Camp NaNoWriMo: A success?

Camp NaNoWriMo has come and gone. I did not come close to my goal. I didn’t even work on my project every day, like I had planned. I have learned a few things though.

Camp NaNoWriMo is an online motivational community for writers. NaNoWriMo comes from National Novel Writing Month that happens in November. I’m not affiliated with them, but I’ll give you the link. 

In November, the goal is to kickstart your writing project by setting the goal of 50k words. For most people, that would be a novel. For others, that would be considerable progress in writing a novel. The idea is to just keep writing and don’t edit as you go, I think. I’m not sure if I got that impression from advice from fellow writers for NaNoWriMo or if that’s one of their suggestions. I think that the point is though that if you have words on a page, you can edit them. No words on the page, there’s nothing to edit. So it’s better just to get all the words onto the page and worry about editing later.

There is now a prep-Tober during October, where you prepare for NaNoWriMo by doing character profiles, plot outlines, setting descriptions, etc. My group, the World Indie Warriors, has lives in our private group with tips and tricks on how to prepare for NaNoWriMo. During November, we have live writing sprints, where we tune in to write while everyone else is writing. It’s quite helpful to keep you motivated.

In April and July, there is Camp NaNoWriMo. My understanding was that it started as a young writer’s motivational event, but now everyone joins. During the camps, you set your own goals. My goal was to write 10k words of my backstory. The wordcount was a way for me to measure my progress, though I knew that most of the work would be brainstorming the problems and solutions. One problem was … what was the hierarchy structure like before my novel opens and what did the hierarchy turn into. I’m not sure if this is spoilers, but I’ll tell you anyway. The premise of the book is that a spaceship crash landed on a planet. Time has passed enough that no one really remembers that they crash landed on the planet. Those stories have become myths and legends. So, I had to figure out the hierarchy on the ship which would them morph into the hierarchy, government, of those who were descendants of the crash survivors. My goal was 10k words. I didn’t even break 3k. That’s okay.

In the middle of Camp NaNoWriMo, I had to suddenly shift gears and create a brand for my marketing services, which took a lot of time. Also, I kept getting stuck on the history leading up to the crash. I had to invent the political backdrop, what happened once they crash landed, the hierarchy, how the hierarchy morphed into the “present day” hierarchy. 

I don’t mind giving away that part of the backstory, because although it will be a mystery to the main character, I don’t think that it is integral to her character arc or the plot in general. I think what’s interesting is what has happened to these people after crash landing on the planet and forgetting, over the generations, that they came from somewhere else. Maybe, I’m wrong and am giving away too much. This will be a lesson that I have yet to learn.

What I have learned is that I hate coming up with names for characters. Most of my writing buddies love that part. I don’t. I think that it gets in the way of the fun stuff, like creating everything else about the character. This reflects my daily life. I have problems remembering names. If I meet you, chances are that I’ll remember more about what you said when we talked and not be able to recall what your name is. I blame having dyslexia, but I’m not sure if that’s it. I used to say it’s because I don’t like labeling things. At one point, it was very chic to not label things and to just let them be. I don’t know. I was very pretentious in my youth, as I look back on myself.

The other thing that I learned was that even though I had the idea for this novel a bazillion years ago that the story itself needed me to be a more jaded me. When I was in my 20s I hated conflict. I’m not a huge fan of it now, but I have a higher tolerance for it. Back in my 20s, I was idealistic. I still am, but I’m also more realistic. I’m more willing to showcase the … less than stellar motives and actions people will have. I’m more willing to explore people at their worst. At the time, I just wanted to portray people only at their best. Had I written the story all of those decades ago, it wouldn’t have been very interesting, because there would’ve been no conflict.

I also learned that I really, really like this story. Whether anyone else does is another matter, but I really like it. I found myself craving working on the backstory, when I had to do other work. I found myself thinking about the progression of how one event led to another to organically grow the society that my still unnamed main character finds herself in. I have been collecting little inspirational songs for my writing playlist. And it just goes on. I was worried that I didn’t have it in me to go through the pain of writing this book. I still don’t know. The book isn’t written yet. But, I can tell you that I like the story enough to continue to work on it. As one of my writing friends said, penname Cassidy Reyne, it’s just one thing at a time. 

That’s the last thing that I’m learning. When I was in my 20s, I let myself get swept into the fullness of the trilogy, which ended up overwhelming me. This time, I’m just taking it one step at a time. Right now, I’m working on the barest plot outline and the main characters. That’s it. The rest I will work on later.

Was my Camp NaNoWriMo a success? Meh. I didn’t meet my goal, but then again, I kinda did. Despite having other fires that I had to put out, while being the primary caregiver of a toddler, I still worked on the novel. So maybe I did really reach my goal. I worked on my novel. I kept moving forward. That’s something.

Do you have any stories about the creative process? Comment below.

©2020, 2021 Michelle Raab, PhD. All rights reserved.

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