Although I’ve known about National Novel Writing Month for several years, I usually don’t remember its existence until mid- to late-November, when someone mentions it in passing. I have always thought it was absurd that one could write a novel is a month, but I never researched how a writer would go about attempting to do so. When I wrote my first novel, it took me about three months to finish the first draft (I abandoned it before any attempt at revisions). Colossus was started in late November, and I finished the first draft around March.
One of the wonderful things about Twitter is the networking. I’ve connected to several other fledgling writers, not-so-fledgling writers, established writers, and market-related professionals. One of these introduced me to CAMP NaNoWriMo. I’ve discussed Camp back in April, when it was going on, so I apologize if I’m a bit repetitive.
Camp NaNoWriMo is like a conditioning camp. You set a word-count for your novel, and it will tell you how many words per day you have to write in order to achieve it. The WC goal for NaNoWriMo proper is 50,000 words, but for Camp, you can set any goal you wish. You build a profile at the site, input how many words you write each day, and it will track your progress, as well as how near you are to your goal. You may also be placed in a “cabin” and they have forums for social support and advice.
I learned about Camp back in mid-March, I believe. I had finished Colossus, and was about to start on Two Guns. I had already penned a few scenes out, but I was having trouble with direction. When I first signed up, my WC goal was absurdly high: 90,000 words. Before Camp officially started, I knocked it down to 60,000, which would be 2,000 words per day. This goal was relatively easy, and since I had a head start, I didn’t feel too pressured to write over the weekends. However, I was deceiving myself, as well as the program. Even though all the material I was writing was related to the Heather Stokes series, I deviated from Two Guns into Rhodes’s backstory, the other novels, and book 3 (I’m still not happy with the titles I have, so it is not officially titled). Approaching the end of the month, I decided to do figure out what was really going on. My Two Guns manuscript had only ~32,000, but my NaNo chart was reflecting ~48,000. I felt like I had cheated. I felt pressured to buckle down in an unrealistic fashion to achieve my word goal. I was also feeling burned-out. I’m still feeling burned-out. (Perhaps I will blog about that later this week, but it will, sadly, lack closure.)
For July’s Camp NaNoWriMo, I will be writing book 3. Its working title is The Descent, but I’m unhappy with it for a few reasons, most of all being the fact that I associate that title with a movie that I love. (I want to title it The Downward Spiral, but I smell copyright infringement all over that.)
Things I learned in April:
- 60,000 words is only a reasonable word count goal if my plot is linear, and I have a strong outline. Book 3 is almost exclusively linear, and I already have most of it plotted out. I only have one or two scenes written, so there shouldn’t be a false sense of achievement beforehand. However…
- I am going to set a 50,000 word count goal until I have improved my discipline. That way, I won’t beat myself up for not achieving a higher goal.
- I should have a loose outline, but “pants” the scenes. What killed me with Two Guns is that there’s so much going on in different settings, that it was difficult for me to keep track of everything. I still haven’t written those last five scenes it needs…
- Do not revise until I am done. This includes other books. On that note, Camp was the perfect time I needed to put Colossus aside. It needed to marinate before revisions.
- Keep my document organized. I had all my scenes in one folder, but they were all in different Word documents. This caused a significant amount of confusion when attempting to figure out what goes where, and what my actual word count was. I need to keep everything in one document (which will be easier, since it’s more linear).
- Shop cabins. I loved my cabin, but a few of them didn’t like profanity, graphic violence, or sexual content, and it killed by ability to share openly and comfortably. You should be able to share without restraint.
- Unplug on the weekends. This sounds impossible at the moment, but I’m pretty sure my inability to unplug and put my writing aside for any length of time is the reason I’m feeling so listless and burnt-out, the reason I haven’t finished writing those five scenes (five. short. scenes. Ugh!), or buckled down on revisions like I should. I should be adventuring on weekends.
I’m really excited about Camp, despite my end-of-month anxiety in April. If I manage my time well, I should be able to breeze through this. I may even finish Two Guns as well. Do you know what that means? Core trilogy of My Name Is Not Heather Stokes will be completely drafted! Yay! That feels so exciting.
Which draws me to another topic:
Even though there are five more books in the Heather Stokes serial, I will not be working on them for the official NaNoWriMo. My goal, and I’m not entirely confident I can achieve it, is to write a social commentary piece based on this article. It’s a daunting task, since I have absolutely 0 experience on either side of the issues presented, and no idea how I am going to tackle it.