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What I Learned from Camp NaNoWriMo: Take 2

After April’s Camp NaNoWriMo, I blogged about things I learned from the experience. July’s Camp was very good for me too. The summer has been a lot crazier and more stressful than I anticipated, so I ended up only going for 10k words in July, instead of the 25k I had thought I’d attempt. That was definitely the right choice, because I barely got out my 10,000 words. But I did make it! It was a little doubtful that last week, but I ended up with a total of 10,003 words the last night.

With no time for planning beforehand, and not a lot of opportunity for writing in July, I had to make it up along the way. Among NaNoWriMoers, it’s known as pantsing, flying by the seat of your pants. As I wrote in the previous post, a lack of confidence is my biggest obstacle when it comes to writingCouple that with perfectionism and you have a death sentence for productivity. I had to lock up my inner editor, silence my inner critic, and just write, whatever I could get out. I worked on various projects I already had going, plus started a couple of stories for a fantasy epic world I planned on eventually starting. I hadn’t really started the world building yet, but I had an idea and started. So I have a couple of characters writing first person narratives about their experiences. First person is easier than third when you have no idea what the characters are named! I didn’t want to name characters until I figured out basic language ideas for the world, and didn’t see really starting for a few years. Apparently that plan changed!

I also found some fun writing prompts in the NaNoWriMo forum that got me a lot of words too. Such as this bit of a story inspired by the first line prompt, plus a prompt including a trunk with some of the items I included:

In hindsight, taking candy from a stranger might not have been the best idea. It all started when I bumped into the fellow waiting on grandmother’s doorstep. He offered me a peppermint, just like grandmother used to give me, and I couldn’t refuse. Those eyes looked so sad, as sad as I felt. After a moment of silence together on the porch, I finally got the nerve to ask more. “So how did you say you knew grandmother?”
“Oh, we, um, worked together years ago. This was hers.” He motioned to the large trunk he was sitting on. I hadn’t noticed it before then. I just assumed he was sitting on a chair of some sort.
“What’s in it?”
He gave me a mysterious look, or at least tried to. “We best get inside before I show you that.”
After a few minutes of huffing and puffing as I tried to pull the trunk inside, I finally got the bright idea to call the butler for help. Because let’s face it, I’m not in the best shape, and the old dude wasn’t much help. “Jeeves!” He’s old too, but much more fit than either of us were at the time.
The butler appeared, quickly and silently as ever. “You called, sir?”
“Yes, could you give me a hand with this trunk? He says it’s grandmother’s and I need to check it out.”
“Certainly. However, I can’t imagine your grandmother ever owning such a distasteful piece of luggage.”
I grabbed one end of the trunk and motioned to the other. Jeeves lifted his end and we carried it into the front hall. After setting down the trunk, Jeeves brushed off his gloved hands, looked disdainfully at the trunk, and strutted off. I’ve tried to point out his strut, but he insists that he doesn’t do anything as low as strut.

I knelt down next to the trunk, and the old guy knelt next to me. I turned to him and held up my hand. “Wait. Before we go any further, I have a question for you. Uh, who are you?”
“Boris.”
“Boris?”
“Yes.”
“Well okay then. Let’s get this opened.”
I turned back to the trunk and tried to pull it open, to no avail. “You don’t happen to have a key, do you?”
He held one up.
“You could have given me that earlier.” Boris was quite the interesting person. I took the key and inserted it into the lock, turning it with not a little effort. The lid creaked so badly as I wrestled it open, I was afraid it would break off before opening all the way. Once I got it stuck open, I found myself hesitant to look through the contents. I carefully pulled up some previously black fabric, which turned out to be a heavy cloak. The disturbance caused a flurry of smells to attack my nose. Dust, mold, and peppermint are not the most pleasant combination.

Wrapped up in the cloak, and I can still hardly believe it myself, I found a few sticks of dynamite. I almost dropped them in my shock, then realized just in time that dropping them would be about the worst idea possible at the time. Short of a match, of course. Which I actually found beneath the cloak, a whole box of matches, in fact. Along with an old, dirty pocket watch, that would probably be considered vintage, some costume jewelry, and an abundance of peppermints scattered throughout the trunk. What on earth was grandma up to decades ago?

That’s completely unedited so far, so don’t judge too much! Also, it’s another example of a project I started in first person from the perspective of an unnamed character. I have too many characters to name now!

So July was very good for me in letting go of my perfectionism in my writing. I think it will help me a lot long term and make it easier for me to write more. I’m already thinking ahead to November’s NaNoWriMo. For the first time, it’s not a question in my mind of if I will write a novel in a month. I fully intend to do it and believe I will. That confidence will go a long way toward me getting the novel written. It might be crazy and ridiculous, and absolutely horrible, but that’s okay! Editing can come later.  That’s something I’m working on with the writing challenge this month too. I haven’t planned much for it, and I’m mostly just making it up as I go along. I’ve written down a few key words relating to some of the prompts, and I’m developing some backstory for the characters as I go, but it’s mostly just spontaneous. The hard part is restraining myself to only three sentences! Each day, I feel like four would be so much better, and of course, can think of what I want to say in four sentences. But three? It’s tough! As my husband likes to say, constraint drives creativity, so hopefully this will push me to be more creative! Follow me on Instagram or watch #writeastorychallenge if you want to keep up with the challenge.

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Back to Writing

Due to moving, followed by some disasters, plus a lot of migraines, I went on a hiatus for a bit. Thanks to all that, I wasn’t able to spend June planning like I had hoped. But I’m still determined to win Camp NaNoWriMo! With the lack of planning, plus still being in the middle of disaster, I’m only shooting for 10k words again. That should be pretty achievable, and get me back into the habit of writing. Despite the fact that July starts tomorrow, I’m not sure what I’m going to write. I’m still undecided on if I’m going to work on the novella, since I didn’t get to plan, or work on something else. I have ideas for series of vignettes, so I might explore that. I also have some fun characters I want to write about that I might get to know better through some backstory short stories or microfiction. I have a couple of extra blank personal-sized Moleskine Cahiers, so I used one for brainstorming the other night and came up with some good ideas I’m looking forward to developing more! I think July’s Camp will be fun, even if I am flying by the seat of my pants.

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Of Writing and Plans

I’m taking some time right now to work on planning and structuring for my current works in progress, but also to mull over my long-term writing goals. I find I sometimes get bogged down in the details and distracted by other books and plans and lose sight of my vision for my little fictional town I’m creating. I love this town, and can’t wait to write more about it. I’m going to self-publish, because I want to be able to do whatever I want with my town. I want to write novels, novellas, short stories, micro fiction, and assorted character and setting descriptions. I want to be able to share whatever I want, and have a lot of it available for free online. I think one of my favorite things to write will be vignettes. I was trying to determine what to call these short narratives, because I didn’t think it was enough of a story, per se, to be micro fiction. Then I read this description on Wikipedia:

…a vignette is a short impressionistic scene that focuses on one moment or character and gives a trenchant impression about that character, an idea, setting, and/or object. It’s a short, descriptive passage that’s more about evoking meaning through imagery than it is about plot.

That sounds exactly like what I’ve had in mind. I’ve been thinking for a while about doing a series of what I now know to be vignettes portraying various characters arriving in my town. The first one has been an image in my mind for months, and I finally put it to words last month during Camp NaNoWriMo. It features Rose, a recurring character in my stories and the owner of the local yarn shop. I’ll probably write her story eventually, but meanwhile, she will have a role as a minor character or cameo appearance in many of the other stories.

The keys jangled as the door was unlocked. The man pushed the door open and moved aside. “Here you are. Take a look around. I’ll be waiting out here if you have any questions.”
“Thank you.” Rose stepped inside, breathing in every aspect of the room. Sunlight streamed in the side window, lighting aglow countless particles in the air, illuminating the shelves running through the room. She gently stepped into the golden light, afraid to break the spell the room laid upon her. It was a simple shop, but it held many hopes and dreams. Rose brushed a finger along the nearest shelf, reveling even in the very dust of the place. This was it. She knew it was all going to work out. She could imagine the baskets of yarn placed around the room, the spindle sitting right in that corner, in front of an exquisite chair, drawing her in. Yes, she would weave and spin her dreams into this shop. Everything was perfect. She walked back out onto the porch.
“I’ll take it.”

Once I have more written, I’m going to make a page on the site for the vignettes, and post short stories and micro fiction as they’re written. I’ll probably get my novella mostly finished first though. My current plan is to finish reading Outlining Your Novel and Structuring Your Novel, then use the workbooks to outline and structure my novella over May and June, in the midst of moving. Then by Camp NaNoWriMo in July, hopefully I’ll be ready and can finish writing the story. The workbooks are going to be a big help!  I’m going to try getting a 3-ring binder and loose-leaf paper for answering all the questions and put together a story binder. I’m looking forward to putting that together! I also want to make a binder all about the town, and fill it with inspiration, ideas, sketches, and vignettes. I’m also looking forward to getting to know Rose and her yarn shop better!

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What I Learned from Camp NaNoWriMo

I won Camp NaNoWriMo!

I set a word count goal of 10,000, the lowest option, because I knew April would be a difficult month for me. Part of my goal was to write every day of April, not just to make the 10k word count. So far I’ve fulfilled that too, and plan on making sure I finish it. I’ve learned some good things this month.

1. It’s not that hard to be a little productive on my writing every day. With a goal of 10,000 words over 30 days, that works out to an average of writing 333.3 words a day, which I rounded up to 334. That’s not a lot. The book review I wrote yesterday was 375 words, and the last update I wrote about Camp NaNoWriMo was 299. The total for this post is 696. It really isn’t that hard to get in 334 words a day, or 500, or even 1000. My word count for Tuesday was 1026, which didn’t actually feel like much at all. I’ve done a lot of the writing this month in small chunks as I had the chance, and probably over half of it on my phone. There were times that meant I spent two minutes on writing while waiting for food to cook, or while the kids played on the playground. I use Scrivener on the computer, but when I’m not at the computer have my phone, I use Google Docs and later just paste what I wrote into Scrivener. That’s been a huge help toward me getting this done. Sometimes all I can do is slowly chip away at it, but that’s a whole lot better than not doing anything! So by setting my word count low, to what I felt was reasonable for me this month, I learned a valuable lesson.

2. I need to start planning and plotting more. I think I would have been a lot more productive this month had I actually had a structured plan on what to write. Instead, I bounced around between different projects and felt a little lost. I did make some good progress on a few projects, but I could have done so much more had I known what to write about instead of spending so much time floundering as I tried to think up what to work on. Now I’m finally making myself go through K.M. Weiland’s Structuring Your Novel (http://amzn.to/23akB2d) and Outlining Your Novel (http://amzn.to/1QDhF7a) , and will start going through the workbooks to plan out a couple of stories as soon as April is over. However, even though that was a big struggle, that’s not what limits me the most, which brings me to my next point.

3. A lack of confidence is my biggest obstacle when it comes to writing. Sometimes I tell myself I just don’t know what to write, when actually, the problem is that I don’t feel like I can write well enough. What if it’s cliche? What if my characters are flat? What if my characters are unbelievable? What if I just don’t know how to write well? What if… And the list goes on. What I really need to do is lock up my perfectionistic inner editor, just get the words on paper, and stop worrying about it. That’s what editing is for! It doesn’t have to be perfect the first time. That’s why it’s called a rough draft.

While I might not have as productive as I’d like on certain projects, Camp NaNoWriMo was very beneficial for me. Now my plan is to take a step back from the writing on my novella, and spend a lot of time planning, outlining, and structuring. I’ll keep up the writing in small bits though, because now I know I can do that in addition to everything else. I’m definitely planning on doing Camp again in July. I hope to shoot for 25k words, but since we’re moving in June, I’ll re-evaluate as July gets closer.

If you did Camp NaNoWriMo, how did it go for you? Did you learn anything from the process? If you’re not familiar with NaNoWriMo in its various forms, check it out!

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Book Review: The Riddle-Master Trilogy

Whenever I go to the library, I have a set routine. I walk past the used book store and skim over the books, then go pick up my holds. A few weeks ago, I was excited to find Robin McKinley’s Beauty for sale. I read it a few years ago and loved it, and have been wanting to read it again. Of course, I bought it. When I went to pay for it, the librarian assisting me was excited to see what I was buying, and showed me a few other books she thought I would like.

Her first choice for me was Patricia McKillip’s Riddle-Master trilogy. I had never read any Patricia McKillip before, but simply reading the introduction, I knew I would love her. The version I got contained all three books from the trilogy in one volume, but you can get them individually as well, which is what I generally prefer. However, it seems a lot more difficult to find the books separately. The individual titles are The Riddle-Master of Hed; Heir of Sea and Fire; and Harpist in the Wind. They were beautifully written, and reminiscent of both J.R.R. Tolkien and Robin McKinley. How could I not love them?

The story follows the journey of Morgon, prince of Hed, as he seeks answers to the riddles that haunt him. It was a slow moving story at times, with a lot of moments of confusion and not really knowing what was going on. But I think some level of that is acceptable in a high fantasy story about answering riddles, and it kept me reading in need of discovering the answers. Why are these riddles so important? What is the meaning of the stars? Who is the High One, and who is his harpist? Questions abound to keep you wondering and reading on, but don’t expect to get many answers for a while. The prose is beautiful, but slow moving. I enjoy that at times, but it isn’t for everyone. If you enjoy epic high fantasy in the style of Tolkien, read The Riddle-Master trilogy. I picked up McKillip’s book The Bards of Bone Plain at the library a few days ago, but haven’t started it yet. I look forward to reading more of her work.

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Monday Updates

I’m still chipping away at Camp NaNoWriMo, though I’m several hundred words behind after a busy weekend. Saturday, we went to the zoo for our 4-year-old’s birthday. Then Sunday was our anniversary. We ran errands that afternoon, then after the kids were in bed, we (finally!) watched Star Wars: The Force Awakens. I enjoyed it overall, though parts of it seemed too forced. It felt like they were trying too hard to reference the original trilogy, and re-used too many old lines. It was good, though, and something I’ll watch again. I’m looking forward to the next one.

I’m slowly working on my Christmas novella, though I think I need to plan it out more. I’m going to keep working on it until April and Camp NaNoWriMo are over, then probably take a break from the writing and work more on plotting and structure before finishing up the first draft. Hopefully I can also have my next novella well planned out before July’s Camp NaNoWriMo. Here’s my current one-line summary of the Christmas novella: “A man dressed up as Santa hears a Christmas wish he can’t refuse.” I don’t think it’s the best representation of the story, but it’s what I’m working off of for now. I’m really liking my character Isaac. He’s the son of the main female character, Lauren. Right now, he’s trying to convince his mom she needs a sweater with jingle bells all over it. He seems like a fun kid. I’m hoping to make some good progress on this story over the summer, and hopefully have it ready this fall.

Tomorrow is the release date for Chautona Havig’s new book, Sweet on You. I’ll be posting my review tomorrow, as well as links to information for her bonus short story!

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Camp NaNoWriMo Updates

Winning begins today for Camp NaNoWriMo! I’m not there yet, but hopefully I’ll finish up early. I got a few days behind, but finished catching up yesterday. I want to be a day or two ahead going into the weekend, so I’m working on that today. Thankfully I kept my word count goal low. It’s working out to be a manageable amount for me this month.

I came into Camp working on a few different projects, but I think that was hurting my progress. It was harder to just go ahead and write when I felt torn between multiple projects, none of which were very planned out. I’m still working a bit here and there on a few, but now I’m mostly concentrating my efforts on a Christmas novella I’ve been thinking over for several months. I initially thought it would be a short story. However, it seems to need more words than that, to better tell Andrew and Lauren’s story. I had the idea yesterday to make it the first in a series of Christmas novellas, revolving around secret Santas. Those should be fun to write! I’m looking forward to getting this first one finished and polished, and plan on releasing it for free later this year. I’m hung up on the title right now. I’ve had a few ideas, but they all feel too generic. Hopefully soon I can hit on one that feels right.

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Newfangled – Book Review

Today is the release day for the book Newfangled! I read an advanced reader copy of the book in exchange for my review. It was written by an online acquaintance of mine I know through another advanced reader group.

Newfangled is a sweet, slow-paced story, following the day-to-day life and struggles of a Christian girl trying to figure out how she fits into life. The characters grow and develop well, and Olive has to face some predicaments that are typical, but difficult issues. It was refreshing to read because it’s different from most books in that it’s dealing with more everyday problems, rather than out of the ordinary, unrealistic events that most people would never face. However, despite the ordinariness of her life, the story held my interest and I found myself invested in Olive and wanting to get to know her better. I felt her pain and uncertainty, and appreciated how she grew through her obstacles. I would love to read more about her.

Newfangled is free for Kindle through Tuesday. Get a copy from Amazon here!

Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

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April Camp Day 1

Camp NaNoWriMo starts today! I went into not knowing what I was going to write. I have a long list of project ideas, but I didn’t really have anything planned other than some very general story ideas and writing prompts. I was trying to figure out what to work on when I remembered an idea that’s been simmering for a while. A friend of mine wrote a blog series on trying something new every day for a month, which gave me the idea to write a journal-type story from the point of view of a character doing something similar. I decided this afternoon that would be the perfect project for this month! It gives me something to write about every day, it doesn’t need an over-arching plot right now, and the entries can vary in length. I looked over my current list of name ideas and the perfect name for the character jumped out at me. Things are starting to fall into place, and I have a long list of ideas for new things for her to try. Depending on how it turns out, I might do some revisions over the next couple of months and post it when I’m done. I think I’ll continue it as a series as well, with her and her best friend doing various challenges together and learning and growing through the journey. I’m excited about where it will go!

This blog post brings me to 518 words for the day, which is great, because I need to average 334 a day to reach my goal for the month!

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Updates and Challenges!

I'm afraid I've slacked off on my writing this year, due to life and health and now preparing for another (mostly local) move. But it's almost April, which means…
I haven't done much planning yet. For Camp, you get to set your own word count, from 10,000 words up, and you can write whatever you want, not just a novel. I'm going with 10,000 because of everything else going on next month, and I'm splitting the word count between multiple projects. I want to work on a novel, a short story or novella, blog posts, book reviews, maybe some flash fiction, and some other projects I have going. Hopefully that will make it easier to achieve my word count, because I can work on whatever project sounds good at the time. Or maybe it will make it harder to be focused enough to write that much. I'll find out soon!

Even if my writing hasn't gotten much attention, I haven't been slacking on reading! I'm still working on K.M. Weiland's 100 Books in 2016 challenge, plus I'm doing a reading challenge from our library district. I've read 34 books so far, so I'm well ahead of schedule! I'm assuming my reading will take a hit in the midst of packing and moving, so hopefully I'll get enough ahead to make up for that.

At least one book review should be coming next week, and hopefully more soon. I have plenty of spots in my Camp NaNoWriMo cabin if anyone wants to be added. Just create your Camp project and give me your screen name and I can add you!

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