Five Things I Learned From Camp NaNo 2018

Posted August 1, 2018 by Amber in My Stories, Writing / 11 Comments

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Ladies and gentlemen, I’ve done it.  On Sunday, July 29th I validated my Camp NaNoWriMo novel.  Even my word processor – Dabble – was excited for me.  I got confetti fireworks and everything.

As I’m writing this post on the 29th – mere seconds after validating – it feels… wrong.  I hate looking at this beautiful, delightful winner’s screen and feeling like I cheated.  Because, in a way, I have.

For me, part of what makes NaNoWriMo, NaNoWriMo is finishing the novel.  And I haven’t.  I’m nowhere near.  This is one of the reasons why I tend to drift towards Camp NaNoWriMo these last few years, instead of the November session.  Camp has flexible rules, flexible goals, and I don’t feel so bad as long as I meet my technical goal (50k words) even if I really wish I had finished the novel.

I set myself up for success, mind you.  I made a plot outline, which I never do, and it had 31 chapters.  If I had written a chapter a day, I would have won.  Right now, I’m stuck in this little town called Rystram very early in my character’s journey where they’re refilling medical supplies, shoeing one of the horses, and generally speaking… just wasting time.  I have no sense of urgency in the story right now, and it’s going nowhere.

But here’s the thing… this is a first draft.  First drafts are meant to be garbage.  And, trust me, this one is.

This draft lets me write out all the junk in my head so it’s less cluttered.  It lets me create backstory and side story for the characters.  There have been scenes I’ve written through knowing it’ll end up on the cutting room floor.  And that’s okay!  Because Camp NaNoWriMo 2018 taught me some things.

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#1. I have time to write.

One of the reasons I’ve never truly fallen into NaNoWriMo since I started my current job in 2014 is that I always felt so busy.  I was a copy shop supervisor before this, and I usually worked weekends or odd hours, so I felt like I had loads of time to work on my hobbies.  Working a regular 9-5 messed up my perception of free time.  I used to write in the mornings before work – literally sitting at my desk – but in the last two years, I’ve lost that discipline.  Now, I just start working when I get to work.

Even now, when I leave for work at 4:30am and get home at 6:15pm (stupid commute), I managed to write 50k.  In a busy July no less.  If I can do it now, I can do it anytime.

#2. I love my fantasy world.

I took a chance with my novel this session and decided to use a fantasy world I created when I was nine and have been developing ever since.  Like Tamora’s Pierce’s Tortall, I love this world and all the lines I can tie within it.  I have an old poster from ninth grade with the cities and topography marked.  It’s the fourth manuscript I’ve tried to write here (they’re all in different timelines) and writing in this world felt like an awakening.  The other manuscripts I’ve written are okay, but I love this imaginary world and especially my western European style, matriarchal kingdom of Malai.

#3.  I write best with multiple perspectives

After my first three WIPs, I switched from writing in multiple perspectives to just one, and I don’t know why?  I think it may have been that in ‘Tweens, I burnt myself out trying to balance an eighteen-year-old male perspective with a nine-year-old female perspective.  For the next several NaNo sessions I wrote all the way through in one voice, and honestly, I struggled.  The last few WIPs I’ve attempted (Ashes to Ashes and Lady of Shadows) both run in multiple voices and it is soooo nice.

For one, I get bored being in the same person’s head all the time – as a reader, and a writer.  It’s also a lot easier to break out of a writing slump when I’m able to jump into someone else’s head in a different place and deal with a different problem.

#4.  I am a morning person.

I knew this already, but Camp really cemented it for me.  If I forced myself up a little extra early and wrote, I’d get into a groove and hit 2k easy that day and be happy.  If I waited until after work, I’d be so dead.  Like, bare minimum, this ain’t happening, dead.  My daily stats attest to it:

Those ups near the beginning are when I was in my zone, fresh and new, and getting up in the mornings and doing things.  At the end there?  It became “I’m ahead, I only need to write 600 words today… so… I’ll just do it real quick after work no problem.”  It did not go well, clearly.  Therefore, if I’m going to get things done, it’s going to be in the mornings when my mind is fresh.

#5. I unabashedly ignore my plot outline.

Even though I wrote an outline, it quickly just became an “oh, where are they supposed to go next?” thing.  I probably spent 20k words ignoring the path I set for myself and wandering aimlessly in the woods having mock battles and falling in love.  Editing is going to be an adventure.

#6.  I love to write.

This is something I forget a lot.

love to write.  I love to craft stories.  I get tied up in worrying about the amount of free time I have, or how intimidating querying would be, or how unconnected I am to get stuff published that I forget: I love to write.  I love the characters and the magic systems and the fantasy worlds.  I love to be somewhere else and create something.  And in the end, it doesn’t matter if ten thousand people read my novels, or if they’re just there for me.  I love them, and I love writing, and that’s all that needs to matter.  The rest will come with hard work, if I want it to.

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So what’s next?  A little song, a little dance – Batman’s head on a lance?

What’s next is I think I need give myself a little break for the next couple weeks – I am horribly behind on writing blog posts and as we roll into August, all I’ve got is this one, a tag, and a couple of reviews of ARCs I wrote ages ago.  That’s a lot of drafts sitting and waiting for some love.  But after that?

After that, I think I’d like to keep going.  I’d like to push myself to 2k/day, but we’ll see.  Anything, anything at all is better than what I was doing before Camp.  I can finish this novel, and edit it – I just need a little accountability and motivation.

Once I’ve gotten a handle back on my posting schedule (probably need two solid, focused weekends for that) I am going to set a new goal within Dabble and push myself to keep writing.  Keep writing until the end.  And I’ll keep you all up to date in the monthly wrap ups, just like usual.

I’m really excited to keep moving forward and discover what Arin, Silas, Myra, and Xin have in store for me.

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Are you working on a novel?

Camp NaNo-ers – how did it go?

When do you do your best work?
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11 responses to “Five Things I Learned From Camp NaNo 2018

  1. I just shouted in joy for you from my living room recliner. Hitting your NaNoWriMo goals feels so good!
    Love your list of things that you learned. It is so positive and, I think, will give you a better jumping off point for the next round. Honestly, I am completely and utterly impressed that you wrote your 50k with your schedule. That is amazing and shows such a glorious drive to achieve. Awesome work.

    • Amber

      <3 <3 <3 I honestly don't know how I did it?! I always get home from work and feel like roadkill, so seeing the word count rack up was so, so exciting. So thank you! :) :) :)

  2. I’m so proud of you!! You definitely didn’t cheat at all – you reached your goal even though you had a busy month and that’s amazing. Plus you learned so much – that’s a win in itself 😛 I’m glad you remembered your love for writing and for your fantasy world (which sounds amazing btw!!)
    Good luck continuing your novel 🙂

    • Amber

      I try to find the silver linings in things (this post was very nearly a “ways in which I am annoyed with myself as a writer” post lol). One thing I do need to do with my fantasy world is make sure it gets out of my head and on to the page haha. But I’m still really excited about it all! Thank you! 🙂

  3. Congrats! I’ve won a couple of times (not this year!) and it really feels great. It’s very true that you can find time to write, even if it’s only a hour a day. And when you shut up your inner editor you can get a lot of crappy words out in an hour!

    • Amber

      Yes, yes, yes to the bit about the inner editor – it’s always a struggle to go “I’m writing crap, I’m writing crap, I’ll fix it later….” when you really want to go back and fix it now. But it really doe only take and hour to do the daily NaNo for me, as long as I get on a roll. 🙂 I always forget that until I dive it. 🙂

      Thank you!

    • Amber

      Thank you! I love watching from the sidelines, too – I wish I could find more bloggers who talk about AND participate in NaNo. I’ve been cheering on Ali @ The Bandar Blog from the sidelines and am waiting for her latest update on whether or not she won. 🙂

  4. Yay, congratulations on winning NaNo, that’s such a great accomplishment – I am so happy you got to write so much and that you learned so much along the way, as well. I just love that you mentioned how you love writing and how NaNo reminded you of that. I tend to forget how much I love writing whenever I’m just too focused on trying to make things better, so I kind of forgot how much I love writing since, well, almost a year now. I hope to gain that feeling again sometime, it is THE BEST feeling ever.
    Best of luck for your writing yay!! 😀

    • Amber

      Thank you!!! 🙂 I’m so much the same – I forget I love writing when I’m busy, because when I’m busy, it just feels like another chore. Sometimes it just takes sitting down and making myself do something to remember how wonderful it is! Reading, yoga, and baking can be like that for me too, lol.

      I hope you are able to find your spark again soon!