Time to gather round the campfire one last night and say good-bye to CampNaNoWrimo. It was fun, it was crazy-making, and it was often challenging to reach those word quotas, but we did it. Yay! And as always, I hasten to assure my fellow writers that if the best you could do was churn out an outline and a chapter or two, you still got some writing done and that's a win for sure.
As with every adventure, the minute I come home I like to unpack, sort out my souvenirs, go through my ticket stubs and guidebooks, and reflect on what the trip meant to me. In the case of CampNaNo, I didn't have to go very far from home, but I still came back with a virtual bag of goodies, mainly in the form of knowledge. Things I learned include:
- Choosing to write short stories rather than a novel wasn't as good an idea as I thought it would be. Don't get me wrong, I love writing short pieces, but it was sometimes difficult to end one story and then immediately begin working on a new topic with new characters, settings, and conflicts. I kept thinking I was "finished" with the whole thing only to have to start writing again. A novel, I believe, would have provided an easier flow of productivity.
- On the positive side, however, when a story's plot-line bored or evaded me, it was easy to conclude it with either a "happily ever after" ending, or drop it completely. In the latter situation, I was sure to make notes on various possible endings for when I do go back to edit and revise.
- Whether I brought a story to a conclusion or not, I re-discovered and re-affirmed how much I love writing. I really do. First drafts are exciting. I can't imagine a life without them.
- I also learned that I'm a true "pantster," i.e., someone who writes "by the seat of their pants." The one certainty that kept me enthused every day was not knowing what would happen next. My curiosity was all the motivation I needed.
- I enjoyed being in a community of writers, especially being part of a cabin. It was encouraging to know other writers were busily typing or scribbling away, going through the same struggles and bursts of inspiration as me.
- It was great to stop marketing my current novel-for-sale for a few weeks. Putting query letters, synopses, and bio-statements on hold for a month was heavenly.
- Slow and steady does win the race. Although I did have some miraculous moments where I was able to write 4000+ words in a single session, in general I was happy sticking to anywhere between 1500-2000 words a day. I realized there's no need to over-achieve on days that are busy, chaotic, or full of unexpected catastrophe. Just 30-minutes a day can be more than enough to get that story written!
- I'm glad I took the time to create both a book of writing prompts and an accompanying art journal to go with my manuscript. I'm looking forward to continuing with the journal, and my prompts are great subjects for illustration, particularly for my children's picture book WIP. Double-duty!
Back in January, or even May for that matter, I had absolutely no intention of signing up for #CampNaNoWriMo. In fact, if you'd suggested I do so, I would have come up with a thousand ways to say no. Yet when I made my decision to join up the week before camp started, it felt like the most natural thing in the world. Spontaneity is an important part of the creative process. Never let your plans become so rigid that you miss out on valuable, and unexpected, experience.
Tip of the Day: Even with toasted marshmallows and dips in the pool, a solid month of writing can be exhausting. If you're finding yourself suffering from word-burn, a good way to take a break without losing your momentum is to switch your focus from writing text to activities such as designing your book cover, creating a book trailer, writing your log line, synopsis and query letter, and if necessary, putting together a detailed character and plot map. Not only will your energy levels increase, but you'll also have a wealth of fresh ideas for beginning your revision and marketing tasks.