Word Wars, Sprints, and Crawls (Oh my)

The main focus of my creativity quest is revolving around Camp NaNoWriMo, striving to hit my goal of 50,000 words by the end of the month. I came out strong, getting over 10,000 words in a single day at one point. But it never fails: I always start to falter when I make it to the halfway point. My stories lose a little bit of steam and I am easily distracted by household chores and reading other people’s books rather than writing my own. I’ve done enough of these challenges to know that this is pretty routine for me. So how do you re-energize yourself when you find yourself itching to pick up the TV remote? Simple: you turn it into a game.

            There are a lot of fun ways to step up your word count goal. There are prompts, sprints, crawls and wars; oh my, my darlings, wherever will we start?

The Prompts

Prompts are a pretty basic way to reinvigorate your writing, although it can feel challenging at times to insert a prompt right in the middle of an existing project- that’s the fun part. For these you can pick something off-the wall, a vague concept, or simply take a detour from your story to gain new perspective on your characters or the elements influencing them.

  • Fan-Fiction Freestyle: Pick a favorite character and insert them into your story (you can change their name and general appearance, but have the core of that person remain true to the character you chose). What will they do int the world you created, how will they interact with your characters? What kind of mischief could they insert into the story line?
  • Volcano Theory: What unexpected eruption would have the most impact on your character and how will they respond to it? It could be in a relationship (an unexpected kiss), emotional (a blind-siding truth bomb), physical (a building collapses, a sucker-punch in a crowd), or natural (an actual volcanic eruption, anyone). The key here is to make create an explosion that changes the landscape of your story
  • Extra, Extra, Read All About It: Flip through a magazine or a newspaper (or click a random link from a news site). Whatever the article is- incorporate it into your story. This one can be fun because you can tailor your choices a bit: interested in a sci-fi element, search out a science magazine. Want pop culture: hello, People. Want something truly random: National Geographic, Archeology Magazine- there are a lot of good choices out there. You never know what you are going to find. It could even be an ad for a new dry shampoo: perhaps your character will have to use it to cause an explosion in a bathroom so they can escape and hitch a ride on the nearest passenger plane.
  • Style Swap: Change up your genre. Writing sci-fi? Create a scene in the style of an over-the-top soap opera. Working through a post-apocalyptic piece? Insert some poetry. In the middle of a murder mystery? Why not toss in some hints at paranormal elements?
  • This is the Worst: What is the worst possible thing that could happen to your character right now? Make it happen. Our characters are forged through the crucibles we lead them through.
  • Getting in Their Heads: Stick your MC on the proverbial therapist’s couch. What are they thinking and feeling, how are they dealing right now? What is scaring them, what is motivating them, what is confusing them? Will they break down? Are they in denial? Will they push therapist away, start throwing things? Get under their skin and in their heads, do a deep dive to understand them a little bit better.
  • Playful POV’s: Write a scene from another character’s POV. It will help you find more depth within the scene and understand the motivations behind each of your characters- you want 3 dimensions for all of them, not just the coveted MC. What is their motivation, what makes them tic? How will they response to these situations? This one is really good to help develop a scene and give it more depth. Plus, sometimes those characters will take you in very unexpected directions.  

Word Sprints

Word Sprints are fairly simply. Just pick a certain amount of time you want to write, set your timer and go! Try to beat your own records, or join a group (you can find them in the Nano Forums, on Twitter- all kinds of places) to see how your word count lines up.

Word Wars

Wars are very similar to Sprints. You pick a friend, stranger, person in the street- and have a friendly competition to see who can get the most words in a set challenge. Most often you see this with timed sprints, but you can also challenge someone to a crawl, or an overall daily count challenge. Alternatively, you can attempt a ‘time trials’ version where you only compete with yourself. (Current-you can totally kick past-you’s booty, you got this!)

The Fifty Headed Hydra Challenge

This is perhaps the most famous of the sprint challenges. The premise itself is pretty simple, though it is considered to be one of the harder ones to accomplish. You set your timer for 5 minutes. The goal here is to see if you can hit 500 words before that timer goes off. The key to winning: write with frantic abandon. Don’t worry about punctuation errors or spelling. Just type/write as fast as your hands will allow. The legend behind the name is that the original creator managed to hit the illusive 500 word goal, but the only words they spelled correctly were ‘fifty,’ ‘headed,’ and ‘hydra.’ And thus: the lore was born.

World Crawls

Crawls are my absolute favorites. They are fun, challenging, and combine all of the previous challenges together into a pocket-sized epic adventure. My big NaNo goal is to do a crawl every single day of NaNo. I haven’t managed it yet- it usually requires a bit more prep than I’ve put into it. Perhaps in November you’ll see me giving it another shot.

Crawl are narrative-style challenges that walk you through a particular storyline while peppering you with writing challenges you have to complete before moving on. They are almost always themed. You can find just about anything: generic D&D style, fandom oriented, fantasy, romance- just about anything you can imagine. The most popular usually surround fandoms: think Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, Sherlock Holmes, Hunger Games- the list is truly endless and new ones are being created every day. Some can be finished in under 30 minutes while others carry you through multi-day epic adventures. In the end you tally up the number of words the crawl got you and then you get to celebrate your victory.

Below is a link to the Fun and Games section of the blog. On that page I will be regularly adding new crawls and other games. At the moment there is just my own first attempt- The Mummy Word Crawl. Check back over time and you’ll be able to catch some new additions.

Fun and Games: Writing Edition

The Journey Begins (Creativity Quest to Save the Muse)

The sun had barely crested the horizon when I pulled on my worn leather boots and slung my pack over my shoulder. I hadn’t told the innkeeper what time I would be leaving, I didn’t want her to be worried about seeing me off. She hadn’t wanted me to go to begin with. “Tis too dangerous out there for someone in your condition,” she had warned, “Orcs, dragons, the creatures of the forest, the mages in the western lands; who knows what you will come across. You should just stay right here where it’s safe. I could use the extra help.” She knew her words were falling on deaf ears, that my mind was already made up. I had a Muse to rescue, and my heart would never sing again if she remained locked away in that tower.

I tiptoed past the rows of tables, making my way to the front door. “Thought you would go without me noticing, did you?” I jumped when I heard the voice from across the darkened room. She stood in the doorway to the kitchens, arms crossed over her chest, “You forget, my child, you are not the first adventurer to lay your head under my roof. I know what that spark in your eyes means, I knew you would be leaving in the next day or two.” She reached down to the table beside her and picked up a small package wrapped in brown paper and tied together with twine. “It isn’t much, but it should keep you from starving,” she waited for me to take the bundle and gently add it to my little pack.

Her eyes seemed distant when she spoke next, “I can’t tell you how many people I’ve watched walk out that door in search of adventure. Most of them don’t ever come back,” she watched me closely for a moment before continuing, “Do me a favor, if you can. Whatever it is that you are searching for- don’t give up on it until you find it. And once you do, I want you to come back here, sit in front of this very fire, and tell me your grand tale. I could use a good story to lighten my heart.” She nodded her head once before turning back towards the kitchen, busying herself with the morning chores. She refused to look back in my direction.

The village was swathed in shadows as I made my way outside. The pre-dawn sky was filled with roiling gray clouds that drizzled lazily over the landscape. A small shiver raced down my spine, though I couldn’t tell if it was from the cold or sheer anticipation. The weather promised a storm would be soon to follow; perhaps not the best time to begin a grand adventure. But I knew if I waited another day, I would simply fade into the background of this place. It would be far too easy to ignore the voice that was calling me forward and hide inside the inn with its crackling fire and lively conversations. No, it was now or never. Even if that meant I was walking straight into a hurricane; that was better than wasting away in the comfort of routine and expectation.

I took a deep breath and placed my foot on the cobbled bridge that led out of the village and towards the Forrest of Furies. There were rumors of fearsome beasts and midnight Whisps that delighted in confusing the wayward traveler. It was time I learn what truths this strange place carried. It was time start the journey.

What kind of tale would Bilbo have been able to tell if the path to the Lonely Mountain had been paved and well-traveled? Every good story starts with strife. It is practically a requirement that things will start out a bit rocky, jarring you from the comfortable routines you have slipped into. The real adventure is found within the challenges, the monsters faced, the tests overcome, the burdens carried; these are the things that will crystalize your character into its greatest version. Some days you may want to load up your pack and turn around; Bilbo craved the sanctuary of The Shire many nights. But he continued on regardless: this quest will be much the same. There will be days you want to stop, but if you keep going, your art and your soul will sing.

This past week I made my first valiant attempt at rescuing my Muse. To be honest, I probably looked a bit more like Don Quixote rather than Geralt of Rivia as I charged into my personal battle. But the key takeaway: I still charged in. In spite of everything inside of me telling me to give myself a break and do it tomorrow- I tried. Did I fail? Oh, spectacularly at times. But I also stumbled across a few unexpected successes.

If the past COVID year has taught me anything, it’s that creativity can be found in the most unlikely of places. For me, a huge amount of my innovative thought funnels straight into my workplace. Last year was all about learning how to function in The Upside Down, finding patch-gap solutions and fine-tuning them as we went. It was clunky, challenging, and incredibly exhausting- but we did it. Like an earthquake, COVID completely changed the landscape of my working life. Which means that now that we are slipping into Phase Two (Operation Reopening) we aren’t in a position to just flip a switch and send everything back to the way that it was. My old job will never exist again in the form it once did. We are all evolved Pokémon now, there is no going back. Once again we are being challenged to come up with new innovative ideas, to create a hybrid of what once existed, and mash it up with what we’ve been doing for the past year. Coming from a field that is notoriously resistant to change, this is a unique and unprecedented opportunity. It is a chance to flex those creative muscles again, albeit a different kind.

And while I won’t spend much (or really any) time talking about my day job or the creative challenges I face there, I do think it’s important to include this element in your personal quest. Don’t sell yourself short or ignore a successful venture just because it wasn’t an artistic masterpiece: sometimes solving a work-related problem takes even more novel ideas than anything else you could make. Celebrate those wins, acknowledge the mental energy they take- because otherwise you will feel like you are failing when you don’t have the extra energy once you get home to do even more. Creativity comes in so many forms: in your professional life, in caregiving roles, in making dinner, heck- even in parking the car at times. Always give yourself credit for these roles.

And now moving on to my personal creative challenges: the past week I have put my entire focus on writing. More specifically, I’ve been taking part in Camp Nano. I set my goal for 50,000 words by the end of the month. Although I secretly hope to hit a double NaNo (100,000 words total, gulp). Now, I’ve participated in Nano events since 2013, and have logged in over a million words through the various challenges. I used to win every year and prided myself on that streak. But then a life event happened that sent me reeling. It was like the earth cracked in half and swallowed me whole. It’s taken be several years to my way back to the surface again.

People respond to trauma in a variety of ways. For me- I felt like I had been burnt to ash and needed to rebuild myself from scratch. Writing had always been my identity, and suddenly I had run out of words. I was tapped, I didn’t have it in me anymore to create. My well had run dry. As silly as it sounds, I remember trying to compete in Nano and losing. I remember how that made me feel like I was less than the girl I had been. Who was I if I wasn’t a writer, a creator? Who was I going to be if I couldn’t complete this one silly challenge I had done for years?

The truth of the matter is you have to give yourself time. Healing is not something that can be rushed through. I’ve tried Nano for the past three years and almost always failed. When I did meet my goal it was with gibberish ramblings that weren’t ever going to be useable in any project. But then this year happened. And while I am not sure why it felt different: it did. I’ve been preparing myself for months, amping myself up through this Creativity Quest (which you are probably realizing means a lot more to me than just upping my productivity- it’s a search for self: the version of me I miss, the one I want to be again).

            The truly exciting thing: it meant that for the first time in three years, I was actually ready for my Nano challenge. And guys- I’ve been doing it! Since the first of July I have written over 43,000 words, meaning my goal for a double Nano is actually within reach. Now, you have to keep in mind: I was on vacation for the first few days of July, and I didn’t complete any other thing on my vacation to-do list. You also have to realize that now that we are over a week in, reality is starting to step in the way and my numbers have gone way down the past few days. I have to refocus on finding a balance. But damn, it felt like I had finally broken the curse. I was me again, I was the girl with ten different stories running through her brain, the girl who could throw in a plot twist and pivot with a moment’s notice. I was a writer again.

I feel like my writing is bringing me back home, helping me discover that, though I am a very different woman now, there are some things that will never change, no matter what I go through. For the first time in a long time I have hope back on my side, and it feels so amazing.

I’m working on adding new elements to the challenge. A coworker of mine is a pretty awesome artist, and she’s going to start giving me lunchtime lessons with watercolors. I have some house projects that need to be completed- shelves that need repainted and a string art piece that’s (hopefully) going to grace my bathroom wall. Plus, a monster travel-wall project for my entryway that is going to take a long of ingenuity (particularly if I don’t want to spend a small fortune-which I don’t really have on hand to spend, so there we go).

So on we march, my brave adventurers, to see what awaits us beyond the next veil of trees. Keep creating, even if those creations aren’t at all what you were expecting.

Creativity Challenge

  • Join Camp Nano and begin to write- any goal, any type of project, just start moving the words from your head to the page
  • Draw a picture of the forest you are about to enter
  • Sculpt a monster you might find in these woods
  • Create a camp-out meal creation and taste-test in a backyard picnic

Off to Camp Nano (please write)

It’s time! I can barely contain my excitement, my friends, Camp Nano is back in session- and it’s just in time to fold itself into our little Creativity Quest. For those who are wondering what the heck I’m talking about, let me explain. If you love to write (or just feel the desire to dabble with a bit of wordplay) then NaNoWriMo is something that should stick on your radar. It’s a nonprofit group whose sole focus is to help people find their voices and creative talents through the written word. They support writers of any age and created special programs for young writers to explore. They invest in writing fluency and education, and their challenges have led to a plethora of new books hitting the market. A few bestsellers written during the challenge have been: The Night Circus, Cinder, Fangirl, Wool, Side Effects by Mary Vary, Water for Elephants, The Beautiful Land, Don’t Let Me Go; and the list goes on.

NaNoWriMo stands for ‘National Novel Writing Month’ which is in November of every year. It began in 1999 with 12 writers, but has flourished to include hundreds of thousands of budding authors worldwide. The goal for the main event is fairly simple: write 50,000 words during the month of November.

Now, you are probably wondering why the heck I’m talking about it right now if the main challenge isn’t until November? Good question, you tricky little devil. You see, the popularity of the event grew, leaving the participants to wonder why they couldn’t challenge themselves every month of the year instead of just one. Sure, they could write on their own, but it just wasn’t the same. One of the best parts of Nano has always been the community; popping onto the message boards to work out story problems, hunt plot bunnies, and just generally bond with like-minded strangers who shared this particular passion with you. Thus, Camp Nano was born.

Camp Nano happens twice a year: once in April and once in July. The rules are a bit different than the traditional event, but if anything, they have perhaps become even more popular for their fresh community vibes and customizable goals. In Camp Nano you can join a virtual cabin with friends or strangers (or you can fly solo if the social thing just isn’t your jam. Want a little mixture of both? The message boards are always open if you just want to dabble in conversation when the mood strikes). Everything is done online, so there is no need to dig out your bug spray or poncho, no entry fees, no swimsuits- not unless you want slap that baby on, and more power to you. You can choose your own goal for the month: editing, writing, novels, poetry, whatever you wish. You can determine the best way to track it: in hours, pages, words. And you can decide what that actual goal is going to be: you can default to the traditional 50,000 words, or ramp it up/down depending on what vibe you are feeling.

Camp is probably one of my favorite times- I’ve met some amazing people through it, ones who I still keep in touch with. Many writing groups have been born from the cabins that were randomly slapped together. Some of the groups migrate to Facebook, though most these days make their way to Discord where they will continue long after Camp has packed away their virtual tents. The groups can be pretty amazing, and a little bit of searching can help you find the group of oddballs whose weirdness most closely matches your own. I’ve rarely found the kind of support and camaraderie that comes from the others attracted to this particular challenge.

Today is the very first day of July Camp, and I am pumped to be at it again. I didn’t register until yesterday, so I feel like I’m flying by the seat of my pants. If you are thinking about it- just jump in: what could it hurt to try? You don’t get penalized for starting late, so if you decide in a week that you are interested: give it a go. You don’t even have to register for the actual Camp anymore. Nano has completely revamped their website to allow you to track your writing goals throughout the year with ease.

Normally I like to start one fresh new project for Nano, but realistically: I have way too many partially finished first drafts sitting in various states of disarray. So instead of beginning one more project, I’m going to start pulling my old ones out of limbo. Finish up those first drafts, and then later this year I can begin the deep dive into editing. Right now I’m set to the standard 50,000 words, but there is still a chance I will change it as I settle into my routine this month. I am contemplating upping that number to 100,000 (also known as a double nano) and dedicating half of it to my novel projects and the other half to the blog.

The creativity challenge, should you choose to accept it: join Nano and spend the month writing with me.

To join follow the link here: https://nanowrimo.org

As the month progresses I’ll be offering up some tips and tricks I’ve learned for world building. I’ll also be tossing out a few of my favorite writing games, like word crawls, tarot challenges, etc, to keep it all exciting. While you don’t have to join Nano to participate in any of these challenges I’ll be throwing in, it could still be fun to give it a shot. Who knows, maybe it will get you one step closer to that Muse.

Camp NaNoWriMo (let the adventures begin)

The time has come once again my literary lovelies, wordsmiths, ink-slingers and syllable-stringers; it is time for summer camp. Lucky for you, being outdoors is optional (though highly recommended), you won’t have to share any of your snacks, and you can wear your plot bunnies as slippers from morning til night if you wish. The July edition of Camp NaNoWriMo is just around the corner. Yes, it’s true, you can really do anything on the internet these days: even summer camp.

For those who don’t have a clue what I am talking about, let me just back up a step or two. Camp Nano is an offshoot of the main Nano, also known as NanoWriMo, which stands for National Novel Writing Month. It’s a virtual writing challenge where thousands of people across the globe sign up to tackle a single venture at the same time. The main event takes place every November. The challenge: to write 50,000 words in 30 days.

Camp Nano is the figurative little brother of the November session. It has more of a community focus to it. If you sign up, you get the option to join virtual cabins- either of your own creation or through a bot that will randomly place you. You also get to set your own customized goal- whatever you want it to be. You can track words, pages, lines, minutes, hours, and you can be as nice or ruthless with your goal as you want (this time around I’m being a little bit mean and going for a ‘double Nano,’ which means 100,000 words in 30 days). Every person in your cabin has their own project to work on, but you get to network and talk throughout the month as you all embark on the adventure together. Rest assured, it is a virtual camp- there is no travel required, and no real roughing it unless you decide to take your laptop out on the back patio.

I am addicted, I’ll tell you that upfront- and if anyone reading this is interested in writing- I strongly suggest you give it a shot, what do you have to lose? It’s such a positive community, it is one of the few places where I feel completely accepted. My oddball interests and quirks suddenly aren’t so strange anymore. Plus- there are thousands of writers who have years of experience, tips and tricks to share. And they are more than willing to help anyone who stumbles across their path.

I had never lost a Nano until this last year when a few things went a wee bit sideways in my life. I’m hoping that July will be my redemption. I have a few projects that are halfway finished, so I’m going to try to push through to get them ready for editing. I can’t wait. I haven’t decided if I’m joining a cabin yet this year; I’ve found a new writing group that mainly uses Discord to keep in touch through the year (all 60+ members met through Nano and have kept each other motivated the past few years), and I’m really hoping I can sleuthy-sneak my way into being one of the regulars.

Adventure awaits, my friends- do you dare take the first step to meet it?

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?

Tell Me a Story (Writing Prompt): Fears of the Future

Write a story inspired by the prompt and/or the photograph below. All styles and word counts welcome. May the odds be ever in your favor, my friends.

“Much like Icarus flying too close to the sun, our arrogance had been our undoing. In our boastful confidence, we never took the threat seriously. We had been giants for far too long to feel the true danger we were in; not once did we realize that we were Goliath on the verge of meeting David. Oh, how the world shook when we toppled. Some celebrated, some mourned; but everyone knew that nothing would ever be the same again. The meek did not inherit this earth, something more sinister did. That was a generation ago, and we still have not found our road to redemption.”

Original photo taken by myself in Seattle, WA. Shamelessly filtered later
Be bold and brave: leave a link to your story (or the story itself) down in the comments.

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