GOOD MORNING, CYBERSPACE!
Last week I announced what project I was going to be working on for Camp NaNoWriMo 2020. This week, we’re going to be diving into my preparations for
the end of the world Camp!
A few years ago I made a post detailing my NaNoWriMo Survival Kit, and–quite honestly–most of the things I listed in that post still apply. I still hoard candy like the smol little gremlin that I am. I still collect notebooks and hide them into every nook and cranny in my room.
I still stuff my friends into my briefcase and haul them around lest they abandon me. However, there are some things I’m doing this year that are a little bit different than years previous. I have some new materials that I shall be trying to utilize for productivity in April (planners, a google spreadsheet??? [what is this madness??]) and–if all goes according to plan–hopefully they’ll help me conquer my goals and become the ultimate productivity master! (this is not happening. i’m just gonna call it now, folks.)
So this week in my Camp NaNo 2020 series, we’re going to be taking a closer look into my step-by-step guide to preparing for Camp NaNoWriMo!
(side note: there won’t be a character interview this week. this post got a little bit longer than I had planned, so putting an interview at the end of it was just going to make it humongous. SO! be prepared for an interview coming soon! [there is, however, a link to SK’s under-construction playlist at the end of this post! don’t forget to take a peak at that!])
KENZIE’S STEP-BY-STEP GUIDE TO PREPARING FOR CAMP NANOWRIMO
i. create a manageable goal, reestablish your idea of “success”
What’s this? We’re actually getting serious here on Smudged Thoughts? ’tis true, peasants. For once in my life I’m going to try and be a reasonable person and actually give you some information that’s worthwhile.
The first step to preparing for Camp NaNoWriMo is–you guessed it!–create a manageable goal. “Manageable” being the keyword here, of course. As a mortal, it’s extraordinarily easy for us to overestimate just how much we can actually accomplish within a set period of time. I went into my first NaNoWriMo with an overabundance of confidence–I came out of that Nano with the stunning realization that failure was my new best friend.
BUT! With Camp NaNoWriMo, your goal is completely malleable!
as long as it continues to be a word goal, because lolololol #newsitenewproblems My goal, for instance, is going to be 35,000 words. I’ve always been horrible at determining how many words a project will actually become, but I feel like 35k is as good a starting point as any for completing my current manuscript. My ultimate goal, of course, is to complete the first draft of SK, but if that doesn’t happen, at least I have an achievable word goal for the month that I can feel successful in completing.
A few things to look at when creating your own goal may include:
- how much time you ACTUALLY HAVE to devote to your craft
I have a terrible habit of thinking I have way more time than I actually do for writing.
that and a terrible penchant for procrastination. So one of the new “tricks” I’m implementing this month is figuring out just how much time I actually have for working on my craft. Following a similar method to what Christine explained in her recent post, 5 Ways I Stay Productive (Without Losing My Mind) (absolutely read this post, by the way), I jot down my week’s agenda on my weekly planner dry-erase board, and–judging by how busy each day seems–calculate how much time I really have for writing.
11-7 shift at work? 1,000 words probably isn’t going to happen. But I bet you I can write 500!
Now, there are a few caveats to this. . .
- Right now is not exactly the best time to work out how much free time I have, because my current place of employment is no longer running. (hello, coronavirus. fun times) This means that basically all of my time at the moment is free time–and if I could just stop lazing about waiting for the world to end and actually W R I T E, perhaps I could get ahead on all the things I’m behind on.
- I will be the first to admit that I am still V E R Y new to this, and therefore am still floundering whilst trying to plan my days out in a way that is actually reasonable. I guess I always thought that being a productive planner sort of person would just come naturally, but it turns out that you actually have to experiment and find a way to plan your day that works FOR you, rather than against you? WHO’DA THUNK. So yes. I’m using March as a bit of a “preparatory” month, where I try to figure out my process for productively planning my day in a way that doesn’t involve me furiously erasing at the night’s end.
Am I an expert at this whole “plotting your day” thing? HA! Absolutely not. But I’m trying, and I’m getting better, and honestly? I have been feeling more productive lately. It could just be a placebo affect, but I really am enjoying the experimentation involved, so I count that as a win.
- are you a fast writer, able to pump out 1-2k words easily every day, or do you find 500 to 1,000 words more within your manageable daily writing range?
Some writers write fast. Other writers write slow. Whichever one you are, it is perfectly okay to cater your goal to your writing speed. There are some writers in my writer’s group that are able to pump out thousands of words every day, whereas I typically bottom out at about 2k on a good day. Does this make one of us better than the other? NOPE. It just means that we’re different people with different processes and styles. And that, my dear bean, is something to be celebrated, not curbed.
- what is your definition of “success”?
What are you hoping to accomplish this NaNo? Finishing your book? Writing a whole draft in a month? Editing your manuscript? What is your “ultimate goal” for the project you’re working on? What matters most to you about the creation of this project?
Is it getting that horrible first draft out as quickly as possible? Is it taking your time and leaving yourself with fewer plot holes at the end of it all? Before we enter of the month of April, you should think long and hard about what your definition of success will be–not necessarily for your writerly career (you don’t have to think that broad quite yet) but simply for this project. Because at the end of the month, it’s not about whether or not you’ve “won” NaNoWriMo. It’s about whether or not your pleased with the progress you’ve made.
(a wonderful book that deals more with redefining your definition of success is The Mental Game of Writing by James Scott Bell. I highly recommend reading it if you’re looking for a more professional/in-depth depiction of this topic)
ii. know where you’re going
*and all the pantsers scream in horror*
Okay, okay, let’s talk story craft for a second: there are three basic types of writers–plotters, pantsers, and the weird hybrid between the two that are plantsers. Chances are, you already know which one of these you are. (and if you do not, please feel free to take a look at this video right here, which made a circle through my writing group not too long ago. very informative. much wow. [I haven’t watched the whole thing quite yet, but I’m going to after posting this. XD]) I, myself, am a discovery writer through-and-through, and identify mostly with plantsers.
HOWEVER. Even though I love discovering the story as I write it–which usually means knowing very little about where the story is going to take me scene-by-scene–it is my pure belief that having an endgame in mind is beneficial to e v e r y type of writer.
Of course, as with every piece of writing advice, this is pure speculation and could be completely irrelevant to some writers out there. Maybe some writers are able to whip out a 70,000 draft from beginning to end without knowing where they’re going up until that final scene. (and if this is you, you have my deepest respect, good sir.) But for me, I physically cannot continue writing without knowing where the end of my story lies.
Confession time: I’m a chronic overwriter. This means that I have a tendency to just keep writing and writing and writing aimlessly along, dragging my story over hill and dale
(poor dale) and back again as I flounder about procrastinating the ending.
I. Hate. Endings.
I don’t know why. I’ve always hated endings. I hate saying goodbye. I hate it when stories I love come to a close. It feels like a piece of myself has been unwillingly stripped away, and there’s nothing I can do to stop the numb hole corroding my heart. Because of this, I have to come to grips with a story’s ending almost as soon as I begin writing it. I have to know where I’m taking a book. If I don’t know the ending, if I don’t know a general direction to head in before starting out, I’ll find myself lost in the desert with a 100,000 word manuscript that hasn’t even hit the midpoint yet.
So my best advice for you? Find your ending. Or at the very least, find a general idea for what you’d like your ending to be. You don’t have to know all the minor details yet. You don’t have to know how you get from the Opening Image to the Resolution. But I can promise you this: beginning and sustaining a journey is so much easier when you have a destination in mind.
Because as we all know, endings are inevitable.
iii. establish your center of creativity
Synonyms for “center of creativity”:
- your safe space
- your creative hub
- the corner you hide yourself away in so that no one bothers you while you pretend to write but are actually googling synonyms for the word “potato”
I’m a messy creative. My creative process involves blowing things up and rebuilding out of the rubble. I like getting my hands dirty (figuratively and–in the case of watercolor painting–literally). I like experimenting. But I would be lying if I said that having a clean, happy space for all my explosive creating to be contained within isn’t necessary.
Organization has never been my strong suit, but I do have a little corner in my room that I try to keep clean and organized and filled with inspiration–favorite books, pages from my novels, inspirational quotes. This is my center of creativity, and because I keep this space sacred to creating, I find myself feeling more productive when I’m inside it.
So find your center of creativity. Fill it with things and books and quotes that inspire you. It doesn’t have to be a big, giant office–goodness knows my corner has hardly enough space for a chair–but claim it and make it yours and force yourself to be creative when you’re inside it. The more you utilize your center of creativity, the more you’ll find yourself wanting to create when you’re there.
(super special shout-out to my mom, who literally helped me clean/organize my creative corner today before I posted this??? I had a whole paragraph hashed out about how my creative area looked like a junk drawer had exploded everywhere, but now I can say that my little corner looks cute and happy and filled with ALL of the creative potential!! meep! <333)
iv. find your daily routine
Ohhhhh, here’s where things get truly interesting.
Confession Time Number 2: I currently do not have a writing routine. LE GASP! I know. The shock and horror is real, my friends. But to be honest, my typical weekly schedule doesn’t necessarily allow me to have a strict writing routine outside of, “Oh look! Three spare minutes! Let us use them to build up my character arcs and–ope, never mind, time’s up.”.
This, however, is a sincere moment of do as I say, not as I do. I am a horrible individual and you should definitely, 100% never follow my lead. It will get you into loads of trouble and potentially a furious confrontation with a forest mage. (true story. don’t ask.)
So. In this one instance, we are both going to try and do as I say and FIND A DAILY WRITING ROUTINE. Most of us are quarantined at home right now anyway, right? So let’s use this very strange and slightly horrifying time to find a writing routine that works for us, not against us.
Are you a morning person? A night owl? At what moments in the day do you feel most inspired? When do you have the most free time? Inspiration is a wonderful thing to have, to be sure, but if every writer waited for inspiration to strike before working on their novels. . .? The world would have absolutely no books.
Think about that for a moment. The difference between you and a published author living their authorial dream is the fact that they sat their butt down in the chair and pounded out the words, even when they didn’t feel like it. Especially when they didn’t feel like it, in most cases. And you might be himming and hawing and thinking, “But KENZIE. If I don’t write when I’m inspired, my story won’t sound right! The words won’t flow like magic! I MIGHT WRITE A CRUDDY FIRST DRAFT!!!“
Ha. Hahaha. HA. That is entirely the point, my dearest sunflower sprout. The point is to write a cruddy first draft, because unless you sit down and get that horrible, nasty, absolutely terrifying first draft out onto the page, you can’t make it better. So find a writing routine. Pick a time when you will work on your book, and when that time rolls around, put away Netflix or the book you’re reading or Animal Crossing and write. the. words. You’ll thank yourself later, that I can promise you.
v. fall in love with your story
Above all else, the most important thing you can do before April rolls around is to fall hopelessly, irrevocably in love with your story. Maybe this is a brand new project for you, and falling in love with this shiny new plot bunny is easy peasy. Or maybe–like me–you’ve been working on this book for a while now, and sometimes it’s hard to remember why you thought this was such a good idea in the first place.
Falling back in love with a story isn’t always easy. Sometimes it takes time and patience and creating a playlist specifically tailored to remind you of that sparkly feeling your manuscript once gave you. Sometimes it’s diving deep into your book and letting the world and its characters and settings soak through you until you physically cannot breathe unless you’re writing.
Sometimes it takes multiple days of struggling and rewriting and hair-pulling before that specific plot detail finally *clicks*.
For me, I tend to fall in love with my writing by creating playlists, pinterest boards, and writing down specific things about the story that remind me why I thought this story was worth telling in the first place. This can be in the form of sticky notes, index cards pinned to my corkboard, or even just a NOTES & INSPIRATION folder in my Scrivener file.
The truth is, you can prepare yourself as much as you want for the crazy month of writing that is NaNo, but if you’re not head-over-heels in love with your story, chances are you’re not going to have enough momentum to creatively sustain you throughout the month. Sure, you can totally drag yourself along and hit your goals every day regardless of whether you like your story or not (goodness knows I’ve done that in the past), but believe me when I say that on those days when creativity seems out of reach and your well of inspiration is as dry as a 100-year-old corpse’s mouth, the only thing that will save you–the only thing that will keep you going–is your unequivocal love for this book.
So fall. Fall for this story so hard you can’t bare to be separated from it. And on the days when writing seems impossible, your love and dedication for this story will draw you back to the keys, regardless of how creatively inspired you feel.
TALK TO ME, PEASANTS!
All right, folks! Now that you’ve seen my Camp NaNoWriMo prep list, it’s time to tell me yours!
FOR MY FELLOW WRIMOS
- what sorts of things do YOU do to prepare for Camp NaNoWriMo? are you a physical prepper (outlines, pinterest boards, bullet-pointed notes, etc.) or do you prefer to prepare yourself mentally?
- do you have a creative space of your own? (and also any tips for keeping it clean because AHAHAHAHAHA-I NEED HELP.)
- on a scale of 1 to 10, how prepared for Camp NaNoWriMo do you currently feel? (currently I’m a 2, but this week is my “prep week”, so I’m extremely excited about that. . .!)
FOR MY NON-WRIMOS
- what do you plan on doing to keep busy this April? would you be interested in some non-Camp related blog posts to hold your attention, or are you good with a splattering of character interviews?
- have you ever participated in Camp NaNo? (please be aware that if you answer this question with a negative, I will be prone to asking WHY, and will also use the full force of my persuasiveness to convert you.)
and considering the fact that the world seems to be filled with nothing but icky lately. . .
- what is ONE GOOD THING you’ve seen/witnessed/discovered/heard this week that has brought happiness to your soul?
Let’s help spread a little positivity during this strange time, shall we? And until next time. . .
As promised, here’s the playlist for SK! It is definitely still subject to change as I get to know the story and characters better, but for right now, this is the music that I typically listen to while drafting. (I’m also listening to it as I type up this blog post. (fall in love with your story? CHECK!) Feel free to send me the playlist for your story down in the comments below! I’m always looking for new music to jam to! (also yes I recently watched Guardians of the Galaxy how could you tell)