April Writing Challenge

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Camp NaNoWriMo

I like the idea of goals.  Having specific goals with deadlines can give you the motivation and drive to keep going. This can be a so-so thing for me. I often make goals that end in failure. Either I set my sights too high or, more commonly, I just didn’t stay focused on the goal.

One thing that did work for me was NaNoWriMo – National Novel Writing month. This is a month long writing challenge of writing a 50,000 word novel set in November. I decided that this was my year when I signed up in November. And I was right. Yes it was difficult but I learned a lot and found a group of people who shared my goals. Validating my novel and “winning” was the best reward I could have ever asked for. At least until my novel gets published.

According to the NaNoWriMo.org site, April is time for another challenge. Its time for Camp NaNoWriMo.

The rules are the same – 50,000 words in 30 days or whatever your goal is. I had great success in November. Well, by great success, I mean I finished my novel and got it validated. That doesn’t mean I wrote a great novel. There are splashes of greatness in it but they are small and in terrible need of editing. My goal is not to repeat my November success but to edit the words that came out of that endeavor.

The whole point of most writing challenges is to get words down on paper (screen, whatever) and this one is no different. The website touts Camp NaNo as an “idyllic writers retreat smack dab in the middle of your crazy life.” Somewhat less serious and possibly a bit more fun than November but no less effective.

It is easy to sign up. Go to http://campnanowrimo.org/.  If you were a NaNoWriMo participant, Camp NaNo uses the same login information.

Once logged in, its easy to set up your profile, which includes all the usual stuff.

As with the main challenge, the next step is to enter your novel information. Whether you are a planner (light outlining or heavy, it doesn’t matter) or a pantser (one who flies by the seat of their pants while writing a novel), everyone must enter some basic information about your novel. Title, working or actual, word count and a synopsis is all they are asking for. It is required for the validation process.

I was able to change my word count from 50,000 down to 20,000. November was intense and I’m not sure I can handle that much with everything else in my life. Setting a goal that is doable for you is important to reach success.

The last step for set up is to give cabin preferences. The majority of those signing up are separated into cabins of 12 writers. You can chose to opt out of cabins if you prefer to go it alone. The idea is to connect in community for support and the encouragement to get things done.  It is even possible to chose your own cabin if you already have a group of writer friends that are all doing Camp. I chose a random cabin assignment. I like interacting with new people.

Once signed up, novel information entered and cabin assigned (or not), the only thing that needs to be done is to wait for April 1st to begin.

I would encourage anyone who has never participated in this or any of the NaNoWriMo events to find their way to the forums. There are specific Camp forums to answer any of your questions.

The cool thing about these types of challenges is that you are only competing against your self. There are others who are along for the journey but the only one who matters is you. And if you only get 100 words written in April, well, that is 100 words you didn’t have before.

You can do this.

Ready, Set, Go…

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Today I outlined the last two novels in my trilogy that I never thought I would write as I originally thought it would be a stand alone novel. Its interesting the things that evolve when you write everyday.

I am gearing up for April’s Camp NaNoWriMo. At this point I am ready to write even though it doesn’t start for several more days. I have built worlds and even done some research. Not a lot but definitely more than I did for my original novel.

Before November I discovered an interesting way to outline to get started. I was anxious about attempting something as big as a novel, never having done it before. Generally, I write flash fiction and there is little need to plan out a story like that so this was big for me and I kept looking for all of those “secrets” to writing a novel. I wanted to be prepared. Somehow I stumbled onto Dan Wells through his youtube video’s. You can find them here: Dan Wells on Story Structure https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KcmiqQ9NpPE

Through watching these (more than once) I was able to give myself a general outline or at least a direction to go in. It wasn’t hindering in the least, though my story has busted out of my original plan for it.

His basic premise is that you should have at least an idea for your story and always begin at the end. He states that you need to know where you are going in order to write how you get there. There is also a midpoint, a couple of plot turns and a couple of pinches on your MC that turn up the heat. I would recommend that you watch the entire series of five videos. I plan on watching them again before April gets here just to help get things moving again.

Whether you are a planner or a pantser (writing by the seat of your pants), having a good idea to begin with is probably a good place to start. If you are wondering where to go from there, check out Dan’s talks on Story Structure. It may help bring some of those thoughts that have been floating through your mind to order and the writing will flow from it.

Avoiding

writer-605764_1280I love writing. I think about it, I dream about it and I do it.

Except when I don’t. Except when it becomes another chore to be completed. Except when I will do anything to avoid writing at my desk. I mean Facebook has never looked so good.

Creating a blog has been on my radar almost since I began writing seriously. By writing seriously I mean: writing every day at a scheduled or mostly scheduled time, setting goals and actually submitting work.

Building a blog was something I knew nothing about. I’d seen blogs I liked and ones I didn’t but had no idea what I was in for.  So I did what I normally do, research. I began looking into the how to’s and the why’s of building a blog. I signed up for a class which has been both a blessing and a curse. A blessing because I’ve learned a lot and a curse in that I have so much more to learn and to understand about this side of the writing life.

The good news is I have a blog I like. I like the layout and so much of what is there. Yet I am still struggling. Struggling to find my words and to convey them clearly. Struggling to know the right path to take to be a successful blogger. There are so many different way a person can build their business. I have discovered it truly is a business and quite serious at that. For me it has become about pressure. And when pressure builds in my life I tend to avoid. Everything.

Today is a day of honest avoidance. Sometimes just naming it helps. I’ve been avoiding so many things about my writing, not just about my blog and I’ve finally owned that today. I have been making excuses for myself about my inadequacies as a writer. That inner critic has been hard at work and I’ve bought it. It happens to everyone.

In my under pressure avoidance, I’ve also let some normal things slide. Well, not today. While I was avoiding my desk and the butt in chair technique I normally apply, I did manage to get a few things done:

Laundry

Dishes

Changed sheets on my bed

Cleaned my room

Knit a few rows of a blanket for a friend

Online shopping for more books – as if I need any more see this post

Its been a productive day.

The good thing is that while I was avoiding the writing, I was still writing. This also happens to a lot of people. In the middle of the pile of dishes I was working through, I found the words for this post. I finished that work before sitting down to write and magic happened.

I don’t think I am alone in this phenomenon. I’ve heard other writers talk about doing other things when the muse just won’t show up and the words won’t come. I believe we all need this down time because if anyone is like me, the everyday activities never get done if all I do is focus on my writing. Then, I’ve discovered I don’t work as well in the midst of clutter. Its a double edged sword.

So it has been a productive day. My house no longer looks like a tornado ripped through it and I’ve gotten my writing done for the day. I’d say a job well done.

Challenge: What do you do when the words just won’t come and nothing else is working?

Organized Chaos?

“We stayed at home to write, to consolidate out outstretched selves.” Sylvia Plath

This quote which I read in this book, Dancing on the head of a Pen by Robert Benson,Amazon spread through me like wildfire. I work full-time so I don’t have a lot of time during the week. I do write but I save a lot of my planning and heavy stuff for the weekend. Its been a couple of weeks since I’ve had a Saturday to myself.

My plan was to stay at home for the weekend and work on my blog and other writings. I am reading this week at writers group and need to edit. However, this is my office space currently:

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And this:

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Here is another angle:

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I find this an unacceptable place to write. There is no flow, no creativity. I’m not sure how many people need space, not just in time but square footage. I have a decent sized office with lots of shelving but no real horizontal space.

This has become my new goal for this weekend. To create more desk area though I love my antique secretary, I just need more. And less clutter. No one can write with this much clutter.

I’ve done a bit of searching and have found that for the most part, a writer’s desk is sacred space and therefore useless clutter isn’t allowed. Books, works in progress, pens and other paraphernalia but relatively clean spaces. Which means the clutter I am working in currently must go.

I am finding that this process of reducing clutter and planning for better workspace is sparking my creativity. As a matter of fact, this blog post is being written as I sit with my space in process.

My plan for the weekend is to continue on the office and work on edits along with some serious blog planning. If some creative words appear, I will still be here, amid the clutter and mess.

Confession of a Book Hoarder

I have a confession.

I am a book hoarder. No apologies, no excuses. I love books and bookstores. My home library shows just how much.

DSC_0275Recently I’ve reorganized my office space, which includes my library. DSC_0282During that process I discovered a few things about myself. Some I’ve known and some, not so much.

One of the most amazing things I learned was that I had three thesaurus’ and no dictionary on my shelves. I know I can simply use the built-in software in my writing program or I can Google it. Sometimes it is easier and faster to pick up a book and find the word myself. There are both limitations and advantages in both procedures.

Knowing I couldn’t find a dictionary on my shelf, I went to the local bookstore and found one. This is the one I purchased: Amazon The Oxford New Desk Dictionary and Thesaurus. This is a small combined dictionary and thesaurus. More space for other books you know.

Once the reorganization occurred I actually found a small dictionary – it was just on the wrong shelf. The dictionary and thesaurus’ have now made it to the donate pile. It’s not very big.  I seem to have a difficult time letting go of books.

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Another thing I discovered as we have already seen, I have a bad habit of purchasing books more than one. I have found a few duplicates among my collection. The duplicates have also made it to the donate pile.

I have a lot of books and I am okay with that. I don’t intend to change my behavior any time soon. The seduction and promise of bookstores is too much for me to say no to. I will continue to go into bookstores and come out with treasures. Hopefully I will even read some of them.

Writing in Community

typewriter-472849_1280Writing is a solitary pursuit. At least that’s what I’ve always believed. I never realized just how important community could be to the pursuit of a writing life. Not until recently that is.

Over the weekend while attending a writing class at a local arts school and met a fellow writer. We connected through our mutual love of writing and made plans to attend a writing group.

The experience made me realize just how important community is for writers. So much of the word we do is done alone yet there is much growth in meeting and joining in community with other writers. There are lots of ways to do this:

  • Join an online community. Here are a few that I’ve checked out:
  • Find a writing group in your community even if there isn’t one nearby. I drive about an hour each way 2x per month for a group that meets my need for support and feedback. It also gives me a chance to connect to other writers.
    • The Writer magazine has a list of writing groups broken down by genre – http://www.writermag.com/
    • Local Libraries or bookstores often know about writers groups in the area
    • The local college may have their own groups
  • Take a class
    • Local college
    • Arts councils
    • Libraries
    • Local magazines often have advertisements.
  •  Conferences
    • Arts councils
    • Search engines
    • Libraries often have flyers posted for these

Find a friend and meet up once or twice per month – just to talk about writing and maybe even show some work

There are many ways to connect with other writers. If one doesn’t work, try another one. You may find your writing enriched by these connections. The challenge is to be brave and step out of your comfort zone. You will be glad you did.