a writer trying to hone my craft. I don’t think I can imagine life any other way.

Camp NaNoWriMo: Day 17

It’s day seventeen of Camp NaNoWriMo and technically I should be at around 17,000 words if I want to meet my 30,000 word goal by April 30th, but I’m not quite there. I haven’t given up, though. I’m still chugging along and making progress. There are thirteen days left in the month, and hope is alive my friends! I may just meet that goal, yet.

The whole point of participating in NaNoWriMo this month was to get back to writing on a regular basis. My flash fiction experiment didn’t work. Probably because I long to write novels and not short fiction. Whatever the case may be, I’ve written thirteen out of the past seventeen days, which is probably a record for me, and I’m beginning to feel like an actual writer rather than one who aspires to write.

In the beginning, my daily goal was 1000 words a day or 7000-ish words a week. According to my stats, I’m averaging just under 700 words a day. My goal for the rest of the month is to improve upon that average and bring it up to the 1000 words a day.

The most important thing is to keep on going until I’ve reached the very end…no matter how long it takes.

Camp NaNoWriMo

My plan to write nonstop flash fiction fizzled out quickly. I managed to complete a short story that I did submit for publication. The story was one of my better ones. Whether it’s good enough for publishing, who knows. Crossing my fingers, but expecting rejection. I’m still having problems motivating myself to just sit and write. I even had two decent story ideas to work on immediately, but kept getting sidetracked with things like lying around or mindlessly surfing the web.

The past couple of weeks I’ve been pretty fed up with my laziness and lack of enthusiasm. I want to be a writer. It’s something I’ve wanted for as long as I can remember. Yet I can’t discipline myself to sit and write.

It’s time to try a new tactic.

It’s time to go camping.

Camp NaNoWriMo starts tomorrow and it runs through the entire month of April. Have you signed up yet? Camp NaNoWriMo is the less hardcore version of the annual NaNoWriMo that takes place every November. With Camp, you can set your own goal, whether it be word count or hours or whatever. I’ve set a goal of 30,000 words for the month of April. I’ll be working on the mystery novel that I’ve been mulling over in my mind and planning for at least two years. Yes, I’m an overplanner. A character flaw that I’m trying to get a handle on.

Participating in Camp NaNoWriMo is a great way to both challenge myself and develop a consistent writing habit once and for all.

For the past week I’ve narrowed my story idea down to a solid 2-3 page outline that will allow me to pump out a decent first draft of a novel. The key to sticking with a goal of 30,000 words in 30 days is to go into it knowing that what I write is going to be a shitty draft. One with plot holes, spelling errors, telling rather than showing, and stuff that just doesn’t make sense.  And that’s okay. It takes the pressure off and allows the creative juices to flow.

The end result…words on the page, a consistent writing habit, and the thrill of creating something from nothing.

 

Update: Work In Progress

This is day three of my novel-writing challenge. I just finished writing for the night and got in just under 500 words today. Yesterday was a little more productive with somewhere around 1200 words written. According to Camp NaNoWriMo, I should reach my 50,000-word goal by January 2, 2016.

Yes, I’m a bit behind schedule. However, I didn’t start my challenge until July 6th. Camp NaNoWriMo began on the first of July.

Before I started, I came across this post and found the advice for writing a first draft very motivating–particularly tip #2:

Forget about quality, just get it done.

I’m one of those people that will start writing a scene and the next day go back, read it over, and start revising it before the scene is even completely finished. I will revise the shit out of the first paragraph until I think it’s perfect. Problem is, it never will be perfect.

Writing a crappy first draft is okay.

That’s my new mantra. It’s what I have to keep telling myself in order to push through. It can always be fixed later. And isn’t that the point of a first draft anyway? I do have a general idea and a loose outline for this story with the major plot points. The first draft will help me figure out the rest of the story idea. When that’s done, then I’ll turn it into a better story by way of a second draft.