Why I Said No To Nano

NaNoWriMo is not for the faint of heart.

I had always heard stories, but finally got a taste of it myself when I participated in CampNaNo this July. Though I only had a goal of 20,000 instead of the standard 50,000, I learned a lot about the process–and myself.

CampNaNo was a great experience. My favorite part was by far the community. I made new connections, and became closer with some I already knew. The support was amazing from my fellow writers, both those participating and those not. I also challenged myself, and I made my goal even though I didn’t think I could.

So, if CampNaNo was great, why didn’t I join NaNoWriMo this year?

I’ve been telling people that November is too busy in the semester for me to possibly do it. Which is true, but it is not my only reason for not participating.

While CampNaNo was a great experience, and I learned about myself, I also learned that I do not work well in that setting. Yes, I met my goal, and yes I got the words out, but it was painful. And when they were out, they were awful. Those awful words sent me into a battle with my writing, that lasted three months after CampNaNo. After writing 20,000 words in one month, it took me three months to write the next 20,000. Not only was I burnt out, but I lost my way, and struggled because I didn’t know how to fix what I had written, or where to go from there.

I love the concept of NaNoWriMo. I love the community and the challenge. But even if it is possible to do it, should you? I learned that yes, it was possible for me to do–but maybe I shouldn’t, because in the long run, it hurt my writing more than it helped me.

NaNoWriMo is awesome, and I’m cheering on all of you crazy brave enough to do it this year. But just know that it’s not for everyone, and it’s okay if it’s not right for you. That doesn’t mean you’re chicken, or any less of a writer than people who do NaNo.

Some people can churn out 5k+ words a day, and write for hours on end. Not all of us are like that. If you’re like me, you can go days without writing, then write two chapters all at once. Or write a few days in a row, but only get a couple paragraphs down. You might not have the luxury of being able to write for hours a day in order to meet that word count, or maybe you just don’t want to. Maybe that’s not how you work as a writer, and that’s okay.

If you’re participating in NaNo, you should get a medal. But if you’re not, be proud of your choice. We Non-Nanos have to stick together, and cheer our friends who are running  the NaNo marathon on. Because at the end of the day, NaNo or not, we’re all writers, and we’re all on the same team.

Good luck, and keep writing!

Why I Don’t Write Every Day

Yes, you read that right. While practically everyone else is telling you “write every day” like a mantra to be repeated until you are getting very sleepy, I am telling you the exact opposite.

Why? Why not write every day? Isn’t practice the key to  getting better? If all the bestselling authors say it, isn’t that the secret to becoming a brilliant author?

Yes, and no. I think “write every day” is good advice for those just starting out. When you are just starting as a writer, you  need all the time and practice you can get to develop yourself as a writer, which can only really come from getting words on the page. So if you are new to writing, by all means, write every day. If you are anyone really, and you want to write every day, by all means go for it!

I am not here to stand in the way of anyone who wants to write all the time. That’s awesome, go do it! I am here to talk to those who beat themselves up because they don’t.

First of all, writing every day assumes a lot of things. You don’t have a full-time day job, or three kids, or a full class load, or a social life, or basically anything else. It assumes you have time to sit down at a computer and pour your soul out, every day of the week. Even if you can find time to wedge writing between the conference calls and cleaning spit up and cramming for a test, do you really want to write right then?

You sit down and stare at that blinking cursor on a blank part of the page, and it seems a lot less like your passion and more like another one of the day’s many chores to cross off your list. I don’t think anyone should ever feel that way about writing. When that happens, you have stopped being a writer, and become a machine, going through the motions.

Yes, there will be days you don’t feel like writing, and you shouldn’t let that stop you. You shouldn’t use lack of motivation or inspiration as an excuse, but sometimes it happens. Sometimes you just don’t feel like writing, and you shouldn’t force it. You shouldn’t force it because then your words will feel forced, which the reader can tell, not to mention you end up starting to hate everything to do with writing.

The only time I have ever forced myself to write (almost) every day was for CampNaNo. Honestly, I would never do it again. I was exhausted, and every time I sat down to write I started to hate it more and more. The words suffered for it, too. I am still cleaning up the mess of some of those scenes I wrote, and probably will be for a while to come.

I don’t write every day because writing every day sucks the life and joy out of it for me. I start to dread it, feel obligated, and guilty when I don’t. I hate that feeling. When I sit down to write, I want to feel excited. I want my mind to be whirling with all kinds of scenes and voices and images that I just can’t wait to put on the page.

Now one thing I will tell you to do (almost) every day is read. I learn more in an hour of reading than I do in ten hours of writing, and I could never get burnt out.

Writing every day works for some people, which is great (but we secretly hate those people). For those of you who it doesn’t work for (like me) don’t worry about it. Write as much as you can, as often as you can, but never let it take away your love for writing.

 

Camp Nano: WINNER

2014-Winner-Facebook-Cover

That’s right…I did it! *throws confetti and happy dances then collapses in a heap of exhaustion* Honestly, not sure how, but I beat my goal with one week to spare.

Word goal: 20,000

Final word count: 20,436

So now that it’s over, what do I think of my first NaNoWriMo experience?

It was definitely a roller coaster. There were moments I felt like a superhero on top of the world and others I wanted to cry and rip my hair out. I can’t even imagine what it would have been like if I had gone for the full 50k. But on the other hand, I knew going into it that this month was already going to be busy and hectic in the first place, so that might have been part of it. 

CampNaNo was challenging, exciting, eye-opening, fun (sometimes), painful, exhausting, and inspiring. I think my favorite part was the community and all the awesome support. I could have never done this without NaNoWordSprints or my super awesome cabin of fellow WordPress bloggers. It was also reallycool to see how different everyone was–even within our cabin, there were some going for 10k, others for 60k. Some got stuck at low word counts, others were writing demons churning out thousands a day. But that’s what was so cool, seeing how everyone worked, seeing everyone’s struggles and accomplishments, and all of us working together towards this one goal. It really felt like a team. 🙂 

What would I say to someone who is considering a NaNoWriMo event?

Know what you’regetting yourself into. Also, know yourself and what you’re capable of. Through NaNo, you’ll probably discover you’re capable of a lot more than you thought you were, but on the other hand, don’t commit to a large word count when you know you have a busy month or hectic life already. The point of NaNoWriMo, in my opinion, is to challenge yourself. Challenge yourself creatively, become a part of this community, and have fun. There is no point in participating if you start to hate writing each day, or end up overstressing yourself, and basically just have a miserable time. 

My advice to anyone participating for the first time?

Relax. It is not the end of the world if you don’t reach your goal. It doesn’t mean you’re a terrible writer and you should give it up. Everyone works differently. Some people might find out that they’re not made to write in a situation like NaNo. I found it very difficult for my writing style. And as I’ve said to several people participating this month, no matter what your word count is at the end of the month, every word is one word more than you had when you started. And that is something to celebrate, whether you’re a “winner” or not. 🙂

Would I do it again, or consider NaNoWriMo?

Honestly, after this trial, I don’t know that I could do full on NaNo. Maybe, if I had a basically free month, and really put everything else aside. But with my school schedule, I don’t know that that would be possible. CampNaNo? Absolutely. Depending on where I am at next July (hopefully it will be less busy for me next year) I would love to participate again. Mainly because of the customizable word count. I know the point is to write a book in a month, but honestly I don’t really want to write a book in a month. I know my limits, and 20k turned out to be a good goal for me. Maybe next year I’ll try 30,000, and work my way up from there. Who knows, maybe one day I’ll go for the full 50? 🙂 

There’s still a week left, but where are you at? Have you met your goal, or are you inches away from the finish line? Are you struggling to churn out those last few 1ks before the end? Would you do this again, or try it for the first time? I’d love to hear what you think! 

 

To Build A Story: Burn Out

It’s been a while since I’ve written a To Build A Story post, so I’m sorry, but I’ve been so busy with CampNaNo, I haven’t had the time. But I promised you this series would take you along the writing journey with me, the good, bad, and the ugly, so here it is.

This month, I’ve written almost everyday, and have down 17,668 words. For me, that’s a lot. My creativity juices are spent, and I am exhausted. It’s gotten to the point where I even dread sitting down to write–and I hate that.

On top of regular CampNaNo burnout, I am over 37,000 words and am starting to enter the middle slump, otherwise known as the writing Twilight Zone.

For me, this is the hardest stage in the drafting process. Somehow, when I reach about the 35k-40k mark, all the life gets sucked out of me. The story feels dull, the characters lifeless, and each word is like pulling a tooth–and even then they don’t feel right.

I still love this story. Nightfire was love at first word for me, and has been burning consistently since then. But I think with any story, no matter how great or how much you love it, you reach this stage. The initial momentum wears off, and suddenly you have to wonder, Where is this going? Does this make sense? Do the dots connect? The rose-colored love glasses are broken.

To stave off the burnout, I’ve been reading. A lot, actually. It has been a long time since I have torn through books like a knife through butter, but it feels pretty awesome to rediscover my true love for reading. And though it started out as a break from writing, reading has also helped me to write, both directly and indirectly. Directly, it’s given me inspiration for scenes or words and phrases to use, or conflicts and actions I like. Indirectly, it’s expanded my vocabulary, sparked my imagination, and refilled my creativity well.

So, I’m still plugging along, and tearing out each word like a tooth as I go.

One thing I realize as I go, is the more I write, the more I realize how much I have left to write. I’m starting to realize that there’s a lot more to this story than I thought at first–maybe even more than just one book’s worth.

Those in the writing Twilight Zone with me, how do you keep going? Those who have made it through, how did you do it?

CampNaNo: Halfway There

I know, this one’s a little late, but I was out of town for most of this week. So this week’s update is relatively short.

In the first week, I built enough of a cushion that I was able to relax and enjoy my vacation without worrying about word count, though I did get a few words down in my notebook. Then on the drive home, with ten hours (and boyfriend asleep the whole way) I was able to longhand a little over 1700 words in my notebook, so I didn’t get too far behind.

My word count now is 10,967 for CampNaNo, and 32,914 overall. I made the halfway point for both my NaNo target, and my word count goal overall!

I am feeling good, but am starting to get burned out on writing everyday–which I am not used to doing, at all. I usually write better in bursts. Nothing for a couple days, then sit down and write a couple chapters all at once. To fight the burnout, I’ve been reading more lately, which has helped for inspiration, to recharge, and still feel like I’m doing something bookish and productive.

I am sort of dreading the third week, as it is notorious for lack of motivation, and I’m already starting to feel it. The last few writing days, the words have been more and more like pulling teeth. I’m hoping I can stick through it though.

How is your CampNaNo journey going? How do you recharge and refresh your inspiration?

 

CampNano: First Week

Hey all! Thought I would do a quick update on my CampNano progress and thoughts so far 🙂

In my last post I shared how I’d already had a rough day, and trouble meeting the word count. Since then, there’s only been one day where I didn’t meet my word count, but I built myself enough cushion in the first few days that it didn’t really matter. And after that, I was able to write enough words to catch up.

As of now, I have written 5,762 words for CampNano, which means I am past the 25% mark on my target, and brings my manuscript to a little over 28k total! As far as my schedule, I am three days ahead in word count, though I did that intentionally as I will be leaving for vacation on Tuesday. 

I’m feeling pretty good 🙂 Some of the scenes have been a struggle, others came naturally. And sometimes, when I went back to those scenes the next day, the right words came. So I am learning to trust the process. 

I’m discovering all new layers to Kera and Torren, and they keep showing me that there’s even more to them than I thought, so that’s been interesting and fun. They are full of surprises 🙂 

The CampNano community has been great. I’ve been doing the #NanoWordSprints on Twitter, and my cabin is awesome! They are all great WordPress bloggers, and I am super impressed with our word count. 

Again, with everything going on (and especially as I leave for my trip) please be patient with me, as I won’t be able to respond on social media or WordPress right away. I will get to you though, and I’d still love to hear from you 🙂

What do you think of CampNaNoWriMo? If you’re participating, how is it going? If you’re not, what has stopped you?

Have a great week!

 

CampNano: First Impressions

I’ve officially survived the first two days of my first ever CampNaNoWriMo! Actually, this is my first time participating in NaNoWriMo, ever. What are my first thoughts?

Well, first it’s really not as scary as I thought it would be. Maybe I would be thinking differently if my goal were the full 50,000 instead of 20,000, but nevertheless, 646 words a day isn’t as much as it seems. 

The first day was pretty awesome. It was exciting to count down the minutes, and start the words just as midnight struck. I enjoyed interacting with other campers, meeting my cabin mates, and participating in some NaNo word sprints. Add that to not only meeting my word goal for the first day, but the second day as well, and I was feeling pretty good. 

But later that night, I was not feeling so chipper. With the initial rush gone, I was left with my own competitive drive, perfectionism, and self-doubt. Every single word was like pulling a tooth, and was just as painful because I knew every word was wrong, but I forced myself not to edit, and just kept stubbornly plugging along. 

Enter: day two (really? It seems like it’s been a week, already). I. Am. Exhausted. Maybe that has something to do with the fact that I have been busy all day, non-stop, on only two hours of sleep. I don’t know how I’m functioning at this point, honestly. Thinking about coming home and having to get some words on the page felt overwhelming. I wondered why the heck I signed up for this in the first place, during what could be the busiest month for me in a long time. 

I am sleep-deprived, worn down, and still just as stubborn. Somehow, when I sat down to force myself to hammer out a few more words so I could sleep easy tonight, the words flowed. Not a lot, but this time they came of their own accord, and they felt right.

I guess it just goes to show you have to trust in the process. When I was fired up and ready, the words felt wrong. But I wrote them anyways, and now, when I am on the brink of collapse, somehow the right ones came.

My current word count is 1656, though I plan on getting a few more down tonight before collapsing in a heap of exhaustion. I’m trying to get as far ahead as possible, to build myself a nice cushion so I don’t have to stress out later, and have some flexibility on my trip next week. 

Please bear with me, as I can’t promise I’ll be as engaged on Twitter or WordPress this month, with so much else going on. I still love you all ❤

Hopefully the rest of this ride isn’t as much of a roller coaster as the first two days have been. Thankfully, I’m in a cabin with an awesome group of people, and the CampNano community is already amazing. I’m hanging in there, and I’ll try to update as much as I can. I still love to hear from you–both campers, and otherwise! Have a great week 🙂