This past month, you have met three of my incredible writer friends. All together, we’ve taken you with us on a camping trip! Okay, we didn’t really go camping—or go anywhere, actually. We simply wrote toward our individual writing or editing goals as part of Camp NaNoWriMo. And, we took you with us on our ups and downs. Here’s a quick look back:
Week 1: What is Camp NaNo?
Kelsey, Devon and Tauri not only met their Camp goals, they exceeded them! Kelsey revised more than 200 pages of the second book in her YA fantasy trilogy. Devon wrote a whopping 100,000+ words for her novel. And, Tauri ended the month with more than 50,000 words toward her novel. Each of them reached their goals and claimed the proud title of Camp NaNo winners. Wow! They are some extremely inspirational writing friends, and I’m super proud of them!
And then there’s me.
I did not win Camp NaNo. I did not reach the word count goal I set for myself.
I did complete a first draft that I am pleased with and excited to revise in a few months.
Confused? Here’s the deal. I set my Camp goal for 40,000 words. Mid-way through the month, I realized I wouldn’t need that many words to finish this draft. I probably could have changed my goal, but … I’m a little stubborn. Honestly, I still think this novella will be closer to my original goal length in its completed version, and I held out hope through the final day of Camp that I would be able to further develop some scenes and add some scenes I missed my first time through.
So, what happens when you don’t win Camp NaNo?
You learn something …
If you’ve followed this blog for any length of time, you know I’m always learning. One of my life goals is to be a life learner. Often, the best way to learn is by doing. So, for me, the more I write, the more I edit, the more I revise … the more I’ll learn. In July most of my learning fit into one of three categories.
About Your Project
I’ve written articles for every type of publication and topic and reader you can imagine, blog posts out the wazoo, a nonfiction book, a novel, numerous short stories and even some poems. Until July, I’d never written a novella. Like I shared with you in this post, a novella is, simply, in between a novel and a short story in its length. At the end of the day, it’s just a story! So, while this was a new format in a sense, I wasn’t worried about the project itself.
I did approach the novella differently in two specific ways, though.
A DIFFERENT WRITING MEDIUM
I have always wanted to write a book with pen and paper. It just feels romantic and right and pure. If I really want to get back to the basics with it, I’d love to dip quill in ink and scratch away on parchment.
Most of my blog posts and short stories begin on paper, but the two books came together on the computer. I thought this would be the perfect opportunity to write a book by hand since it’s not quite as long as most of my novels will be.
And then I started writing …
I had a few stops and starts in the beginning (more on that in the next section), so my notebook quickly became a mess of folded pages with a key that only my warped brain could understand. Oh, and writing with pen and paper takes WAY longer than tapping away at a keyboard. I’ve written over 11,000 words in one day on a computer. My best day on paper was over 5,000.
Several times I thought about switching over to the computer. If I had, this post may have a completely different title. Of course, the advantage for me to using a notebook this month was I don’t have a laptop. So, when I write on the computer, I’m stuck in my little tiny corner of our living/dining/school/kitchen/TV/life/only-common-area section of the house.
[Just a little addition to this to really paint the full picture for you—a construction crew began building a house right outside the window by my desk at the beginning of July. And, by “right outside,” I mean I could probably open it, stick my hand out and touch my new neighbors. So, my Camp experience came with drills and hammers and nail guns and mariachi band music. (I am not embellishing that last part.)]
A big reason my writing plans went awry this year centers around some unexpected things that sent my life topsy-turvy in the middle of the month. Thanks to the notebook, though, I was able to keep writing wherever I ended up having to be.
But, at the end of the day, the main reason I continued with the notebook was: it just felt right.
This novella focuses on the raw emotions at the hardest possible time of a family’s life. Carolina receives the diagnosis that changes her family’s future. This story shows how her family passes through all the stages of grief together and how they morph from battling and fighting together to simply living together while they still can.
I have cried more with this novella than anything I’ve ever written. (And, that’s saying something … just ask Mea Smith who critiqued my literary fiction novel last month!)
Writing it with pen and paper was right.
When I lead the pen across the page through all the loops and dots and crosses and slashes, I become part of each little curve and line and swirl. My heart dances along with my hand as the story flows out of my imagination in a much deeper way than when I type.
Sam & Carolina’s story had to be written this way.
A MORE “LOOSE” OUTLINE
My outline and brainstorming for this novella was far more loose than I prefer. So, while I thought I was ready to dive into the writing, I wasn’t. In my mind, the loose outline was okay because I really knew the story I needed to tell and, once I started writing, the how would just fall into place.
Not at first anyway. I worried and fretted and chatted with my cabinmates. Kelsey, Devon and Tauri have been amazing when it comes to bouncing ideas off one another and helping me when I get in my own way.
Once the how fell into place, the words did flow.
About Other Projects
This novella gives the backstory for Rev. Samuel Stevens and his daughter Rachael from my literary fiction novel. In the novel, the reader knows that his wife, Carolina, died when Rachael was only twelve. Like with several of my secondary characters in that book, Sam’s story begged to be told. And, quite honestly, I wanted to read it.
What I didn’t expect from this project was just how much it would help my novel. I learned so much about some other characters that appear in both and, as I wrote and developed the story, I found things that completely alter or influence the novel—in the best possible ways!
When I write, my characters often speak to me. Some of them are as real as life to me from the beginning; others begin like holograms and become more lifelike as I write; and still others remain more like outlines or stick figures. Some just don’t fill in like they should. I had one particular character like that who I pulled into this novella. Friends, she is now as flesh-and-blood in my imagination as people I know in real life. I know her now, understand her, get what makes her tick; and that knowing will make my novel even better.
I can’t go into details on all the things this novella has influenced because—SPOILERS!—but they were huge moments for me as a writer. We’re talking stop-the-pen-mid-letter, oh-my-dear-mercy, this-is-how-this-HUGE-scene-in-the-novel-finds-its-resolution. And, that happened more than once.
It was incredible.
Writing is not for the faint of heart for many reasons, but primarily because it opens windows into the deepest depths of who you are as a person—whether you want it to or not.
I’m a huge fan of fiction—good, deep, well-conceived, thought-out fiction—because these books teach readers something about themselves. If you set a book down and walk away without discovering something about yourself or the world around you or changing in some way, either you didn’t read it well or the book wasn’t written well. But … that’s a whole other topic for a whole other post!
The thing is, in order for that to be the case for the reader, it first has to be true for the writer.
While writing this novella, I had two personal WHOA! moments.
One was simply that I need to alter my approach to my life and how I order it and what I say yes to—and what I say no to.
The other, though, went even deeper. I’ve known for a while that part of the reason it’s hard for me to get to the heart of some of my characters or to get to the underlying motivations for their decisions, relationships and interactions lies firmly with me because I’m holding something back. In writing this novella, I learned what that something is.
It’s not something I’m ready to post about, and it’s something that I’m going to have to really work through. I’m not sure what all that means for me, but I know that this revelation is huge. It will help me immensely as a person and as a writer. I just have to dive in to it and go through some pain to uncover the truths that will bring that help.
You bond with your cabinmates.
Whew! I went dark and twisty again, didn’t I? Let’s bring it back to something far more light and happy—FRIENDS!
I love cheering people on. It makes me happy, and I find so much inspiration and motivation in the successes and achievements of others. In July, I watched all three of my cabinmates ride the writing rollercoaster. They had incredibly exciting hilltop moments, and each one of them hit some major valleys. I don’t want to speak for them, but I think it’s safe to say that each one of them faced at least one moment during the month when they considered loading their backpacks and heading back to civilization.
But they kept going.
And, I got to cheer them on and celebrate when they each met their goals!
Cheers, ladies! Each one of you is incredible, and I can’t wait to read your stories!
You look forward.
I’ve always been an over-achiever. When I set a goal, I meet or exceed it. When I commit to something, I see it through—regardless of how many sleepless nights it requires. So, to type out “I didn’t win” and “I didn’t meet my goal,” doesn’t set too well with me. My natural reaction is to feel like I let myself and my cabin down.
But, that’s not reality, and I know it. That’s me getting in my head and over-thinking and over-analyzing—two more of my specialties. The truth of my July is this: I worked toward a steep goal, and I succeeded by producing a first draft. It is a draft that needs some further depth to the existing scenes and the addition of other scenes and parts of scenes (which will come with the research I simply did not have the time to do alongside everything else that happened this month).
I did not get to read my cabinmates’ work like I’d planned this month, either. The one thing I hate even more than not hitting a goal is not doing something I promised I would do. But, the wonderful thing is, we’re all in this writer life thing together. Writers’ work tends to have to take a backseat quite often since it’s rarely the big money maker. So, we squeeze writing in when we arrive at a meeting ten minutes early or while our kids are in a music lesson. We stay up later than everyone else and get up earlier just so we can get some words out. This is the writer’s life. So, of all people, we get life. We get how things don’t always get done. They have been super gracious and loving despite my shortcomings in July.
And, I am looking forward!
This month, my novella will rest and marinate while I read my friends’ words and do major revisions on my literary fiction novel. I mentioned Mea Smith earlier. She is the best critique partner a girl could ask for! She read my book last month and gave me an outstanding critique of it. She helped me see ways to fix the broken bits or tie up the loose ends and she opened my eyes to possibilities—possibilities that will take this story from meh to spectacular.
Thanks to her help, I cannot wait to dig my hands back into this novel and make it better!
In mid-September, my novel will be ready for the next round of critiques. It will go to two or three “expert” readers and some more critique partners. (My cabinmates have been begging to get their hands on it, and I can’t wait to hear their thoughts and reactions!) While it’s out in all those capable hands, I will begin revisions on the novella, continue writing short stories that focus on more characters from the novel and work on the mile-long checklist of business details for transitioning from being a writer to becoming an author!
So, what happens when you don’t win Camp NaNo? You move …
What about you? What do you do when you don’t reach a goal you’ve set for yourself? Do you have any questions for me—or for any of my lovely guest bloggers from the month? We’d love to hear from you! And, please subscribe to my weekly newsletter for more behind-the-scenes details of my writing process and exclusive peeks at my writing.