Camp NaNo18: Day 16

We have officially passed the halfway point, fellow wordsmiths. Wield your keyboards (or pens for you traditionalists out there) with determination! We will conquer this!

It’s just a shade before midnight, so I’ll be quick. I’m at 54,099 words after writing 3,465 words, about 400 more than I had originally intended. But I wanted to hit 54k–when you’re within 300 words of a round number, it’s hard to resist–and so I kept writing. Still on track for 100k, still enjoying my brainstorming and stories!

I hope you are having a grand time and are finding that words flow easily from your fingertips. May we enter the second half of Camp with vim, vigor, and vivacious verbosity!


Camp NaNo18: Days 14 & 15

Hello all! This weekend ended up being far busier than I had anticipated, though I largely stumbled due to my faltering time management. (The problem with reading a book while you’re trying to write one is that either one or the other gets done. Alas, I finished the book I was reading–Mistborn by Brandon Sanderson, if you were wondering).

BUT! I am still on track for 100K–clocking in at 10:30 this evening with 50,634 total after writing 3,627 today and 3,474 on Saturday. I’ve been working on a new story the last few days–one of the novels I had originally slated for Camp before I got distracted by brainstorming for an entirely different set of novels–and it’s been a lot of fun so far. I’m calling it The Thirteenth; thus far, I have Grand Plans® to turn it into a trilogy or a quartet. I don’t even have a full plot for this first book yet. I’ve only just gotten to know a couple of the characters pretty well, but my mind works in terms of series. It can’t be helped.

On another, maybe related note, how do you manage your time effectively? I ask because this is my biggest struggle. I’m supremely aware of my own mortality–that clock keeps ticking–and my inability to maximize the short span of time I do have. I’ve never doubted whether or not I can do things; I’ve always feared my lack of time in which to do them. My interests are so varied, so intense, so purposeful, it’s hard to decide where to invest my time. While writing is a given, it is not always immune to being sidelined while I attend to a latest burst of passion for another hobby. Meanwhile, I am constantly being politely asked (and sometimes outright volunteered) to take on greater responsibility in the spheres in which I already operate, whether that be my writing club, Toastmasters, workplace, or family.

Those external obligations, combined with the daily mundanities of life (taking the dog to the vet, cleaning, going food shopping–or worse, clothes shopping–cooking, getting ready for work), leave little time for my true passions: writing, editing, studying, reading, playing violin/piano/guitar, building a business, running, adventuring… the list goes on. And those don’t count the things I want to do but don’t yet do; I’ll spare you the list. And with all of this going on, I’m still expected* to go to bed at a reasonable hour!

This problem is not my own. I think it plagues everyone, to some extent. So, how do you do it? How do you negotiate with the inexorable forward march of time? Do you say no to some of those hobbies, passions, or responsibilities? Do you negotiate with yourself? Do you make a list of priorities and stick to it? Do you shelve projects without intentions of returning to them? Do you simply curl up in a corner and lament your lack of time (as I do sometimes, which is itself a waste of time)?

NaNo is great for teaching dedication to a task and devotion to your own creativity, and I’m so grateful for all it’s done for me. But it’s meant, too, I think, to teach balance. This, however, is a lesson much harder learned and one I have not yet grasped. In the meantime, I’m little more than a circus performer spinning plates, hoping I’m not impaled by the shrapnel as they take turns shattering around me.

*Expectations are entirely my own.

Camp NaNo18: Day 13

I have to stop these late nights. They’re already running me ragged.

By some miracle, I managed to write 3,184 words today after doing way, way too much dawdling on Pinterest and researching more geometry. That gives me 43,533 words in total and a terrible backache, but the writing has been done. The goal is to hit 50k by the end of the weekend, and possibly surge beyond it. (I keep referencing this yet-to-be-seen writing burst. Anyone know where I can buy one?)

Today’s brainstorming was all about worldbuilding. I feel like I made breakthroughs as much with my brainstorming process itself today as I did with the story content. For the first time in my writing practice, the context of my world’s natural laws informed the communal perspective and universal experience, which informed the culture and its traditions. Which, of course, informs everything else: education, technology, government, food, hygiene, religion, social construction, foreign trade and politics, transportation, etc.

I have a long way to go before I fully understand this fantasy world, but for the first time, it feels like a place unto itself. That’s far better than the lazy method I’ve been using: dropping characters with 21st-century American ideals into a bland and generic setting with weird names and a few physics-defying quirks. So many YA fantasy books do that, and they frustrate me. The fact that I can think of three such bestsellers right off the top of my head makes me even more frustrated. I want the world to be interesting. The characters should be designed in the context of said world, not just plopped on it like it’s a low-budget movie set.

Tomorrow will be a good day, I think, for productivity (and hopefully for reasonable bedtimes). Until then, may your writing be easy, compelling, and, most of all, enjoyable!

Camp NaNo18: Day 12

Today was an interesting day, but I still managed to write 4,118 words, my current best day for the month. That brings my Camp total, at long last, to 40,349. The 30Ks seemed to last for ages, even though I guess they really didn’t. I’m still ahead for the 100K, if not by much.

So, what was unusual about today? I started by waking up at 5:45am with a gasping start, which immediately devolved into a work-related panic attack that didn’t stop afflicting me until much later in the afternoon. After returning home from work and guitar lessons at about 8pm, I started brainstorming.

Not even 1000 words into writing, I had a thought. Let me tell you, thoughts are dangerous things. I ended up on a forty-five-minute chase across the internet, skimming and learning as much as I could about… logarithmic geometry.

As crazy as it might sound, my foray into the world of mathematics actually provided me my biggest aha! moment thus far this Camp. In fact, I have a list of geometry and physics books I will pick up during my next visit to the library to better brush up on the stuff, and after gushing about my breakthrough (as that’s what it was) to my dad, he kindly offered me access to a couple of his own books on the subject at hand (he has an engineer’s mind–and library).

What could have been a bad day became a good one. Writing is a powerful tool, with the magical ability to raise the spirit. It’s a chance to spend time creating instead of maintaining the status quo or doing damage control. It’s a time to strive for our full potential and contribute to the world what only each of us alone can contribute: our wonderful, incomparable selves.

Happy writing!

Camp NaNo18: Day 11

After a long, roller coaster of a day, I’ve written 3,185 words, bringing me up to a total of 36,231 words for the month. I ended up splitting my writing between my brainstorming project (which has now surpassed 30k words) and a short speech for Toastmasters. The latter needs much refinement, including cutting about 300 words to make it a more reasonable length, but that’s for after Camp.

One of the things I’ve noticed this month is my ability to throw away old ideas for this story to make way for new ones. It’s amazing how time can dull the ache of killing your darlings. Given time away from a project, your perspective is altered and your opinion revised, sometimes even reversed. It reminds me of when, about a month ago, I pulled out my old art portfolio, expecting to find that certain pieces I had created were still interesting. But apparently ten years of experience in the real world, improvement in the medium, and the gradual dissipation of my initial love for any of those particular pieces really made a difference in how I regarded them. I was a little appalled by how bad they were!

Nonetheless, in writing as in art, our old work is nothing to feel shame about. After all, it is only on the foundation of that earlier effort that we are able to build something better. There’s never a “perfect,” and, as Michaelangelo (played by Charlton Heston) points out to Pope Julius II (played by Rex Harrison) in The Agony and the Ecstasy, the only time there is an “end” to our creative endeavor is “When I’m finished.” (The question is asked numerous times in the movie–in this clip, only once. If you haven’t already, find a way to see this classic film. It’s excellent!)

And while I’m no Michaelangelo, regardless of the craft, that possibility for improvement gives me something to strive for, something to live for. Without having first come up with those original ideas, I might not have conceived of another, much better idea that will make it into the final story.

Happy writing, everyone!


Camp NaNo18: Day 10

Going to keep it super short tonight, as the lightning is getting bad in my area and I’d rather my computer was unplugged (ah, summers in Florida–but honestly, the storms are by far my favorite part of living here).

After writing 3,015 words, I’m up to 33,046 words in total, which brings me about 800 words ahead of schedule for 100k.

I’m really rocking now with the brainstorming. I love getting into this mindset–it’s so exploratory. There is no wrong way, no concern for taking the plot in the wrong direction or giving someone an out-of-character task or breaking the natural laws of your world. It’s all about figuring out what works, what doesn’t, what can be used for this story, what can be saved for future narratives.

How is Camp going for everyone else?

Camp NaNo18: Day 9

Another late night–and I’m half-asleep already–so I’m going to make this short. I hit 30,031 today! I also had some massive aha! moments while brainstorming, and I can’t even begin to explain how pleased I am with the way the characters are developing, far above and beyond what I had originally had. Much backstory was discovered today.

While the weekend ended just a little over par on the track for 100k, I’m still setting my sights on a slightly higher number. What I ultimately end up with remains to be seen, but thus far I’m very pleased with the latest advancements in plot, character, and concept. Brainstorming is good for the soul.

Now, before I start writing gibberish (and it’s getting awfully close), I will bid you all good night, good rest, and good writing!

Camp NaNo18: Day 7

After half a day of work and two separate family get-togethers, I’m calling it a night at 3,227, bringing me up to a total of 23,651. I would have loved to have used this weekend to pull through with a massive boost–even doubling my starting word count–but it’s just not in the cards. Tomorrow might be better, but I’m hoping to finish some more work at the office and go to church, and a whole slew of other fun activities are grabbing for my attention: practicing violin, running, reading, grocery shopping, watching a movie, editing Cursed… too much!

On an exciting note, I have now received two Camp postcards! This is the first year that I’m participating. It’s one of those ideas that I have thought about joining for some time but just never have. Now that I’ve joined, it’s a blast! It was an adventure to find postcards, though. You’d think in a tourist town we’d have them everywhere, but we do not. Despite being a famous hotspot for snowbirds, we don’t have knick-knack shops. A shame, really.

Many more aha! moments were had tonight, and one of the big problems with which I was grappling in my story last night is finally smoothing out. I suspect another five minutes of brainstorming tomorrow will sum it up rather nicely.

Let’s make the most out of this weekend, people! Write all the words!

Camp NaNo18: Day 6

Wow, it’s a late night for Camp: just after midnight. I’m calling it with 3,134 words written, bringing my total to 20,424. That means I’m still on track for 100k. I almost stopped earlier, but I was only at 19,200. One does not simply stop 800 words from 20k.

I confess I wrote considerably slower today because I spent nearly an hour just researching names for my characters. It’s such a time suck, and yet I feel like I can’t go on without knowing what to call them! Other than that, however, I discovered some great things about the plot and answered a few deep questions. One of the plot holes I’d intended to solve tonight is still a problem, but it is a lesser one now that I’ve brainstormed a bit more. Ultimately I’ll return to it, but I’m better equipped to face it.

I also didn’t start writing until almost 10pm. I didn’t leave my office until 8, then vegged for a while when I got home. Once the house was quiet and dark, I started writing. I find it so much easier. Is anyone else a night owl? My creative side comes out at about 10pm and is fantastic until about 2am–assuming I can stay awake that long. Tonight, I cannot–my eyes are heavy with sleep and my mind is beginning to play tricks on me.

At what time of day do you write your best work? How do you manage not having the “ideal” environment in which to write?