Ready for Camp NaNoWriMo

It’s National Novel Writing Month Again! The original NaNoWriMo occurs in November, but since it grew in popularity, the organizers of the event run it again in April and July, and they adopt a summer camp theme for it. Click HERE to check it out.

The premise is simple. There are many people out there who dream of writing a novel but for one reason or another, they don’t think they can. Maybe the task in and of itself seems too daunting. Maybe they’re afraid about the quality of their idea or writing. The beauty of NaNoWriMo is that it’s not about quality but about quantity. You set a word count goal—typically 50,000 words—and write a first draft. It could be a really lousy first draft. For many participants, it’s just about completing that word count.

This will be my fifth NaNo. I completed two (July 2013 and April 2014). I got about halfway through the November 2013 and July 2014 NaNos. Honestly, November is too busy a time of year for me with the holidays and work stuff. Being a teacher with summer vacations off, July is obviously a better time of the year for me, but I completed 50,000 words last April, so I thought I’d give it another go this spring.

To be honest, I didn’t think I could do it back in July 2013. I only participated because a friend of mine coerced me to. She didn’t want to do it alone, and she convinced me that I had a great story idea to work on. At any given time, I have about a dozen story ideas percolating in my head, each in different stages of development, and she and I often exchanged ideas, so I asked her which one she meant. She said something like, “That mermaid story with the girls switching places because of shimmery tail-skirt thing.”

Although I had a solid premise, I had nothing else. I didn’t know who the main characters were, I didn’t know what journeys of self-discovery they’d be on, I didn’t know much of the plot, and I sure didn’t know how it would all get resolved. My friend told me I’d figure it out. Really, she wanted someone else to do it with her—a tactic I strongly recommend because the presence of another person set up a support system and a friendly competition. I didn’t want to let her down, and I sure didn’t want to be beaten.

I did the math. 50,000 words in 31 days meant about 1,613 words per day. When I looked at how much that was (about twice as long as this blog entry), I determined that it was possible. It required discipline. April’s rate is a little higher since it’s one less day, but it only brings the daily goal up to 1,667 words.

So I started writing. I gave the two protagonists basic character traits that I thought would serve the story well. I knew I could get to the initial incident—the girl and the mermaid switching places—and the immediate aftermath. After that, I was diving in blindly. But I was writing, and it was fun. And I was reading what my friend was writing, and it was great. I wanted my story to be great too. It was challenging at first because I tended to deliberate over words and edit/revise as I went, but that’s not the way to succeed at NaNoWriMo. You just write your lousy first draft and revise it later.

A funny thing happened about a week into the process. I figured out the ending of the story and many of the plot steps needed to get there. At the end of July 2013, I had “won” NaNo with just over 55,000 words. The story wasn’t done—that took two more weeks in August to churn out the final 18,000 words. I had lost the deadline momentum of July, so I had slowed down, but I did finish. That book is Flipping the Scales, and I’m quite happy with it and the positive response it’s received since I self-published it in November 2014.

My friend isn’t participating in Camp NaNo this April, but thanks to the summer camp theme, I’m in a “cabin” with eleven other writers. We have our own message board within the Camp NaNo site, and that will provide the support system and friendly competition as we post word counts.

What’s my project? Work on Skipping the Scales, of course! I’m in a better place than I was back in July 2013. I already know the characters, I know the major plot points and the ending (I can’t wait for my kids to learn it!), and I’ve already got stuff written. It’s not that I lacked motivation; I was working on another project, and I didn’t set aside the writing time. Camp NaNo will force me to set aside the time. Tonight, I’m writing—hopefully about 1,600 words. Follow my Twitter feed, where I’ll be posting word counts and other thoughts.

And when I’m stuck in the novel, I can keep the writing juices flowing by blogging. According to Microsoft Word, this entry is 875 words. They count to my total, right? ;-)

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