After being away for a month, it’s great to be back on my blog!
I’ve been away because I decided to participate a yearly event called Camp NaNoWriMo. The event is hosted by the people who host November’s National Novel Writing Month. NaNo, as it’s often called, challenges people to write a novel and participants aren’t always people who call themselves writers but people who have always wanted to write a novel but maybe never had the courage or motivation. NaNoWriMo provides a great support system that includes local and online communities and message boards as well as writing tips and prizes.
I’ve done the November NaNo since 2008 on and off so I was thrilled to discover Camp NaNoWriMo this year. The July event is a bit different from the November one. In November, people commit to writing a novel of 50,000 words for the entire month. People set their own goals for Camp NaNo and they are free to work on either an existing project or a new project so it’s a little more relaxed than the November NaNo.
My decision to participate in Camp NaNo this year was a combination of timing and opportunity. I had just decided to get back into writing longer fiction after having worked on short stories and novellas for the last year. I had just finished making notes on a psychological suspense novel so it was a good opportunity to jumpstart my motivation with a month-long writing commitment. I decided to commit to an average of 1,000 words per day, setting my goal for the month to 30,000 words.
I always learn something from doing NaNo and this time was no exception. In the last year, I’ve been writing by hand rather than directly on the computer. I made this decision because I wanted to explore how writing by hand could make me connect to the characters I create and with their stories since psychological reality is about weaving the different emotional aspects of character. I wanted to feel the shape of the words in a way that bring me closer to them and to my characters.
However, because the goal of NaNo is to write without censorship and without fear, word count is essential. The NaNo website allows you to update your word count every day so that you can get a visual sense of how close you are to your goal with charts and writing averages. It was obviously not going to be practical for me to write by hand and then transcribe the writing to my computer so that I could tally the word count if I hoped to reach my 30K goal. So I opted to write directly on the computer.
This turned out to be a great exercise for me. I’m very much aware that the downside of my dedication to writing psychological reality which focuses on language and uses writing techniques such as imagery, symbolism, and poetic prose more than other kinds of writing. I tend to overwrite – a lot! Thanks to a wonderful critique group and freelance editors, I have become more aware of this so that it’s easier for me to weed out a lot of these cringe-worthy phrases, words, and sentences. When I wrote straight on the computer for my Camp NaNo novel, my writing became more concise and focused on story and character rather than words and sentences and I was able to better balance the two. This was a valuable lesson for me to learn because as a writer, I am dedicated to engaging readers first.
Camp NaNo also taught me a lot about my writing pace. I’ve always been a slow writer. The image of the inspired writer who sits for 3, 4, even 8 hours or more at a time, pounding away at the keyboard, completely buried in his or her creativity has never been mine. I can’t concentrate on writing for more than an hour, an hour and a half tops.
Until Camp NaNo, I never really kept track of just how much I write during these short sprints. Writing has always been more about quality than quantity to me so it mattered less how many words I could write than how good or bad they were. However, since I was trying to reach a specific word count for the month, I started paying attention to how much I was writing. I was able to pace myself so that I got a better sense of my output. Because my focus is better in daylight, I usually didn’t write after dark, but I ventured out of my comfort zone by scheduling an hour of writing in the evenings. These sessions not only gave me more time to write but also made me feel more connected to the story and characters, since I was spending more time with them.
I’m happy to say that I reached my writing goal by the end of the month. I had a lot of fun participating in Camp NaNo and it got me back into novels and also taught me something about my writing habits.
A winnah!!! My CampNaNo 2016 winner badge J.