The Blue Chair Blog

It's not just about the novel

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I went camping for a whole month

Do you all know about NaNoWriMo — National Novel Writing Month? The idea is to write a new novel of at least 50,000 words in the days from November 1 through November 30. That’s an average of about 1667 words per day. If you get ahead of schedule through diligence, inspiration, or staying up all night, you can even take Thanksgiving off. What you get out of NaNoWriMo, if you finish, is a first draft and a feeling of accomplishment — you started and you finished. Nano calls you a winner and gives you badges and certificates, which is quite nice. I’ve done that once, back in 2011, and produced the first draft of a mystery (working title: Hazard Bay), which I haven’t done much with. That’s because I’m perversely obsessed with the historical novel that’s been in my head, on scraps of paper, and committed to various electronic files over a number of years. One of these days I’ll get back to that mystery.Camp-Winner-2015-Square-Button

This year, I took my work in progress to camp — Camp NaNoWriMo, naturally. Now, Camp Nano is a little different than the big push to draft a new novel during November. You can work on whatever you like — revisions, short stories, another novel — with a word count anywhere between 10,000 and 1 million words. Camp NaNoWriMo meets in April (another 30-day month) and July.  I’ve got to hand it to these folks, the whole scheme is very well thought out. For Camp, you can join a virtual cabin to interact with fellow writers, either with people you know or by asking to be assigned. And a count of at least 10K means you are serious, right? My cabin had a couple of others in it, but because life tends to get in the way, I ended up pretty much on my own. I understood, and I felt their presence anyway. I also met some swell people on Twitter.

Going to camp worked well for me because I love external encouragement and accountability. I signed up for the modest 10,000 word minimum goal so I could build on a renewed commitment to writing every weekday. And I wanted to give myself every chance of success. Just about the first thing every morning on weekdays, I wrote 500 words or so and updated my word count. I only missed three of those days and one of them was because I was sick (turned out to be nothing). I hit 10K on April 29.

While at Camp, I was working on what I have come to call the “dreaded middle section” (once upon a time the “dreaded final section”) of my novel in progress. I had already written a detailed outline for that part of the MS, but needed to get it fleshed out so that I could stitch the entire thing together and start polishing. And guess what? I am about one day’s work away from finishing up that section. Very soon, I’ll be able to see the shape of the whole, which is such an exciting prospect. In addition, I have learned that writing 500 words first thing in the morning is very doable and has a big pay off. I intend to stick to that practice.

Thanks to Camp NaNoWriMo, its comfy cabins and all of the encouragement, I had a great time at camp. I can’t make it in July this year, but maybe you can. Highly recommended.


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How I got myself all fired up, the short version

1. My friend Russ kicked me in the pants

2. I went to Sedona and got inspired. (Photos soon.)

3. I took a terrific class called Plotting via Motivation from the wonderful Laurie Schnebly Campbell.

4. I made myself externally accountable by signing up for RWA’s The End Writing Challenge and, starting just yesterday, dived in at Camp NaNoWriMo. I even have a cabin mate!

5. I made a modest commitment to write about 500 words every weekday. My goal for Camp NaNoWriMo is only 10,000 words, but they will be a very important step forward for my MS.