Camp NaNoWriMo Wrap Up

Posted by Derek Chamberlain on Monday, August 5, 2013 Under: Writing

So, everyone is doing their wrap-up posts for Camp NaNoWriMo, and I’m no exception. We all want to share our experiences and get other people interested in taking a shot at NaNoWriMo proper when it starts in November. First, a quick up-date and then the Three Keys to a Great NaNoWriMo Experience. 


I finished the month with a little over 55,000 words on my NaNo project and over 80,000 total for the month which is more words in one month than I think I’ve ever done before, especially as pretty much all of them were ‘text’ words of one sort or another and not research, worldbuilding, or editing. I’m pretty stoked by that. I don’t know if I’m going to be able to keep that up into the future though mainly because of the next piece of news.


I mentioned in my last post that I got offered three jobs teaching twelve lessons. Well, one of those jobs just asked me to take on three new classes, taking me up to 15 classes a week from this month. On May 31 I was teaching two private classes a week, on June 30 I was teaching five classes a week, on July 31 I was teaching 12 classes a week, and, at the moment, it looks like on August 31 I’ll be teaching 15 classes a week, though given the conversation I had with one of my bosses last night, that may be conservative. 


Great news? Totally. Money to pay the bills and put food on the table is always an awesome thing. And, so far, I’ve no complaints about any of the places I’m working. This is the honeymoon period though. [Smile] 


I’m now facing a new challenge. One I’ve not really had to face since I made the decision to stop screwing around and take my writing as seriously as I told everyone I was. I’m now short on productive writing time. 


There are still plenty of hours in the day. I can stay up late or get up early and write; I can write on the train (I’ve done that, and it’s not as easy as it sounds); or I can write before, between, or after classes. I do all of those already, but the thing is that if you spend all your free time writing, you don’t have a life. And if you don’t have a life, pretty soon your writing reflects that.


This is the same challenge that every full-time writer has to face. How do you balance producing enough words to pay the bills with having enough of a life to make those words saleable? 


I don’t know yet. When I do, I’ll be sure to post about it, but I have the feeling that this isn’t going to be a one-size-fits-all kind of solution. 



The 3 Keys to a Great NaNoWriMo Experience


1. Be prepared.

2. Build a buffer early on.

3. Community, community, community


Let me elaborate on those three points just a little.


1. Be prepared.


By this I don’t just mean have an outline and some character sketches, though having those can be really useful. I mean, NaNoWriMo is a writing marathon. You have to do a minimum of about 1,600 words every day in order to get your 50,000 by the end of day 30. 


You need to approach it the same way you would a foot-race marathon. You don’t go out there on the morning of and expect to run 42 km. You spend months or even years beforehand training. You run every day, starting off with a short distance and gradually increasing it until you’re doing marathon length runs, then you try to pick up your pace. You do other exercises, and adjust your diet, in order to help build stamina, wind, blood circulation, all those things that you need if you’re going to run a successful race. 


You need to do the same sorts of things before doing NaNoWriMo. You need to practice writing every day, regardless of how you feel or what’s going on in your life. You need to develop your creativity muscles and learn a routine that works for you. You need to know how you write, are you a plotter or a pantser? You won’t know what it’s like to have to create on cue, day in day out, until you’ve done it. And the best way to know if you can handle it is to train yourself up to it.



2. Build a buffer early.


Life sometimes intrudes in ways that we haven’t foreseen and couldn’t expect. In the face of catastrophe, there’s no shame in admitting that you couldn’t keep your word count up, nor any shame in finding that, observing armageddon, the words flow from you like an overflowing dam. You won’t know how the dramas of life will affect you until you’ve been through them. That, of itself, is a good reason to build a buffer. 


There are also any number of foreseeable dramas that can impinge upon your life. There’s school, work, family obligations; all those things that are often planned months in advance. There’s also the inevitable fatigue of keeping up a high rate of creative production. These are the main reasons that you should build a buffer early. 


Aim to get at least a couple of hundred words over the minimum every day. If you can, get yourself several thousand words ahead of the deadline so that, should the worst happen, you can miss a day or two without putting yourself behind. Having that buffer takes a lot of the stress out of the race and makes the whole experience more enjoyable.



3. Community, community, community


I touched on this last time, but I’m going to say it again. There’s no substitute for being part of a group of writers who are supportive. And there’s no one who is able to be as supportive as a fellow writer, or artist. Only they know what you’re going through. 


Get on the forums. Get in a writer’s group. Find that support. As writers, we are most often on our own when we write, even when we’re in a coffee shop surrounded by other people, we’re on our own. Few other people will appreciate the struggles we face in creating believable characters, settings, and stories. 


My friends from the Magic Spreadsheet are awesome people and this wouldn’t have been half the fun it was without their involvement. Special thanks goes to my cabin mates, Ellie Shoja and Mark Lindberg, for their support and encouragement.



Bonus Point

4. You are allowed to suck.


This is straight off of Mur Lafferty’s podcast, ‘I Should be Writing’, and it’s true no matter when you’re trying to get that story down. During NaNoWriMo though, it’s an essential survival strategy. 


It doesn’t matter if you misspell words, or your grammar is terrible, or your main character’s gender swings from female to male and back again through the course of your story. What matters is getting the words down. Once you’re done, you can run your story through the spell-checker and the grammar-checker (though I don’t recommend it, most grammar-checkers being pretty useless), and you can either fix that gender swing or make it part of your plot. It can all be fixed once the words are on the page/screen. You can’t fix a story that doesn’t exist yet, so get it down. 


Don’t look back. Don’t edit. Just write.



You’ve got three months before the November NaNoWriMo starts. Why don’t you start training now? Who knows, you might even get a novel or two out of it.

In : Writing 


Tags: "camp nanowrimo" writing update 
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Meet the scribbler


I'm a writer, editor, indie publisher, and dedicated Magic Spreadsheet user. Originally from Adelaide, Australia, I've been living in Japan since 1995. I've had a life-long interest in writing and in speculative fiction. My first book was published in mid-2014.
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