Going Camping: Update

 

Camp NaNoWriMo July 2017 Stats

My word count statistics for the July, 2017 Camp NaNoWriMo. Ah, well….

It’s the beginning of August and the end of this year’s second Camp NaNoWriMo. As the picture shows, I didn’t even come close to hitting my word count goal, yet I’m still considering this NaNo attempt a success. I had two goals for this NaNo, and neither of them translated well into word count.

The first goal was to create a backlog of blog posts. While I wasn’t able to create much of a backlog, I greatly expanded my list of ideas for blog posts and maintained my self-imposed goal of posting once a week. That’s definitely a win. Building a habit takes time and persistence, and I want posting to this blog to become a habit. I discovered that each week I managed to write a first draft of a post by Wednesday, so I had plenty of time to revise and post on Saturday. So far, most of my post ideas are about the writing process since that’s what I’m currently wrestling with, but I hope to explore other topics in future.

The second goal was to work on my new idea in my SF universe. I ended up falling into full-blown world building mode when I came up with a way to link my fantasy and SF universes (see post “Connecting the Dots”). When I’m world building, I find it difficult to generate words; instead, what I generated was ideas. Lots and lots of ideas.

When I first started taking writing seriously, NaNoWriMo was invaluable in helping me learn how to start at page 1 and just keep writing. The NaNo deadline and word count goal gave me the incentive to push through dry spells and throw words on the page. I’m still surprised by how many great story directions evolved out of the NaNo need to just keep writing. Some of my best scenes were written during NaNo along with a lot of words that need to be drastically revised and/or cut. It’s a variation of the comment that 50% of every dollar of advertising is wasted; you still need to spend the whole dollar because you can’t tell ahead of time which part won’t work.

But now that I’ve actually completed novel manuscripts, I’m finding it difficult to just let loose during NaNo and let the words flow. I want my stories to have depth and texture. Yes, I know that comes during revision, but as I mature as a writer, I’m feeling the need to have an understanding of my story’s theme before I start writing a rough draft, not after I’ve wandered around in the dark bumping into walls. How can I put my writing experience to good use and cut down on the amount of random words? I spent a lot of time this NaNo thinking about how to work smarter, not harder. I’ve also been studying Wired for Story by Lisa Cron. She’s got lots of valuable advice about ways to make stories resonate with readers, and I’m finding her suggestions are helping me plan out my current work in progress.

So as I enter August (still can’t believe it’s August already), I’ve got enough blog posts in the queue to last for at least the next few months. I’ve got a better understanding of the story universe in which I’m writing, and I’m getting to know my characters much better, too. Today I wrote a new first line for my first contact story which will take the story into a much different direction than I’d originally imagined. It’ll be a little darker, but on the whole, I think the change in direction is needed to make my protagonist more of a participant than an observer. At this point, I think I’ve got enough critical mass to make headway on the story.

So full steam ahead in August, and let’s see what I can accomplish by September.

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Going Camping

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Today is the start of another Camp NaNoWriMo (www.campnanowrimo.org), and once again I’m throwing my hat into the ring. The “official” National Novel Writing Month in November (www.nanowrimo.org) is aimed at writing 50,000 words of the first draft of a novel in thirty days. Camp NaNoWriMo in April and July is a lot more laid back. You can choose your word count goal and project type including revision, screenwriting, and pretty much anything you’d like to do. The main goal is to get writing and keep writing. With the NaNo website, forums, and cabins, you have a built-in cheering section and support system.

This time, I’m planning to work on something different than the usual. Since I’ve reopened the blog, I need to create content if I’m going to stick to a weekly post schedule, so I intend to use the month of July to create a backlog of blog posts. I already have a bunch of half-written posts that need finishing, and I have many more ideas of things to write about.

At least, that was the initial plan. A few days ago I came up with an idea for more novellas set in my science fiction universe that will explore the concept of first contact between humanity and alien races. I’m a firm believer in “if the muse shouts, listen.” The ideas are flowing, therefore I also intend to use July to work on fleshing out these stories.
So I’m looking forward to July with both a sense of anticipation and trepidation. Time to go into finishing mode on those blog posts and make them ready for general consumption. Time to leap into the unknown on my story and find out what happens.

It’s not too late to sign up for Camp NaNoWriMo. If you’re interested in trying your hand at writing, now’s a good time to get started. Check out the website and see if NaNo is for you.

See you on the other side!

The Idea Ambush

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I’ve just been ambushed by another idea. Not the first time, and not (I hope) the last. Ideas are tricky that way. You can be busy working out the nuances of one idea, when bam! A second idea shoulders its way to the front of the line.

Great, right? Surely two ideas are better than one. And maybe if you put the two ideas together, they can form a third, and a fourth, and … eventually a muddled headache if they can’t be corralled.

It’s a matter of resources. Limited amount of time and enthusiasm. Other priorities intervene, like all those pesky necessities of life such as eating and sleeping. Other creative tasks clamber for attention, too. I write novels and the occasional short story, and I also sculpt polymer clay and make beaded jewelry. And draw. And make gemstone trees. And paint figurines. And… you get the picture.

So now I’ve come up with an idea for a webcomic. It’s an idea I’ve had before that I never fully developed, and now it’s resurfaced with lots more detail and quite possibly a viable way forward. I think I can make it work, with a lot of time and effort.

And that’s the problem with an idea ambush. When a new idea strikes and screams for your attention, how do you decide what to work on? Put the work for the old idea on hold and play with the shiny new idea, or make the new idea wait until all the tasks for the old idea are complete?

If I put the old idea on hold, I lose momentum toward finishing a project. Finishing is important. I’m sure I’m not the only one who has tons of unfinished stuff sitting about waiting for attention – unfinished stories to revise, unfinished craft projects that just need a few final touches. Sometimes I go into finishing mode and not start something new until I’ve cleared out some of the old.

If I make the new idea wait, I run the risk of losing enthusiasm. When I finally get around to playing with the new idea, I might not be as interested in it anymore. I’ve had that happen, too, and the idea is lost, or never is developed as well as it could be.

So how do I decide what to work on? I’ve never found a clearcut answer. Sometimes the new idea is just a distraction when what I need to do is plow forward and finish what I’m working on. Sometimes I need a break from the old, so the new idea acts as a palate cleanser. By working on something else for a while, I return to the old idea with fresh perspective. My general guideline is this: If the muse is shouting, listen. At the very least, I capture notes about whatever is currently firing my enthusiasm before that enthusiasm fades. Sometimes the new idea needs time to percolate before it can be fully developed, in which case I go back to the old and continue. Sometimes the new idea is fully formed, so I capture it before it can escape.

And sometimes I do a little of everything. In general, I like to focus on one project at a time, but sometimes I also like to work on projects in parallel. I can only devote so much attention to any given project in a single day, so having more than one project to work on helps. As today’s enthusiasm fades on one project, I can switch to another and still keep going.

The webcomic is going to take a lot of time and effort, therefore it’s going to be a long-term backup project while I finish my other works in progress. I need to hone my drawing skills, figure out how comics are put together, explore the new universe and characters, and oh yes, come up with a story. Lots of work, but it’s exciting. Next month is National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), so I’m planning to use the time to write out the history of this new universe and figure out some stories to tell. I intend to use the thirty days and 50,000 words to decide whether this is going to be a viable idea to explore.

Wish me luck, and I wish you luck on whatever ideas ambush you!