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.

Camp Nano for the Win! (Time for the Happy Dace)

 

I did it, the deed is done! That is right, my friends, about two days ago I finished my 50,000 words for July and have validated my Nano project. Cue the parade! …oh, so I forgot to put one on back order? My mistake. Okay then, I guess a nice little victory dance will do.

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And maybe just one more move to bust…

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How do you celebrate an epic win, one where you snatched victory right out of the mouth of defeat at the last second? Do you pull up a chair on the edge of Mount Doom and warm your toes by the heat of the volcano? Or parade through the streets of Panem, delivering chaos to the Capital? How about walking into your happily ever after with the love interest of your choice, conveniently ignoring the banalities of the every day- like the dreaded laundry? No, I for one have a much better idea that does not follow in the footsteps of my literary heroes. You take a well deserved break (hence why I’m just now writing this post a few days later instead of proclaiming my victory the moment I hit validate). It was relaxing really, not having the word count hanging over my head. I took the dog for a walk without running through the plot lines I would be delving into later that night. I played with my Snapchat (I know, it’s silly, but its a mild obsession that I just can’t help- how else would I know what I would look like as a Dalmatian or with a can of gummy worms on my head? Besides- the cat eye filter inspired a whole new attempt at eyeliner- a failed attempt, but I tried and that is the point!)

Last night, to celebrate my only true day of complete freedom, I went out and had a tasty adult beverage with my dinner of crab wontons and pineapple fried rice. After that delicious treat, my fiancé had a terrible lapse in his judgment: as the aforementioned adult beverage was still swimming through my bloodstream (it was just one drink, so don’t worry- no issues of public intoxication here), he took me to Target to get the new bedding I have been talking about for weeks. As most women are well aware- alcohol and shopping, while ridiculously fun, usually results in a lot of stupid ‘gifts’ for yourself coupled a sad wallet. This is a lesson he learned after Cinetopia was built into our local mall (for those that do not have the theater franchise, it is a ‘luxury’ style movie theater that serves some alcohol in specified theaters- highly recommended if you are in the mood to splurge a little bit, as they can be a bit spendy). After one memorable double date in which the four of us shared a pitcher of Lost Coast Tangerine, my best friend and I dragged our men into a couple of our favorite stores that happened to all be on the walk out of the building. There is a slight possibility that I walked away with some fantastic Harry Potter memorabilia (which I still adore), and, for reasons still unknown to me, a conical straw hat. Lucky for him, I did have enough common sense not to buy the E.T doll that was half my height. Needless to say, he knows better than letting me go into a store after happy hour.

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After some serious contemplations over the need of a Hulk fist coffee mug and a vintage Iron Man poster- for my office at work of course, the walls have been bare since I ‘moved in’ to it. My fiancé claimed his own personal victory when he got me to walk out with only the bedding we had gone there for. In fact- he managed to do this twice, because we wound up going back an hour later to pick up the one thing our bedding didn’t come with. As it turns out, just because the bag says ‘eight piece set,’ there is a very good possibility that six of those pieces will be pillow cases and you will still be in desperate need of sheets. You live and you learn.

After that lively adventure I allowed myself to lay in bed and binge watch one of my ‘shame shows.’ So called because very few people ever get to hear what it actually is that I’m watching. Even I know when my viewing pleasures are a bit sub-par. It felt good to take a night off without feeling the stress and pressure that comes from knowing you should really be working on something else.

Now that the ‘vacation’ is over- what is going to happen next? After we roll up our virtual sleeping bags, sign one another’s yearbooks and hop onto the pretend bus that will take us back to our regular lives- what is the plan now that Camp is coming to a close? I bet you can guess the answer.

Drum roll please:

MORE WRITING!

That’s right, it is time to get back into my regular writing groove. I am ready to hop back into the driver’s seat, re-energized and ready to go. My Nano story is still nowhere near completion. I need to do a bit more plot sketching after some changes I decided to make, and then I can move along with it. After that I will probably put this one up on the shelf to marinate for a little while as I begin editing an older project. It’s tough because I have a whole list of new ideas that I would love to get started on, but I need to finish up some of the older projects and get them ready for the terrifying step of beta reading.

And of course, there will be many more posts than there were this past month. I regretfully apologize for the sudden plummet in content this past month. It was the first time I have ever attempted a Nano while keeping up with a blog, and needless to say- it was a learning experience. I had hoped that I would be a natural, but there is a bit of a curve here. I think I will be much more prepared for when November rolls around. My dear friends will not be stuck with a once or twice a week post.

This Nano was a whole new world of learning that I didn’t realize I needed. I met some fantastic people in my little Cabin writing group, and I am so thrilled that many of them seem to be on board with continuing the group even after Camp has ended. I adore my writerly friends, they make me feel accepted in a way that is hard for me to find in my offline world. I also learned a valuable lesson in time management and balance, one that I know will probably still take a bit more time to completely figure out. I suspect you will be hearing more about this once I figure out the tricks to it. I also walked away with a ton of new ideas that I have to get down before I lose.

So cheers my friends, to another successful month, in spite of all of the little roadblocks and difficulties. The task is complete, I am ready to hit the re-set button and start over again. That’s the funny thing about writing- there really is no ending. The story continues, whether on the page or off. So may the words find you well. Don’t forget to take some time to stretch out, relax and enjoy. As for me, it’s time to get back to the work that I love. But first- let’s have one more victory dance before we start, shall we?

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Final Week of Nano: A Cautionary Tale

Seven days and counting until the Camp Nano clock counts down to zero, potentially proclaiming us as conquerors of the word war. If we were in a novel right now, we would be reaching that point in the plot where the world is falling apart quickly, and pretty soon we will have to make an astounding comeback if we want to snatch our happily ever after from the jaws of our enemies. This would be the put up or shut up moment, the time when us (the hero of our own little story) would come charging into the fray, sword drawn, and show the world our true grit. Except in this story, our epic battle is of the writing kind, and the enemy is time. I will be honest, I am feeling the pressure, that steady roll of panic is cocooning me like a sleeping bag. I don’t normally cut it this close, but this time around: I am getting worried.

I can’t believe how fast July has zoomed by, we are in the home stretch, and I have to make a confession: this has not been my best writing season. I came into the month with such high expectations of myself, ambitious in spite of all of those extra activities I had planned for the month. And then I flopped. Hard. I haven’t been posting as much as I should have right here on this blog, even though I have a huge list of topics to write about in a binder at my desk right now. My Nano story still feels like it is in it’s infancy, even though I have been slowly chipping away at it throughout the month. The plot changed about two weeks into July when I came up with a new idea for a sequel, so that set me back a bit. I am still excited about it though, I haven’t grown tired of the storyline, even if the words aren’t quite coming out the way I had envisioned just yet.

I am not normally one to be biting my nails and hoping for a win at the end of Nano, but this go round- I am a bit nervous. I think I’ll still make it- so far I haven’t lost a Nano yet, and I don’t plan on starting now. But I am also normally much farther ahead at this point. I had hoped that this Camp would be the one where I finally hit that illustrious 100k, but that ship has sailed, unless I magically find a month’s worth of writing time in the next seven days- unlikely when I will be busy with work and life. This blog is as much about the writing failures as it is about the successes, although I do hesitate to call anything related to writing a failure. If I am still plodding along, it is a success. If I haven’t given up on the big dream, if I am still fighting for my future niche in this world- that it is not a failure, merely another learning experience.

This, my dear friends, is a cautionary tale of writerly woe, one that I am sure we are all intimately familiar with. I know exactly where I went wrong this Camp, yes, I am well aware of that moment my crazy train went off the rails. I didn’t guard my writing time. It is as simple and as complicated as that. I knew going in that it would be difficult; the summer in general gets pretty busy for me. My work load picks up, it’s vacation season, my fiancé is out of school, and the weather is too gorgeous to constantly stay inside.

I am not always very good when it comes to balance. I tend to be an all or nothing person, my middle ground usually erodes fairly quickly. It is something that I always have to work on. And this Nano I made the fatal error of not coming up with my personal plan, I didn’t set out my daily goals or even decide when I would be working. So there were days when I simply didn’t. Not that I necessarily regret those: it has been a busy month, but I’ve had one hell of a good time this summer: lots of walks and hikes in new areas, good movies, a long vacation to the beach, new places to eat- the adventures have been endless, the fodder for future stories is delectable. The problem is that I didn’t find the balance. I played hard without working hard on some days, and then there were those burn out days where all work and no play made Katie a dull girl.

You have to find a realistic balance, and then you have to follow your plans. Whether you have to wake up early and dedicate an hour to the project, or get yourself home early so that you can spend two hours before bed typing away; you need a plan, a schedule to adhere to. It’s not always easy to say no to a fun plan because you have writing to do. But there are days where you will have to make this sacrifice if you want to be a published writer someday. And then there are days where you have to remember that you still need to live outside of those glorious pages that you have created.

I am still working on the balance, I am still trying to find the plan that works best for me. For those of you who have it all figured out, I am jealous and very proud of you. It is not an easy task, my friends. I can only hope that eventually I will work out a routine that satisfies my goals and my personal demands. I am not there yet, but I am working on it. Forever busy with the task of self-improvement.

But there is a silver lining to this cautionary tale: the game is not over. We may be in the final inning, but there are still points to be scored (or perhaps the correct analogy would be home runs to hit? I wish I were more into sports). And I know that I am capable of hitting my target still. I just have to have the discipline I have been lacking this month. I have to sit down and focus, I have to put my work before my play. It is seven whole days. I can make one more week work for me. Besides, there is still next weekend for that final push. If I really sit down and delve into this, who knows what I might be able to accomplish.

As our hour glasses are beginning to run out of sand, I tell you good luck, my friends. We can still do this, the fight is not over yet. Victory is still within our grasp if we are only willing to reach for it. And for those of you who have already ‘won,’ clicking the Validate button with the excited flourish that you deserve- I say congratulations, bask in your glory, enjoy some down time, feast on your favorite treat. And then, when you feel ready, come join me for a drink and a few more good pages. I will be here, typing away as always.

Stood Up By My Muse (Again)

The muse is a fickle creature, one minute inspiring you to ignore the entire universe and feverishly write without thought of food or personal care, then next moment she traipses away like smoke in the wind, leaving you land locked and unsure. If there is a way to force her attendance, I have not discovered it yet. She is a flighty creature, and will come and go as she sees fit. Unfortunatly, she usually picks the most inopporitune times to strike: when I am busy at work, in the shower, or out living my daily life (unfortunately, the groceries have not yet figured out how to buy themselves and walk home).

And yet when I plan out my night, fully expecting her to join me for a romantic computer-lit date filled with witty quips and shocking plot twists- she is nowhere to be found. I am left to type away all on my own, with only the slightest hint of inspiration to keep me trudging through the words to reach my daily goal. I have realized over the years that she is the flaky friend you cannot wait on, because if you do, you will find yourself simply spinning in circles.

So what do you do when your muse stands you up yet again? You can go for a walk, run around the block and hope you attract her attention. But after a while you open your laptop (or notebook, per your preference), take a deep breath and start writing. The muse waits for no one- but if she is to magically appear, she ought to find you working. It is the one thing that might attract her. It’s hard to continue typing away when you have no real fire burning inside of you, when you have to pry every word from your fingertips and paste them to the page. But you do it anyway, because as writers we are that kind of crazy. You write, and you slog through, and in a few weeks when you begin your editing- you wont know which scenes she had been present for, and which ones you fought for all on your own.

Writing is not easy, we don’t do it because it is simple. We do it because there is a story inside of us that must see the light of day before it drives us mad. When the muse decides to grace you with her presence, take advantage of that, write feverishly, stay up late, immerse yourself in the words pouring from your soul. And when she is gone, don’t stop. That flighty fiend will always find a way back to you when you least expect it. Writing is the surest way to draw her back in.

I’m not saying to push it when every fiber of your being needs a break- by all means, take the time you need to recharge. Go for a walk, take a shower, read a book, watch a show, bake something- recharge your batteries. But if she still hasn’t arrived- run and jump, dive back into your story and reach your goals. You can do it, even without her- you are a spectacular writer. Just remember that.

Finding Fellow Adenturers (The Writing Groups)

Writing is a predominantly independent activity; long hours spent in front of a keyboard or with a pen and paper in hand, research, reading, pouring over grammar tips and agonizing over word choice- we have to go it alone for much of the journey simply because we would probably drive people insane if we didn’t. That being said, there is nothing more important to a writer than a good support system. This is a tough field to break into, and even for the novice, you want your words to get out there into the world, to reach someone.

Enter stage left: The Writing Group (queue the fog machine, a touch of mystery will go a long way here).

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One of the things that I love most about Nano and the associated camp version- hands down, it’s the people. I have never been one to talk about my writing. Honestly, it took close to a year of dating before my fiancé had any idea that writing was even a hobby of mine. When I was a kid I was a bit more comfortable talking about it; but back then I was young and it was something that I won awards for- it was a good thing. As I grew older, I think people expected that I would grow out of it. Personally- I  knew that would never happen, writing is in my very soul. But I also know that there are some things that people just don’t understand, and I was lacking the confidence I needed to stand up for my own interests. So I wrote in empty rooms with no one looking, and I hid the notebooks when people showed up. Even now- I can finally talk to people about the fact that I like to write, but it’s usually a subject saved for a time when I start to feel like I know them, and it’s not something I typically bring up in conversation on my own. It took my fiancé finally proclaiming to people that I was a writer for me to embrace that image. But there are some things I still hate: for example, when someone asks me what I am writing about. All of the old insecurities come to the surface when people want more details others thank ‘yes, I like to write in my free time.’ It doesn’t matter how inspired my ideas seem when I am plotting or writing them, the moment I have to give them life my breathing them into the world- I falter.

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But then this magical event appeared on my Google search- Nano came to save the day. Suddenly, I was surrounded (virtually speaking) by people just like me. There is something distinctly different when you talk about your writing project with a ‘regular’ person vs when you talk about writing with someone else who shares your passion. It’s liberating, knowing that for once you are speaking the same language. I didn’t have to be self-conscious, and I certainly didn’t have to figure it all out on my own anymore. Stuck on a scene: the group will help you. Not sure if past tense or present tense would be a better fit: ask the group. Frustrated because the muse stood you up again, even after you had planned out the entire night, romantically lit by your laptop’s backlighting? The group will be your shoulder to cry on, the ear that acts as if they will never get bored with your whining tirades.

It is hard to find a band of renegades that will delve through these tiresome trials with you. But within them you will find the Ron and Hermoine to your Harry Potter, the Sam to your Frodo, the Watson to your Sherlock, the JARVIS to your Iron Man. When you are mired in the pages, bogged down with quotation marks, commas, and the dreaded semi-colon. They will fight beside you and make this lonely profession a bit more lively.

There was a time when I thought that writing had to be done in complete solitude; and this is true to a point. But it doesn’t always have to be like that. My writing groups are my biggest assets, the aces up my sleeve. They commiserate with my frustrations and celebrate my successes. We do that for each other because we have found kindred spirits, of sorts. They keep me on track and rescue me from my plot holes. They have opened my eyes to new ideas and ways of life, they have given me people to cheer for and helped me find confidence when I am sorely lacking. Sometimes you don’t expect that other people will be able to change you. And then they do. You don’t expect that you will want them or need their help. And then you will. You don’t have to be alone on this adventure, after all, even the best had their sidekicks to roam the Misty Mountains  with.

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