Tag Archives: Camp NaNoWriMo

To Camp or Not to Camp – Part 2

It seems as though I just wrote a piece on Camp NaNoWriMo, but in reality, it has been over two months, but time, it does fly. My last camp left me with a great story. I hit my goal ahead of schedule and continued to write throughout most of May. My story ended, but the work had just begun. Editing, correcting, collecting opinions: all important parts of the project continue.

I’m not sure this story would have ever crept from my muddled brain, if not for Camp. Deadlines work for me, especially the self imposed, but that wasn’t always the case.

When I was in grade school and even high school my projects and book reports were, I’m sad to say, short and rambling, often because I had not read the book, or done the research. But spending twelve years with nuns breathing down my neck, taught me to do every assignment and make sure the word count was good. I can remember the one time I didn’t do an assignment. I was in second grade, and because of a miscommunication on my instructor’s part (I swore to my mother) I missed a handwriting assignment and the teacher rewarded me with a slap to the palm of my hand from a wooden paddle. My hand curls and burns at the thought even now, but like I said, I never missed another piece of homework.

I attended college as an adult and because of that, and the personal need to prove myself to the other much younger students, my study habits and writing style changed. My research skills improved as my projects lengthened and I found that I enjoyed putting words to paper. I once, in fact, shrunk the font of a piece to keep from going over the maximum page limit, only to have the professor’s first comment be, “Have pity on this old professor’s eyes – increase the font!”

So, thankfully, because of that teacher, Professor Mike Foster of ICC, I found the courage to write longer and luckily, better.
So what does this rambling have to do with Camp? Think of it as a chance to let your words out. Set your goal at 10,000 or above, but be kind to yourself. If this is your first time or twentieth time, remember, you can always go over, just like one of my favorite teachers told me.

Camp starts July first. Sign up is open now. The PeoWriMo group has set up several opportunities to write together and whether you go by the adage that it is ‘more fun with like people’ or ‘misery likes company’, give it a try. We don’t bite (unless there is chocolate ;>)

Oh and don’t forget the new anthology Natalie is putting together. This is a perfect chance to put your words on paper and submit them for consideration.

To Camp or Not to Camp: NaNo is the Answer

This morning as I was getting ready for work, I knocked over one of those ever present piles of ‘to read’ books that decorate my house. The one that caught my attention was a beautiful little Jane Austen 5 year journal. It seemed that even before I knew I was a writer my family and friends must have thought I was because there are several, mostly empty versions scattered about my house. But this journal was special, a graduation present from a former English class friend; it celebrated my lifelong dream of finishing college. The fact that it took me nearly 40 years to reach that goal made it all the more precious.

The book flipped open to January 12th, 2014 and the short note read, “Went to my first writers’ workshop. Interesting people. Next meeting Feb.9th.” I was hooked. My friend Natalie accompanied me and we met some great people and learned so much. For a couple months I took notes, learned, and talked with writers who had taken the next step in story writing, rather than story thinking.

When March rolled around, the talk began to center on Camp, which of course many of us newbies thinks actually concerns marshmallows, sleeping bags, and mosquitoes. I had heard the term NaNoWriMo thrown about – National Novel Writing Month – but knew the process of spewing out 50,000 words in one month was not daunting as much as impossible. The longest thing I had written so far was a term paper on Eowyn from Lord of the Rings, and it was something under 4,000 words.

The idea of Camp, I was told, was to set your own limit and write what you wanted. The amount could be as low as 10,000 with the sky as the limit. I balked and my co-writers persisted. “It’s fun!” “You can do it!” “You could win!” Win? The competitive side of me reared its ugly head. To think I could win at anything was the final draw.

I signed up nervously, setting my goal at 10,000 words and got to know the website. The best thing for me was the graphs. Not only did it show me how I was doing for the month, but it let me know exactly how many words I needed to finish per day to stay on target and finish by the end of the month. The idea that I only needed to write 323 words per day was doable. The first week went fine. I was averaging around 350 a day and some days a bit more. I made it through the honeymoon stage, but then, as it must, life interfered and I missed a day. With a real effort I brought the numbers back up and surged on.

Sailing along at just over 400, I was so excited. But then my ideas stalled. What was I doing? What ever had made me think I could do this? I wasn’t a real writer. I would never win at this rate. I was doomed to be a ‘wannabe’ for the rest of my life. Reality TV would become my life. (My mind actually works like that sometimes). I drove my family crazy. How could I back out gracefully?

Finally I talked with the other writers, many who had had their own doubts at one time. They encouraged me to stop self-editing and let the words flow unheeded. Editing is for later. Enjoy the creative process. Later you can delete and add and punctuate. It made all of the difference. The competition was back on and I was ready. Each day I worked to increase my word count and as I did my story was running onto the page and making me laugh (lucky for me, it was a comedy). I was so far ahead that a single missed day did not end the race. I could see the finish line and the end of my story careening to a spectacular climax! Actually, it was more like an ‘aha’ moment, as I tend to write comedic mysteries, but I was very pleased. So pleased, I forgot about winning, forgot about whether it was good enough, forgot to think what others would think and just enjoyed. And in so doing I won.

Epilogue – Because, don’t all good stories have one? I finished my first story at around 12,000 words and went on to sign up for my second camp in July. Pledging 15,000, I finished at 20,000. When November rolled around I was ready for the challenge. I finished one day early with a grand total of 51,000 words. I had won again. After much editing and fixing, and the help of my friend Natalie, I compiled my stories and released my first book, Murder in the Library, a cozy mystery collection of three short stories, all because of my first attempt at Camp. My advice? Do it. Make it happen. Open up and let your words out. Enjoy. And even if your word count doesn’t meet your expectations, you still will have won.

writing against the clock

The older I get, the more I realize I will never have enough time.

I’m not even ‘old!’ (And I’m definitely not complaining).

There is no ‘I’ll get to it later’. There is no ‘just a few minutes, then I’ll begin.’ With a toddler on the loose, a pile of laundry, and two hours before I have to be at work, there is only now.

I need to get better at managing my time. Do I have an easy answer for you that will solve all our time problems? Hah, I wish. There is no easy.

With Camp NaNoWriMo coming sooner than I want to admit, I realize I only have two options: drop my current revisions and start afresh with new words, or use revisions as part of my Camp project. New words are fun. Putting a project on hold is not. I still don’t know what I’ll do — in true Barbarian style, I’m waiting till the last minute to decide.

The spirit of NaNoWriMo isn’t really to ‘write fast’. If we’re writing against the clock, it’s not a words per hour metric. We each have twenty-four hours in a day, and it takes gumption to write when there are chores and meetings and other obligations. It takes courage to say no, I can’t do that favor for you because I have to write today. It takes willpower to keep plodding along when the end is not yet in sight.

But we do it anyway, because we’re all writing against the clock.

fingernail dirt

“Clutter and mess show us that life is being lived…Tidiness makes me think of held breath, of suspended animation… Perfectionism is a mean, frozen form of idealism, while messes are the artist’s true friend. What people somehow forgot to mention when we were children was that we need to make messes in order to find out who we are and why we are here.”

Anne Lamott, Bird By Bird

Camp is messy.

Building fires, cooking food on a stick, sleeping with spiders. Bug spray, sunblock, chlorine hair.  Raucous songfests with bawdy lyrics,  unrehearsed skits, telling jokes through quiet hour.

Going to camp means you’ll get dirt under your fingernails. Maybe even paint in your hair, too, and that’s okay, because whatever you’re making is fun to make and yours to enjoy. Nobody expects you to bring home a masterpiece from summer camp–just some stories and a promise that you had lots of fun.

I hope the camping/Camp NaNoWriMo analogy is clear enough.  I haven’t hit you over the head with it too hard, have I? Oh, apologies. I can’t resist waving these pool noodles around. Someone really ought to take them away from me before I–

Great, thank you.

This July, are you diving into Camp NaNoWriMo to have lots of fun?

I am. I’m not as prepared as I’d like to be. This NaNo novel will be splattered with paint and have smudges where I pressed too hard into the clay.

Right now, before I’ve gotten dirt on my elbows and the smell of sunblock permanently stuck in my nose, it’s easy to say “sure, I’ll just be happy with whatever mess I come up with, and love it.”

Give me about two weeks, and it’ll be much harder to accept how raw this draft will be.

But that’s my goal. A fun camping experience and something I can bring home proudly at the end of July. Hopefully, too, some  fond memories made with cabin buddies and some contraband chocolate.

Kumbayah, fellow campers, and happy writing.