Tag Archives: Camp Nanowrimo

Post Camp Nanowrimo 2015

Well, that happened. That was a thing that I did.

And I learned something about myself! I learned that I can, in fact, draft a novel in a month. I would probably have been even more able to draft a longer novel in a month if I hadn’t come down with flu for four days or had to work a day job. Which is moderately terrifying. Of course, the idea of churning out 12 novels in a year is somewhat tempered by the knowledge that no, this novel is in no way shape or form ready for publication, and you do have to sit down and edit the thing before you do publish, and that will take a few months at the very absolute pushing-myself-ridiculously least. But I guess it’s gratifying to know that I can do that? Maybe that puts it at three novels a month, one for each Nanowrimo, and then I can spend the rest of the year editing and putting out dime novels. Certain People are going to kill me for saying that now.

Anyway. So. Nano happened. I wrote a little over 80k, eighty thousand words, which when put together with what I’d already written before I started this, makes almost 100k. A good sized novel. And about a third of that is going out the window already, because it’s filler, it’s me kicking stuff around while I get to know the characters if not the world in and of itself. Insufficient prep! I mean, at this rate by the time I write Long Road for the third? Fourth time? It might even be worth something, or very close to a final draft by the end of it, and on the other hand oh dear god you mean I have to cut 33k of the Demon Hunters draft and write it all over again?

This is what it’s like to be a writer, folks. This is why they say, if you can do anything else, anything at all, and get the same kind of fulfillment, do that instead. You get the elation of having finished a draft followed by the horror and dread of realizing that you have to rewrite huge chunks of it. This is also why, not incidentally, I put off editing until six weeks minimum after I’ve finished a novel draft. Because in the moment of being elated and in despair and over-emotional, I’m likely to cut out the wrong things. Or just scrap the thing entirely when there was a workable novel there.

(I wonder if agencies and editors have the same problem with Camp Nanowrimo as they do with Nanowrimo, given that the focus is more on writing in general and less on writing a novel. After Nanowrimo has become known, as Nano has become more famous, as the month of the killer slushpile. Poor agencies and editors.)

Right now, post Nano, I have a frillion and one projects. It’s almost comical. I’m picking up a dime novel I had mostly drafted and finishing it, I’m finishing up the edits on Sandborn where I’d gotten line edits done and now I have to filter in some scenes I’d only elided before. I’m picking up White Lightning and shaking it out for what needs written and what needs edited. I’m prepping for two more things including my next Camp Nanowrimo novel, and I’m eyeballing another dime novel I was in the middle of that I was trying to get out as quickly as possible, which naturally means that it’s coming along slow as uphill molasses and half of what’s coming out is wrong anyway.

These things I do to keep me busy after Nano, and also to keep my mind in shape for writing. When I go for a week or more without writing, the muscle gets atrophied and the discipline gets tossed out the window, and with every day it gets harder to start again. I may not be able to focus on writing directly, not as much after several days of 5 and 6k per day. But I can do writing related things. I can world-build. I can do edits, I can fill things in, and I can sort through and read over and make notes. Slowly, over time, I can build back up so I’m writing 3 and 4k per day again. As with any muscle, once you give it a hard workout you need to let it rest and rebuild. So too with writing.

And for that matter, I can write down what I’ve learned. Writing, as with most skills, is always a moving target, there is always something you can learn from what you did and improve on the next pass. Editrix spent Nano looking over my shoulder every now and again and pinpointed one of my problems for the third time, which means it’s likely a recurring problem I’ll need to work on for future novels: Get to know the world and the characters before you start writing. In a way, I need to prep by writing fanfic of my unwritten worlds, I need to have the patterns in place before I can start writing decent stuff, so I don’t spend half the time spinning my wheels on the page. So I guess one of the things I’ll be doing to rebuild my writing muscles will be drablets and flash fiction to figure out who the characters for the next Camp Nano novel are. Ah, my life.

Camp Nanowrimo 2015

I think at this point every writing blog does a Nanowrimo post sometime. This gives me a case of The Olds, because when I started Nanowrimo I was in college and it was maybe a few thousand people and we were all doing this crazy thing together, and apart from the online forums there was very little in the way of support. And now I think agencies and editors fear December with a particular kind of “Oh shit here come the masses of unedited manuscripts” trepidation. They make commercials with horror music or the Jaws theme out of this kind of stampede. Never, ever, ever submit your fresh out of the gate Nanowrimo manuscript. I know you know better. Don’t do it anyway.

Anyway. So, everyone has their own Nanowrimo advice or opinion post, and this is mine!

BACK UP YOUR WORK. Back it up back it up back it up. This should be at the top of every advice post on marathon writing I make. Back. It. Up. Otherwise you run the risk of being very sad someday.

Schedule Yourself – There’s two reasons for this. One is that if you clear out all foreseeable duties you might have to deal with in the next half hour and dedicate yourself to sitting and writing, you might actually have the time to do it. Not to mention the energy, if you schedule it right. This requires having a certain amount of predictability and awareness in your day-to-day, but if you can do it, it’s worth doing. That’s the obvious one. The less obvious part is that if you discipline yourself to sitting your ass down and putting fingers to keyboard or pen to paper for X minutes or at Y time in the day, you’re more likely to be able to do so in the future. And you’re more likely to be able to, not just because you’ll get in the habit and go “Oh, it’s writing time now,” but because your brain works itself around to that routine, sitting and writing will become at least a little bit easier. Even if it’s just a couple hundred words. Or fifty words. The more you make writing a part of your daily routine, the easier it gets to push through and get something done even when what you’re working on seems stale and boring and bleugh and no one will ever want to read this why do I bother. Which brings me to my next point.

You Will Get Sick Of It – That’s just a fact of writing. You will come to hate what you’re working on at least a little bit. My Editrix calls it the boggy middle. Neil Gaiman famously wrote that he called his agent to complain that this was pointless and he was never going to finish and it was a bad idea, and that she told him “Oh, you’re at that stage, everyone does it.” It’s true. Everyone does. This is why it’s important to get to a point where you’re comfortable in your own head with writing absolute, utter crap. Because whether or not you are, there is a point where you’ll feel like it. And speaking of comfortable…

Writer Comfort Is a True Myth – First, the myth: If you have that one fountain pen, or that one program, or that new laptop, or that office desk, or the perfect notebook, or even just a quiet place to curl up, you are not necessarily going to write any better or any easier. If your laptop is old and buggy and the ‘f’ key is missing and you can only open two windows at a time, maybe, yes, you will write easier. If you’ve got two screaming kids under the age of ten and a sick spouse and somehow you manage to turn the whole mess over to your BFF so you can have half an hour to yourself, you will almost certainly write easier. But having the ideal environment is not required. It is no guarantee that you won’t sit there staring at a blank page swearing at yourself because you only have twelve minutes left and you have to get the hero out from under the rolling boulder. And that said, knowing how to optimize what you do have is also important, as well as knowing what you would love to have, what you would like, and what the minimum is you need to get into the headspace for writing. Just because you don’t need the thing to write doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have the thing, if it’s within your means without sacrificing other important shit. Like, you know, food.

Bare Necessities – Speaking of food. Are you fed? If it’s been a little while, do you have a small food by your writing implements to snack on while you write? Are you hydrated? Did you sleep well? If not, do you have room for a quick power nap? (Power napping is a highly underrated skill.) Have you showered? Are you clean and feeling good and ready to go? If you have to set a  timer to make sure you get up every fifteen minutes and check if you need food or water, and do a few stretches and walk around some, set that timer. I do that quite a bit. Neglect not your physical form just because the biggest muscle a writer uses is the mind. It takes maybe forty five to an hour to shower, have a food, have a stretch, and sit down and take a couple to get your head in the game.

Head Games – And that is my last piece of advice for this post: since your mind is the biggest muscle you will use for writing (apart from those pesky fingers) you should exercise it. There are scads and gobs of affirmation exercises, guided meditation, I don’t favor any particular one and use a cobbled-together sort of meditation of my own design which I’ve discussed at length elsewhere in this blog. But exercising your brain is important, however you do it. So take some time and some trial and error, and figure out how you can best exercise your brain to make it an efficient writing muscle.

That’s my advice for marathon writing. Coincidentally, it’s also my advice for people who want to make a … what’s the word for a career that doesn’t imply a living wage? Profession? Lifelong habit? We’ll go with that, a lifelong habit of writing. Basically, if you’re writing for more than just this one story, this is my advice for how to go about working it into your life. Use it wisely and well, and discard it when it no longer serves you. Okay, that’s my final piece of advice. Always discard advice after you’ve considered it against your circumstances, if you’ve discovered it doesn’t serve you. There is no one true way to do writing, and anyone who tells you there is is selling something.