Camp NaNoWriMo on the Horizon

Holy guacamole Batman, I can’t believe that time is already upon us once again. My literary lovelies, my wordy birdies, my alliteration afficionados: camp nano will be back in full swing this April, and for any of you planners (and a few of you plantser) out there- now is the time to get started.

A few of you may be wondering what kind of gibberish is escaping my keyboard today, but never fear- I won’t leave you hanging out in the cold today.

So, a quick breakdown for those who have never heard of Nano: NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) is an annual writing challenge that takes place every November. The brave souls who choose to gather their writerly weapons and embark on the ambitious quest have a single challenge: write 50,000 in 30 days. You can share in your successes and failures on the message boards, full of thousands of other writers who are just as crazy as you.

But what about the other eleven months of the year, you ask? Oh, how glad I am that you brought it up. These brave warriors armed with their pens and laptops started to get anxious when they weren’t engaged in their quests. They knew that any brave adventurer needed to train, to prepare for their daring November mission. So they created the notorious Camp. Think of it like Camp Half-Blood (for you Percy Jackson lovers), but for the writerly world. This Camp is a safe haven for the writer, meeting in April and July every year.

But don’t worry, my daring friends- you need not travel far to engage in this adventure. This Camp is a virtual endeavor- you sign up, create a project, and can even join a cabin. The cabins are probably my favorite part. You can join a group of other writers and have your very own private message board. You can meet other people who are just as crazy as you, bond over books, snacks and beverages, share stories, obstacles and successes. You can cheer each other on and participate in short writing challenges to boost your word counts. I’ve met many amazing people that I have kept in touch with over the years. I’ve made connections forged in the fires of the pages, bound together through the fluid chains of words.

Another feature you get to see during Camp that you don’t get for your November challenge: customizable goals. During Camp you can do whatever you want- you can set your finish line anywhere you would like. You can be ambitious and go for the coveted Double Nano (100,000 words), or go lower if you know that life is going to be crazy for you that month. You can set your goal to words count, pages, hours- anything you wish.

But wait, you say- I am not a novelist, why on Middle Earth would I want to join a writing challenge? Another good question, my fearless friend. With Nano you can sign up for any kind of project under the sun. Do you want to start writing in your journal more? Register it as your project- you are now mired in the pits of nonfiction (but beware, my dear- reality is often much stranger than the fiction that we write). Or perhaps you are hoping to pump up your blog (I know most of my dear readers have one), well sign up and start creating those beautiful posts so many are waiting to gobble up. The choice is your, my friends- this is a choose-your-own-adventure of a sort.

The challenge, if you choose to accept it, can be found at Camp NaNoWriMo. It is never too late, my friends. We shall embark on April 1st, but you can still join after that start date. You will always be welcomed with open arms in this crowd. I’ve never found the support that these fellow adventurers have bestowed upon me.

In the immortal words of Albus Dumbledore, “Let is step into the night and pursue that flighty temptress adventure.” Writing is predominantly a solitary endeavor, perhaps finding a few friends along the road wouldn’t be the worst thing that could happen. Are you ready? The world needs to hear your words, find others who will raise their voices with you.

Camp Nano Cabin Search

Hello there, my dear friends! Camp Nano kicks off tomorrow at midnight- I am really hoping I will manage to stay awake for the late night start, but there is always a possibility that I will turn into a pumpkin instead. I wanted to extend an invitation to anyone who may be interested or is sitting uncomfortably on the fence- if you would like to join our little writerly challenge, we still have plenty of room available in our group. All ages and genres are welcome (the more diverse the better). You don’t need to have any crazy goals for July- just a love for writing and an openness to talk with other people who share this little passion of ours.

For those who haven’t heard of it- it’s a virtual writing challenge, so no real sleeping bags are needed (unless you want one, then by all means- enjoy). If you would like more info, you can peek at the website right here Camp NaNoWriMo, or feel free to leave me a comment! I’ve participated the past couple of years, and though I’m not an expert, I’d like to think I’ve explored it enough to answer any questions. And if, as I hope you will, you decide to take the plunge and join this lovely little adventure- let me know- I have plenty of room for a friendly face in our cabin.

Happy writing, my friends! It’s going to be another crazy ride.

Camp Nano Adventures- If You Dare

Pull out the marshmallows, charge your laptop and stock up on your favorite summer treats- Camp Nano is back! At the end of the week we go charging into yet another literary adventure, my dear friends- if you dare to take the plunge. The July session of Camp Nano is set to begin at the stroke of midnight this very Friday. Be still my beating heart, I cannot wait!


Last camp didn’t feel particularly authentic to me. I was in an incredible cabin full of active and vibrant individuals who were constantly chatting and running word sprints together. It was truly inspiring- and yet, I had opted to work on an editing project for the last go-round. Granted, it was something that I deeply needed to invest in- but truthfully, I felt a bit left out. So this time around I am perhaps ignoring my better judgment and trying my hand at a brand new project. In fact, I will be working in a genre I don’t generally dabble in- a touch of historical fiction will be shaping my summer. 

I’m so excited; I have my plot all lined up, a soft sketch of my characters is sitting firmly in my mind, and I am ready to hit the ground running (If I manage to stay up until midnight on Friday, that is). It feels so good to play with a new story after I’ve spent so long diving into prior projects that are still in disrepair, no matter how much tlc I smother them with. I have new characters to know, new sets to craft, new shinanigans for them to dance through.

But the one thing that I am still on the lookout for: a few wayward writers in search of their own adventure. I set up a cabin this year (a bit later than usual), and now I am hoping to find some brave souls to embark on this journey with me. They’ve made camp so versatile this past year that you can really do just about anything with it. There are new methods of tracking your work, new styles you can claim- which makes your nontraditional paths much easier to traverse. I’ve worked on new novels, editing, poetry and even blog posts in previous years- the opportunities are endless. Not to mention the fact that they’ve expanded the figurative walls in each cabin- now you can easily accommodate 20 people in each group. And did I mention they finally set it up so you can name your cabin? It’s the little things in life that bring the most joy, I promise you this.

So if you dare to dream of the written word, my friend; if you have adventures running through your blood and stories singing in your heart- what do you have to lose? Take the plunge, my dear. Would you like to join me, fellow traveler? The fire is warm and the company is good. I can’t promise we will succeed in our endeavors, but I can swear that the journey will be well worth the work we put into it. Much like the brave little hobbits prodded by a wise wizard- you won’t know what you are capable of until you take that chance and step outside of your comfort zone. Please, dear friends- do you care to share in an adventure?

Non-Traditional Camp Nano (ready or not)

I finally did it! I have officially registered for Camp Nano! (Cue the fireworks, alert the parade, start the countdown for the trapeze artists, and someone please feed the dancing bears before they go on stage). Okay, so technically I meant to sign up at the beginning of the month, but it felt impossible simply because I could not decide on a project to dedicate the entire month of April to.

When it comes to Nano, I tend to be a bit of a traditionalist. I love a 50,000 word count goal, even during Camp. I adore starting a fresh project to push me through the month. There is nothing more thrilling than waiting for midnight (or the next day after work) to start filling in that blank page with the feverish creations of my own off-kilter mind. It’s an intoxicating moment; the total elation you get when you start a new project and the words flow smoothly, unencumbered by plot bunnies, storyline inconsistencies and wayward character. The page is like a blanket of freshly fallen snow, just waiting for you to come running out in the morning and start building your own little winter wonderland. I’ve always loved the thrill of a brand new Nano project.

And yet there is one big problem with continually brining in something fresh and new to the Nano table; if you do not diligently follow through on your editing during the post-Nano snooze, you wind up with a half dozen partially complete projects that are nowhere near being ready for public consumption. And this, my dear friends, is the dilemma that I have been facing. I need to spend a lot more time on my editing; it’s no secret, I will sing it from the mountain tops, I am well aware of the traps I set for myself in my literary haven. 

The problem really boils down to the fact that editing can be difficult and tedious work. It’s not nearly as thrilling as the first draft where anything goes and you can be a bit loose with your story line, reveling in the comfortable knowledge that you can fix it later. But if you keep on saying ‘later,’ eventually you realize that it will never really happen. Can I truly continue to hold on to the title of writer if I am unintentionally so resistant to the editing that I’ve had sitting on my to-do list for ages?

So this Nano, I have decided to be bold and try something a bit different, something that scares me more than I care to admit. You see, Camp Nano has added some pretty awesome new features to their website this year. When you go to register your story, you are presented with a few options that were not present a year ago. Instead of just the traditional word count, there are now three other tracking methods that will assist with different types of projects. Moving forward you can now track your progress by counting pages, lines, or hours. That’s right- they are making life about a hundred times easier for those pursuing projects that don’t fit the cookie-cutter word-count model. So in honor of this new change, I have decide to embrace it by throwing myself into my very first non-traditional Nano. 

I am going to spend my Camp on an editing project for an old story that I truly believe has a future. It’s a dystopian style novel that I wrote a couple of years ago, the first in a series. It has a decent storyline, but really needs to be pulled together. The prose needs to be tighter, the characters etched with a touch more definition, the plot carved into the soil a bit deeper. My first drafts always tend to come out a bit too fluffy- like I threw the pages into the dryer with an entire box of fabric softener. I have to chip away at the nice edges and force a bit of grit, inflict a dash of pain, boil the pretty words down until the rougher edges of the underlying humanity start to take shape. 

There will be a lot of re-writing involved, but it didn’t feel right to limit myself to a word count this year; I want to focus on the quality of the work for this round, not just the quantity. And if I work hard enough, perhaps I will be able to reward myself with the beginnings of a brand new novel during the summer Nano.

My next adventure will be all about finding a cabin for camp, a daunting task when you are working on something a bit non-traditional. However, I believe that particular quest is one I shall embark upon tomorrow. Stay tuned, my friends, I am quite sure I will be continually updated you on these little hopes, dreams, misadventures and potential bouts of begging for help.

If anyone is interested in joining (or if you have zero idea what Nano is and think I have finally lost every single marble I once possessed), take a peek at Camp NaNoWriMo. If you want to challenge yourself and your writerly ways, it is a fantastic motivator to get your booty in the chair every single day.  NaNoWriMo (which stands for National Novel Writing Month) holds two virtual camp sessions every year; you get to pick your own project, set your own goal for the month, and if you wish you can opt to join a ‘cabin’ or have one randomly selected for you. A cabin is basically just a message board with a specific group of other writers who are also participating. You track your progress and help one another on your journey. It’s addictive, and I have met some fantastic people over the years. The community is large and extremely supportive. I also find that a lot of them are just a tad odd- so I tend to feel more at home with them than with a lot of the ‘real’ world. If you are interested in joining, let me know- perhaps we might even be able to set up a private cabin. When it comes to Nano, the possibilities are endless.

Nano Adventure Comes to a Close (raise your glass)

It seems strange to think that we set out on our daring adventure just 30 days ago. And yet here we are, standing at the final stage on our figurative journey. The foes have been met and the dragons slain (or tamed, if you hold pro-dragon beliefs). We are battered and weary as allegories and alliterations dance through our tired minds, sped on by the hyperboles of our rhetoric. Whether you reached that goal or not- we have done this crazy thing, and come out on the other side. We are haggard, but we still stand.

This past month has been a whirlwind. And yet, after the dust has settled, and all has been said or done; I must admit, it has been a truly beautiful chaos we have found ourselves in. Life does not wait for us to finish that last paragraph or discover that awaiting plot bunny, no, it goes on no matter what crazy goals we have set for ourselves. Thanksgiving brought with it family fun and visits with old friends who have moved farther away than I’d like. There have been roadblocks and pitfalls (and I am still not over the horribly-awful-no-good-very-bad defeat of my Cougars at the Apple Cup this year. Luckily, my Husky friends were kind and didn’t run it in too bad.) And I am also a tad disappointed with my loss during our Ugly Christmas Sweater Party. Next year I will bring bribes for all voting participants. I’m just saying- I brought out Carlton! You know- ‘now this is a story all about how my life got flipped-turned upside down…’ (you know you sang that to the tune- and probably finished the next few lines). Who would have known that I would get Trumped in the end? (Pun very much intended: I lost to Trump and a reindeer yard ornament that was safety pinned to a sweater- they tied. I can only hope that my step-dad was truthful when his shirt promised to make Christmas great again).


My computer problems persisted (it still does not like the internet), however, it did miraculously decide to reconnect to the internet right after I managed to hit my goal- so I swooped in and validated: thank you computer gods who had mercy on me. I owe you some peppermint hot chocolate…or whatever it is you enjoy- perhaps some 001010110 scarves. 

So, this Nano I decided to try AGAIN at doing something completely and totally insane. I made a goal that I have attempted to reach every year (and every time, I have failed miserably). My goal: 100,000 words in one month. That’s right, I was one of those masochistic psychos that decided to attempt a double Nano this holiday season. I know what you are thinking, why put yourself through that writerly agony when you could instead be eating mounds of pumpkin pie completey ensconced in entire containers of whipped cream? Well let me tell you something: I am nothing if not a multi-tasker. Type with one hand and hold the fork in the other. Boom! Problem solved. (Word of advice, do not forget about the fork unless you think your laptop would look good with a pumpkin coat).

I don’t know what was different this year; I was just as busy as I typically am, life was filled with the normal drama and surprises. But I was determined. I jump in head first and just hoped that I could learn to fly. Sometimes all you really need is blind and reckless faith to force you out on that ledge. But you know what? All of the best stories start right there, with your toes poking over the edge.

This year it just felt right. I was hell bent, I was frazzled, but I was finding my muse and the motivation to dance with her. And so I clickity clacked well past my bedtime. When I wanted to watch my show, I waited to hit my daily goal before turning it on. I jumped way ahead of the curve, I fell behind, and ultimately, I rallied.

And you know what happened? I did it. That’s right, I actually met my crazy goal, not only that: I surpassed it. It was reach for the stars, over the moon World Series kind of stuff. I will proclaim it proudly: I wrote over 100,000 words in 30 days.

But you know what? It took me years to get to that point. It took a perfect aligning of inspiration and circumstances to allow me to even have a shot. And I honestly don’t know if I will ever be able to do it again. I can’t tell you that what I wrote was gold- because I was a tad delirious through half of it, and I am sure that the editing gods will smite me with their well-worded wrath. But for me, this year, that was not the point. This year I wanted to prove to myself that I could push past all logical endurance and achieve something that felt impossible. I wanted to remind myself that these crazy dreams of mine might not be as far-fetched as they have always felt. If I could accomplish this, well then, perhaps I can take another step and reach for something else. Maybe I’ll finally start sharing my work with my loved ones, or find the internal validation that I need to finish editing a project and step out in search of an agent. This year I was searching for my grit. And I found it.

We have fought a hard battle my friends, and I am so incredibly proud of all of us- I have been keeping up with the nano blogs, the message boards, the Facebook groups. Look at all we managed to accomplish- whether we hit our goals or not, we stepped out there, pen raised in the air and screamed our challenge to the blank page. Having the courage to even take that step is inspiring. And knowing that so many other people joined me on that front line makes me feel a little bit less alone in this wide world of ours.

So tonight, I raise my glass to you: cheers, my friends, there is no one I would have rather shared this adventure with. Thank you for keeping me inspired. Thank you for giving me the reason to keep on pushing and hit my goals. Because this year, that was the real difference: having this blog and all of you to keep me responsible. Thank you for helping my make my little dream a possibility.
And so, without any further ado, and for the last time this Nano season, let’s take a look at the final numbers:

Word Count: 113,269 out of 100,000

Percentage of Goal Complete: 113%

Current Mood on Project: you know how on Fridays your are happy and exhausted all at the same time? That’s how I feel. So happy I did this, and yet also simultaneously thrilled that I am done and can bury my nose in a few neglected books for the next week or two


 

Rushing Through Halftime: Nano Update #3

We have officially passed the day 15 mile marker and have started the Nano descent; love it or hate it, we are now sledding down the mountain to our inevitable conclusions. And of course: what a week it has been!

Truthfully, my week didn’t start out all that strong on the writing front. I was caught up in some good books I was reading (and listening to on audibles), and was stealing spare minutes to page through to the next chapter. One of them was equal amounts fascinating and disturbing. ‘This is Your Brain on Parasites’ will not only educate you, but convince you that you have little critters in your brain controlling your movements like a robot. It will also teach you that your cat is an evil mastermind. And washing your hands is vitally important. In spite of the fear enduring moments, I loved it nonetheless, and would recommend it to anyone interested in finding some good fodder for a sci-fi thriller or zombie novel (if you are working on the latter, you also have to give ‘Do Zombies Dream of Undead Sheep’ a shot).

On Friday morning I almost caught my hair on fire. Okay, that might be a tad dramatic, but my hairdryer did start changing it’s speed and then smelled strongly like burning plastic. I opted to risk getting a cold and ran out of the house with sopping wet, stringy hair because I was terrified my little drier would explode in my face. I also left it in the sink far away from any flammibles just in case spontaneous combustion decided to become a thing in my house while I was at work. Good news: it did not.

A weekend dentist appointment (I know, I’m a glutton for punishment apparently) left me with a deep appreciation for things that I generally take for granted. First: whoever created localized anesthetics was an amazing human being and I owe them an immense gratitide for all that they did in the name of pain management. Based on the sounds I heard coming from my gaping mouth, it’s a good thing I was so numb I could barely blink my own eye. I walked out of that office feeling like two-face from Batman- the entire right side was totally numb and unmanageable. I attempted to act like a normal human being while walking through Target (on a mission to replace my aforementioned hairdryer) though I suspect they noticed something was a tad off when I kept running my hand over my mouth to see if I was smiling with both sides. I also rediscovered the importance that I put on the spoken word in my daily life. How, you ask? Well, when your tongue is numbly rolling around in your mouth like a water wiggle, it takes a concentrated effort not to lisp or bite it. Repeatedly. In situations like that, silence is truly golden.

Last night was also a bit of an adventure: started out by going out to a rare little date night to see ‘Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.’ Word of advice: get up right now, find the nearest showing and go see it. Feel free to take my advice with a grain of salt- I am a hardcore Harry Potter fan and love anything and everything about that world. But nonetheless- still see it. It’s cute, it’s fun, the settings are gorgeous and the actors did a phenomenal job adding memorable quirks to their characters. I loved it.

On the way home, however, the real adventure began. It was only about 9:30 at night when we say a car almost hit another while changing lanes in front of us. The offending vehicle veered away before things went south. I thought that would be the end of it- it happens to all of us, I’ve been guilty of those mistakes myself. But then the weaving started- back and forth across two lanes of highway traffic right in front of us. At one point he was driving right in the middle, straddling the line between the lanes. And then he started tailgating an older woman in her car. So I did something I have never done before: I called the police. We kept an eye on him until our exit. I don’t know what wound up happening. He looked really young, too young. I can just hope that nothing happened after we lost sight of him.

Needless to say, it was a relatively eventful week. My writing, however, was starting to suffer; perhaps ‘starting’ is the wrong word- my writing was continuing to suffer. The week two slump hit me hard. And I used my week one progress as an excuse to relax, to do other things, to let my project languish. In fact, I spent a good portion of this past week behind schedule. I had lost all of the lead that I had gained in the first few days on Nano. I had been halfway through my goal before week one was out- a huge lead; I lost all of that. 

But then, this weekend; I rallied. Yes, in the midst of my regularly scheduled life, an amazing thing happen: the muse decided to grace me with her presence again, that fickle little fairy that she is. I had been burnt out- it always happens to me in week two of Nano, I hit a slump and fell face first into a literary rut. Climbing back out feels amazing. I didn’t add as many words as I had originally wanted to over the weekend, but I have the drive to push forward. Last night when we got home I even went straight back to my laptop and started tapping away. I finally had to force myself to put my work away and go to bed at 11:30 (this is late for me).

I’m trying to run with this for as long as it holds out, because that muse does not tend to stick around long. I’m not moving as fast, but I would like to think that I’m getting out higher quality content. At the very least, I’m working through some stronger ideas and plot points than I had originally figured out. So I’m running with it. 

I feel like I’m really going to do it this time, if I can just keep up my momentum and keep the work going steady. I’m afraid to get too excited though; I’ve stumbled at the finish line before. I have had years where I made it up into the 80k range and then fell off the cliff when I tried to fly. The key is to focus on one day at a time and not get too far ahead of myself.

So let’s peek at the numbers and see how it’s going:

Word Count: 81,721 out of 100,000

Percentage of Goal Complete: 81%

Current Mood on Project: feeling like I just drank a Monster energy drink and I’m ready to rock the keyboard (or cry trying)

One Step in Front of the Other

A couple years ago my fiancé and I packed up the car and drove five hours to Leavenworth, WA during Oktoberfest. But we weren’t going for the beer, no, we were doing something much more reckless. The Oktoberfest Half Marathon! That is right- while college students were piling into beater cars and taking over the town for a weekend of boozy frolicking fun, we were pinning numbers to our tank tops and stretching nervous muscles in the freezing cold early hours of the day. This in itself wouldn’t have been a big problem- if I had taken my training seriously in the months prior to the final event. I stepped up to the starting line knowing that I was in way over my head. I don’t think I had run more than two miles straight without a break, and here I was expecting to push my body for 13.1 miles. Now, don’t get me wrong- a few weeks before the race I had decided it was important to know what I was getting myself into- my fiancé and I went for our ‘practice run’ one night. It took us hours winding through two towns to get in the full mileage. At one point I was running while dry heaving over the side of a bridge (that would be thanks to the pile of gummy bears I ate), but we did the full thing. So going into this event, I had an inkling of what to expect. And I knew it would involve a lot of pain.

The first few miles were fantastic, I felt like a superstar. There is something inspiring and invigorating when your feet are clipping in line with thousands of other people surrounding you, people who were just as crazy as you. We all went out there with something to prove, a goal to accomplish- and the excitement in those first few miles were palpable.

After a while though, even the buzzing thrill couldn’t keep my body motivated. The next miles were a collection of jogging bursts coupled with walking breaks. Intervals, they call them- and they seem to save my life every time. 

When we hit the halfwalf mark, we came across a woman dressed as a bar wench, in the full German gear- she was running with us while carrying a stein full of beer. Beer that she was actually drinking. College students in town for Oktoberfest were lining the streets and filling her stein for her as she went. And you know what really killed me? She was beating me. I like to tell myself that she was drunk enough not to feel the pain in her legs, but I know the truth; she was just better, stronger, and perhaps even a bit more prepared in spite of her inebriated state. Although I can’t help but be impressed; drunk me knows better than to go outside for a jog. Drunk me wants to sit in bed with hot french fries while singing old Backstreet Boys songs to my always-patient fiancé who simply wants me to brush my teeth and go to sleep (and upon his request, this is where you insert the lyrics from ‘You Don’t Own Me’- thank you First Wives Club for introducing this little gem into my bag of tricks. This is quickly followed by some Joan Jett ‘Bad Reputation’ in response. Oh yes, drunk me can be quite clever with her song choices. She also becomes a fiercely independent woman- until she can’t open the pickle jar.)

By the end we were exhausted, everything hurt, but we were almost there. When we got within sight of that finish line we started running, every muscle in our bodies screaming, our lungs ready to burst. When we hit the finish line we clasped our hands and raised them in the air in triump- until the race attendants pointed to ANOTHER line several feet (it felt like miles) away, saying that was the actual finish line and racers had been confused all day with the inexplicable first mark. I personally think they did it because they thought it was funny- it was the cruelest joke that has ever been played on me. So we shuffled forward, arms still raised painfully for what felt like another five miles- until we were able to joyfully cross the REAL finish line.

At the end were apples and treats, along with a winning tshirt and a medal. That first bite of my victory apple was the best thing I have ever tasted. Everything hurt, the journey had been a rough one and I had been horribly unprepared. But you know what? I did it. I fought through the pain, I pushed myself beyond anything I ever believed my body to be capable of. And I crossed that finish line. Both of them. Looking back, it isn’t the pain and the cold that comes to mind first- it’s the pride, the deep satisfaction in knowing that the chips were stacked against me and I still pushed myself to do it.

We went back to our hotel, took hot showers (oh how I deeply craved a tub in that moment), and then we joined the crazy college kids at the bar for a celebratory beer while proudly wearing our medals. It was an amazing day. And it doesn’t matter that I could barely stand for the rest of the week, or that stairs made me want to cry for my mommy. I still did it.

The thing that I’ve learned: this life isn’t that different from that race. Especially for us writers (and most certainly during Nano). We all are jumping into these dreams and adventures feet first, with nothing but hope that we will be successful. We don’t always know what to expect. We don’t know what struggles we will endure. Sometimes we are rockstars, zooming through the crowd. And sometimes it feels like that woman in leiderhosen has all of her shit figured out while you are bumbling around like a blind man. You lose your faith in your abilities, it seems like everyone else has the secret except for you. But you keep pushing and you keep fighting, even when every fiber in your body wants to give up and call for a ride home. We are fighters, we push through all of the odds. We are plagued with fatigue, with feeling ill-equipped, and occasionally with false finishes that hide the distance you still have left to travel. But you don’t give up. As a writer, I sit down in front of my laptop even when the words won’t come. I type out my blog on a tiny touch screen cell phone when a roadblock falls in my lap (yes, I am still raining curses on my laptop and it’s inability to miraculously fix whatever is wrong with it). We find a way, no matter what. Because it all that we know, because standibg still means defeat and we aren’t ready to throw in the towel yet. We owe it to ourselves, we deserve our success. We must believe it, even if we don’t feel we are ready for it.

Still Surviving: Nano Update, Week Two

Wow, my friends, what a test this last week has been! And yet, we have all survived- perhaps a bit haggard, a tad battle worn; but we are still standing tall. Don’t worry, I won’t be delving into anything political, today we are going to keep things light because I think that’s exactly what we need. That being said, when I wrote my update one week ago, I truly thought that the election madness was nearly at an end. This just goes to show that I always jinx it. I’ve been a bag of mixed emotions lately, but I am getting back into my groove because that’s what will be best for me right now.

So, my first week had gone better than I could have imagined. Going into week two, I knew that I was not going to be able to keep that momentum up. I was okay with that. For starters, I was sick, and didn’t really kick the crud until Friday. Tuesday, naturally, was a lost writing day for me, given the historic implications of the day, I think that can be forgiven. And I will be honest, like a car wreck, I have been unable to look away from the news since then. It’s bad for me, I know this And I’m starting to think I’m a bit addicted to my social media- the best cure: focus on my writing, and when I want to look on my phone, I have to open my kindle app and read a little bit of my book instead. 

Saturday was pretty awesome though- we spent a ton of time in the car, but we were able to drive down to the coast for an early Thanksgiving with my extended family. I always forget how much I miss them until I’m around them. We got there just in time to join them for a delicious dinner, and after that we went with my aunt and cousins to take all of their kids out onto the beach for a walk. I missed them- just talking, laughing. They’re great people who I really need to start breaking out of my box and making more time for. I had a blast, and realizing that my cousins brought water bottles of mimosas on our walk just reminded me that these ladies are my spirit animals. After that, we had a long drive back home- but it was lit by a big bright moon the whole way. It was gorgeous. All in all, a successful day, even if there was no writing involved.

I have hit one little snag that has me a bit worried though. You see, every nano I run into some kind of technical difficulty. For the first few years, back when Link was just a puppy, I had a slew of years where he would attempt electroshock treatments and chew through all of my charging cables. Repeatedly. Lucky for me, this is a phase he has finally grown out of. But this year, my laptop decided to make its own political statement. Apparently it is sick of the state of current events and it has cut off all communication with the outside world until further notice. Even my fiancé- who is a master in computers- wasn’t able to get it to change its mind. Hence why you may have noticed a slight downfall in my number of posts this past week. I am currently typing this out on my phone, which, needless to say, isnt particularly ideal. I’m not sure what I’m going to do. My laptop isn’t that old, but I can’t do the things that i have to do if it won’t connect to the internet. It makes this blog difficult. And I have no idea how I will be able to validate my nano if I can’t get my words copied to the website. But I am not going to panic yet. Nope, one more week in willful ignorance will not kill me. I can be in denial until the panic attack hits.

So, on to the writing: the real purpose of this post. I didn’t really get a lot of writing done until yesterday. I finally sat down for a few hours last night and was able to crank out a few thousand words. I tapped into the myriad of emotions I’ve been feeling this week, and it flowed like wine. And I hit a pretty momentous goal. I made it to 50k yesterday, which means that I am still on track to get my illusive 100k this year. I am thrilled! But, honestly, I’m also a bit terrified. This is the first time my goal has really felt tangible. And I am so scared that I will flop in these coming weeks and mess it up. It wouldn’t be the first time. I fizzle and pop. I am so scared that I will ruin the advantage I was able to give myself. I’m trying to keep the anxiety away and let myself just enjoy the fact that I’m still hanging in there, but those moments of doubt always find their way back in. 

So, without further ado, my goal update, by the numbers:

Word Count: 57,649 out of 100,000

Percentage of Goal Complete: 57%

Current Mood on Project: Starting to wear out, but still smiling 

Nano, Week One: The Update

We have survived the official first week of Nano, my friends! Whether you hit a home run or are whittling away one word at a time- we have all accomplished a lot so far on this adventure. I think we deserve a cookie…or two…or perhaps an entire cheese pizza, which is what I am about to eat because I mysteriously forget how to cook in November. (The best part: I’m not even cooking it, my fiancé’s best friend is. Shout out to him and his mad pizza wielding talents, this ‘starving artist’ thanks you. I’ll be sure to write you into my very first dedication. If I remember, because let’s face it, I forget everything).

This week was a record setting one for me, and I am so unbelievably proud. Although I know that I owe a lot of my success to a few lucky circumstances. For starters, I was fortunate enough to have a few days off from work at the beginning of November. When you couple those days with a very understanding fiancé who was kind enough to limit distractions as much as possible (constantly fighting the dog who’s sole purpose in life is to get me as far away from my laptop as possible). I was able to just sit and work, and since we were still in the enthralling beginnings, those words actually came easily for once. Now, I know a lot of that is because this is not my first rodeo with this story. This is essentially a complete re-draft of the project I worked on last Camp, which meant that I was already familiar with my characters, I already knew where the plot holes were and I’ve had several months to figure out how to pave them over. Even though the original content was all scrapped and a lot of the previously used plots were completely changed- I still know how I wanted the beginning of this story to play out. As of this weekend, I have hit the uncharted territory, and I know that my progress will begin to start creeping once again. The rest of the month wont even come close to my first week, but that’s okay. This was exactly the kind of week that I needed to have after the past two months I’ve spent floundering.

With one minor exception: too many late night writings led me to finally catching that cold I’ve steadily avoided for the past month. I felt it coming on the other day, but I opted to keep on pushing through and working in spite of it. As it turns out, my body is actively rebelling against my lack of balance, and is demanding a change. One that I am more than willing to give it. As of right now, I am ahead of schedule on my goal, and I can afford a bit of self-indulgence until I’m running on 100% again.

So cheers, my friends, I raise my glass of Emergen-C to you (because that’s what I have, sorry, no hot toddy’s from me today). May you have a happy and healthy month, and may the words flow easily from your pen (or keyboard). We can do this!

 

Current Stats:

Word Count: 47,572 out of 100,000

Percentage of Goal Complete: 47%

Current Mood on Project: Smiling in spite of the sniffles

dumbo-sneese

 

Word Wars, Sprints and Crawls- Oh My!

I had never heard of word sprints, word wars or really any form of writing game before Nano. I was oblivious to the tricks of the word count game. And then one year, as I was roaming through the message boards willfully ignoring my project, I came across the section that contained these magical little creations. You seen, while Nano is one of the most exciting challenges that I have taken part in, there reaches a point (some years it strikes much sooner than others) when you find yourself with a 100-yard stare and Cheetos stuck in your hair. You are exhausted, your creative juices are tapped, and you cant help but wonder if you should be carted straight off to the nearest mental health institution for simply signing up for such an impossible task. It doesn’t matter how great your start was- you will hit this wall, you wont be wearing a helmet, and it will hurt. Bad.

When this happens- there is only one thing to do to keep your word count on point: play a couple of games. I don’t know who began these creative ploys to reignite that competitive spark, but they deserve to sit in the Iron Throne and control all of the realms- they are that good. Over the next few weeks I am going to be periodically posting some of my own creations, but, as none of those have been completed or tested, today I am going to share just a few of my favorite pre-existing challenges that have helped me through some rough writing patches. These are pretty versatile and can be used in just about any first draft you could be working on- blogs included.

  • Word Sprints and Word Wars: This is one is very simple, you pick the length of time you want to write for, set your timer and hit the ground running. It’s best if used while competing with another person using the same time limit. Although I tend to prefer a ‘time trials’ version where I compete against myself. Rewards are optional (personally, I strongly suggest Rollo’s if you beat your previous ‘high score,’ but I am very food driven.)
    • Carrot and Stick: This can fall into the sprinting category, although technically you can use it anywhere. This is a very simple reward/punishment premise. You set a goal (for example, 500 words in 10 minutes), and then you have a reward or an punishment hanging over your head (perhaps if you meet your goal you get to watch an episode of your favorite show. If you don’t then you must do the dishes). This can also come into play with your daily word goals.
  • The Fifty-Headed Hydra: Legend has it that the creator of this challenge made the attempt and the only correctly spelled words on his paper after the carnage were ‘fifty’ ‘headed’ and ‘hydra.’ The challenge: to write 500 words in 5 minutes. Obviously spelling doesn’t count, don’t use the backspace, just start flying and correct things later. This is an insanely difficult challenge, but it’s fun when you are speeding so fast that you can’t get too far into your own head.
  • Word Crawls: This is my all-time favorite challenge, and it comes in many different forms. A word crawl is basically like an interactive writing game. There is a little bit of a plot, and as you read through it you are given random challenges to complete as you proceed. My favorites tend to revolve around fandoms, though they come in all shapes and sizes. Here is an example from one of my favorite Harry Potter crawls, creator unknown (I will gladly give full credit if I ever learn who made it). This one is a bit more involved than some, but it’s fun nonetheless, if you care to try.

Extreme Harry Potter Crawl: Year 1

 

Welcome to the Extreme Harry Potter Crawl: Year One! Depending on your writing speed, pick your blood status.

Muggleborn: Slower

Halfblood: Medium

Pureblood: Faster

Galleons can be used to purchase round skips. If you don’t want to do a specific challenge, spend a Galleon in order to move on to the next one.

You receive your Hogwarts letter by owl and are completely ecstatic to head out for your first year at Hogwarts. Sprint to 100 to let out your excitement and energy.

You arrive in Diagon Alley and your first stop is Gringotts, wizard bank. Write for ten minutes. The amount of words you write will determine how many Galleons are in your vault.

Muggleborns

Less than 100 words: 1 Galleon

100-200 words: 2 Galleons

More than 200 words: 3 Galleons

Halfbloods

Less than 150 words: 1 Galleon

150-250 words: 2 Galleons

More than 250 words: 3 Galleons

Purebloods

Less than 250 words: 1 Galleon

250-350 words: 2 Galleons

More than 350 words: 3 Galleons

You step into Ollivander’s wand shop. Roll a die and multiply your roll by 100. Sprint to that many words.

Finally, you’re done shopping! But before you leave, you decide that you want to purchase a pet. Write for 15 minutes as you search for the perfect animal for you. Pick one: owl, cat, toad.

After months of waiting, you’ve arrived on platform 9 ¾ and boarded the Hogwarts Express! Write to the nearest thousand as you settle into your seat and get ready for a long ride. If you need to write more than 500 words for this challenge and choose not to skip this round, take one Galleon.

Anything off the trolley, dear? Buy some sweets to help get you through the ride! Depending on your candy, find your challenge below!

Bertie Bott’s Every Flavour Beans: Participate in a Fifty Headed Hydra as you frantically try to get the taste of vomit out of your mouth.

Chocolate Frog: Write for five minutes as you chase down the frog.

Licorice Wand: Sprint to 150 words

Pumpkin PastiesRoll a die and multiply by 50. Write that many words.

If you take the lot and complete all the challenges, take one Galleon as well. If you have a toad, you may skip this round for free.

You arrive at the castle and wait in the hall with the rest of the first years. You notice a boy with messy black hair and glasses talking with a redheaded boy, a girl with bushy hair whispering to the people around her, and a boy with pale… well, everything. Write for ten minutesas you attempt to socialize with the people around you.

Professor McGonagall escorts you and your peers into the Great Hall for the Sorting. After the Sorting Hat sings its song and several students walk up timidly, your name is called, and you sit yourself down on the stool, timid and worried about what is about to happen. McGonagall places the hat on your head, and you are sorted into your House. Pick from the four Houses- Gryffindor, Hufflepuff, Ravenclaw, and Slytherin.

Gryffindor: Are you brave enough to write ten times your typing speed in 10 minutes?

Hufflepuff: Remain loyal to your word count and write steadily for one hour with no breaks.

Ravenclaw: Calculate how many words it will take for you to write to the nearest 1000.

Slytherin: You’re an ambitious one, aren’t you? Write 1000 words in 30 minutes!

The feast is delicious! Do the Three Digit Challenge as you eat at your House table and talk with those around you, as well as your House ghost. If you have an owl, you may skip this round for free.

You’ve settled into your dormitory quite quickly and nicely, and your first couple weeks of class go well. Write for an hour as you grow accustomed to your new classes and all of the magic you’re learning.

Muggleborns: If you write 750 words within the hour, take 2 Galleons.

Halfbloods: If you write 1,000 words within the hour, take 2 Galleons.

Purebloods: If you write 1,250 words within the hour, take 2 Galleons.

On your way to Potions, the messy haired boy who you now know is Harry Potter stops and asks you if you know where Professor Binns’ classroom is. Write 200 words in 10 minutes as you try to remember where his classroom is.

If you succeed: Harry hurries to Binns’ classroom and gives you a Galleon as a thank you for your help.

If you fail: You spend so much time trying to help Harry that you are both late to your next class. Write another 200 words as you apologize to Snape and try not to lose any points for your House.

You get locked out of your common room and Mrs. Norris finds you! You run with Harry, Ron, and Hermione to the third door corridor, and you find a giant three-headed dog! After making it back to your dormitory safely, roll a die, multiply your roll by 100, and write that many words as you try to calm down. If you have a cat, you can skip this round for free.

Troll! In the dungeon! You go with Harry and Ron to find Hermione and end up fighting the troll with them. Sprint to 500, and try not to get yourself killed.

You go down to Hagrid’s hut to have tea with him. When you try his treacle fudge, your teeth get stuck together! Write for twenty minutesas Hagrid tries to help and Madam Pomfrey magically loosens the cement-like effect the fudge had on your mouth.

Months pass, and it’s Christmas morning! You receive 3 Galleons from your parents, as well as a challenge from the Weasley twins. Write 1000 words in under an hour.

If you succeed: they give you a Galleon.

If you fail: they hit you with snowballs until you’re buried under heavy amounts of snow and make you write 250 more words.

During the Gryffindor vs Slytherin Quidditch game, you get incredibly excited. Roll a die. If even, you’re cheering for Gryffindor; if odd, you’re cheering for Slytherin. Word war for fifteen minutes with someone cheering for the opposite team. If you beat them, you win your bet, and you take 2 of their Galleons. But be careful- if you lose, you give them 2 of your Galleons. A bet’s a bet.

Harry tells you that he suspects that Snape is going after the Philosopher’s Stone and you decide to go with the trio to try to get to the Stone before Snape does. But before you can even go down the trapdoor, you need to make it past Fluffy. Write for ten minutes as you lull him to sleep sneak through the door.

Oh no- you and your friends are trapped in a patch of Devil’s Snare! Hermione tells you that you need to write 250 words in five minutesin order to safely escape.

If you succeed: You make it out of the deadly plant without a scratch and even spot a Galleon on the ground. What luck!

If you fail: Hermione has to set the plant on fire to get you out alive. She thinks very poorly of your skills now, so write another 250 words to impress her.

Harry catches a flying key and opens a large wooden door. Inside the next room is a giant wizard chess set. You and your friends need to replace some of the pieces and play the game. Ron takes the place of a knight, Harry becomes a bishop, and Hermione takes over for a rook. Pick a chess piece and complete the challenge below!

Pawn: You know you won’t be of much use to the game and think it would be wisest to be taken out early. Complete a Fifty Headed Hydraand take a fifteen minute writing break to recover from your injuries.

Rook: You take the place of the other rook and spend the game running across the board, strategically taking out important pieces of the other side’s team. Sprint to 200 and take a five minute writing break once the game is won.

Bishop: You take the place of the other bishop and sneakily take out pawns on the other team. Write for 20 minutes and take a five minute writing break once the game is won.

Knight: You take the place of the other knight and become the wild card of the match. Write 300 words in 15 minutes until you’re taken out by one of the other team’s rooks. Take a fifteen minute writing break to recover from your injuries.

Harry and Hermione move ahead into the next room when you stay with Ron. When Hermione comes back, sprint to 300 as you run to find Dumbledore and explain the situation to him.

The word gets out that Professor Quirrell is the one who wanted the stone, not Snape! Rumors also spread of your bravery in helping Harry, Ron, and Hermione as you four went through the challenges the professors set to protect the stone. Dumbledore awards you fifty points for your courage. Write for five minutes as your peers congratulate and admire you.

Summer vacation is here! Take an hour long writing break– you deserve it! In the meantime, post your words written during your first year at Hogwarts as well as how many Galleons you have left in your vault, and stay tuned for the Extreme Harry Potter Crawl: Year Two!

And there you have it, my friends- some more fun and games to keep you motivated throughout the month. There will be some original ‘games’ coming your way in the next few weeks, if you care to take a gander at them. I am also toying with the idea of a work-out version (ugh, the adult inside is beginning to feel guilty for these long hours in front of the laptop), and perhaps and adult drinking version- although I suspect that would not yield the best results.

Cheers my friends, and may the odds be ever in your favor this writing season.