I had forgotten about Camp NaNoWriMo. I had no intention of participating. In all honesty, I don’t think I’ve ever finished a camp session. I’ve always done the traditional November NaNo but even then, I haven’t always finished strong. So why am I participating this time around? That’s a good question.
As I was reminded of the events two days prior to its starting, I received a sudden rush of excitement and thought, “This is exactly what I need!” As luck would have it, this year’s camp starts on a Saturday, I happen to not be working overtime, and my better half has Navy duty. Therefore, I have a free weekend all to myself. With an open schedule and a project that has stalled twice, I felt that this was exactly what I needed to get the gears going again.
Nano is always an adventure.
I crawled into bed last night with the intention of waking up at midnight, driving out to the local 24-hour Wawa, buying some Vienna roast coffee, and coming back home to bleed and sweat and cry over the keyboard for hours and hours on end. In the old days of NaNo, that would’ve happened. I used to stay up until midnight, waiting for the clock to strike twelve. Or I’d wake up at midnight after a short nap, and feverishly start typing at the keyboard.
However, at the age of 30, and with a full-time job that normally has me up at 5 AM, staying up until midnight is not the easiest thing to do. After a long week at work, it was better to sleep. By “sleeping in” I mean staying in bed until 6 AM. I did allow myself to relax and rolled out of bed closer to 7 AM.
Did I head straight to the computer?
I spent the first two hours doing things that I should’ve done yesterday. I wiped down the kitchen counters, cleaned off the kitchen table, put laundry away, and took out the trash. Then I proceeded to Wawa and got my Vienna roast coffee. Driving back home, I sat in front of the monitor and contemplated what to do next.
The obvious answer would be to write.
But that’s easier said than done. I wasn’t sure whether I should work on my blog, or work on my book. I wasn’t sure whether or not I should include the word count for my blog posts during this month as part of my 50,000 words. The only thing I was sure about was that I needed a new headset because the earpieces on mine are disintegrating. Gross.
My Project of Choice…?
The World Beneath.
The World Beneath is a story that has stalled twice. Completely starting over for the third time wasn’t as crushing as predicted. The thing is, I didn’t like my main character. I didn’t care about him. I wasn’t invested in him. This can be a HUGE block to an author. If you’re not interested in the story, how can you expect readers to be?
Some previous scenes seemed wonderful and perfect. Others seemed too rushed and out of place. I’ve learned the hard way that it’s important to never publish something that you’re not happy with as a writer or an artist. Without further ado, I started my camp journey in a very non-camp atmosphere. My story, The World Beneath, takes place in a cold, northern town and starts out with the memory of a hockey game.
In the past three hours, I have reached over 2200 words. I could’ve written a lot more since I’m dictating with DragonNaturally Speaking. Some people say that’s cheating, but anything that gets words on the page counts, in my opinion. Within these last three hours, I’ve proved that the busier you are the more productive you can be- not to be confused with multitasking. Multitasking is counter-productive. Instead, I focused on one task at a time. I focused on my writing. Then, I took a break. I did other things that needed to be done around the house.
During those 2200 words, I cleaned out my car. I checked the gauge on the AC refrigerant, I changed the cabin air filter and I refilled the windshield wiper fluid. All in all, it’s been a productive day and I’m only halfway through!
During this next three-hour session, I’d like to more than double my word count. But taking breaks is important.
Writers (or at least those of us who participate in NaNo) need to take breaks. If we were to sit down at the computer all day for 10+ hours trying to churn out a novel, we’d be killing ourselves. It’s not healthy.
It’s good for the body to get up every once in a while, stretch, walk around. Doing something different is good for the mind. More importantly, it’s good for your writing. It helps to come back with a fresh perspective. Even if it’s a matter of minutes. If you focus wholly on one new task your mind leaves your story. Don’t be afraid to step away and take care of something else.
I’m proud to say that I have reached over 7000 words (7890). But just like before, I told myself I wouldn’t sit in front of the computer for all three hours. I actually took a shower (for those of you who are familiar with NaNoWriMo, you know bathing is usually a feat to accomplish every day…along with eating.) Don’t worry. I fed myself.
When I sat down yesterday to make a schedule of writing goals based on my calendar for the month, I told myself that I would write 20,000 words today. At first, I didn’t think I could do it. Now I’m starting to second-guess myself. Maybe it wasn’t such an unrealistic goal? At this point in time, I’ll be happy if I reach 10,000 tonight. That means that one-fifth of the monthly goal will be met and I would’ve proved to myself that I can write 10,000 words in a day.
For those of you who don’t write, 10,000 words a day is a lot.
Stephen King is quoted as saying that he writes 2,000 words a day. Granted, I’ve been cheating a little. Like I said earlier, I’m using dictation. Some writers are firmly against it. They say it isn’t real writing. However, I think it’s important to grow with technology. I bet when typewriters first came out, there were people against it. Hell, I still know writers who prefer handwriting. I don’t get it. You have to get it on a computer if you want to publish it. To each his own.
Dictation takes practice. Now that I’m familiar with it, I can see it is a very useful tool for writing rough drafts especially. There are ways to use it for editing but I prefer to take my time and go through things line by line for that. Dictation gets words on the page much faster. Normally, I type about 1500 to 2000 words an hour. With dictation, I can type closer to 5000 words an hour. That more than doubles my productivity.
Using dictation has allowed me to get away from the desk. It also helps with my oral communication. I’m decent with written communication but sometimes I still stutter and stammer or trip over my words, slur my words, run them together, or talk too fast. Using dictation is a great way to clear up your speech. If you don’t speak clearly, the computer will type incorrectly.
As the evening ticks by, I know that days like today will be rare. Even with dictation, I know that days with no plans are rarities anymore. This could be the only day like this, this month. I have no clue. I’m trying to take full advantage of it but at the same time, I’m trying to prepare a reasonable schedule for the month ahead. As long as you get ahead on the slow days, you won’t have to write so much on the busier ones. That is the key to being successful during NaNo. Get ahead at the start.
I want to keep trucking along and try to hit 10,000 words by 6 PM and 15,000 words by 9 PM. See you then!
Let’s see. I have vacuumed, cleaned the bathroom, and reached over 10,000 words (10,311). I think it’s safe to say that if I keep going I will reach 15,000 words by 9 PM. But then comes the question, should I quit while I’m ahead? Or should I keep on rolling while it’s flowing?
When I logged into my Camp NaNoWriMo account and went to the “My Projects” page, I noticed that this is the thirteenth camp that I’ve signed up for. Only six of those previous camps did I even have a project in mind. Of those six, only two of them I wrote words for. But out of all thirteen, I never finished one with 50,000 words or more. That’s a depressing success rate.
I am bound and determined not to let that happen anymore.
NaNoWriMo is such a great resource for writers. Granted, you should be writing every day but life gets hectic. I understand that. I tell myself every NaNo, “if I can stick with this and write a novel or two every camp, I would have four to eight rough drafts a year that I could edit in between NaNo months.”
For the first time in a long time, NaNo is fun. Granted, it’s only day one but I’m having fun dictating my novel. I’m having fun writing. I don’t know where the switch happened. For years, it felt like a drag. My passion had turned into a chore.
This has been one of the most productive days I have ever had in the history of my writing life. I’ve never written this much in a day. Last November, I verified my project’s word count on the last day instead of updating through the month. That made it look like I had written 80,000 words in one day but I hadn’t. I’ll never wait that long to update my word count again. There is something very satisfying about seeing that status bar go up when you update your word count.
I have 122 unread Camp NaNoWriMo emails dating back to 2014. That’s nine pages of camp email! And that doesn’t include the 70 unread emails I have on my regular NaNo account. I would hate to delete them because they are usually filled with great advice that I may need it in the days to come. Not every day is a good writing day. Not every day is like today.
Once I passed the 10,000-word threshold, I stopped. I figured I’d spend the rest of the evening relaxing and preparing for tomorrow’s writing day.
One week from today, I will post another blog in a similar format to this one since the weekends will be my most productive days.
Regina Bethory is a fiction author. She graduated from Christopher Newport University with a Bachelor’s in Directing and Play Writing and from Newport News Shipbuilding’s Apprentice School as a Test Electrician. She also has a degree in Funeral Services. As an avid minimalist and traveler, she enjoys spending her time learning new things, seeking new experiences and de-cluttering. When she is not writing, she can often be found in comic book stores and early morning matinees.