Category: Building A Writing Career

Camp Tip #18 – Roads Not Taken

Plotter or Pantser?

We all started camps with a bit of excitement, a whole bunch of hope, and I think in most cases an idea of what we would be working on during camp. Some of us had pages long outlines detailing huge portions of our books. Others, had the idea and that’s it. I was firmly in the plotted region. I use note cards to summaries my chapters. I have every chapter in the book on its own note card. When I start writing for the day, I read the note card from the previous chapter, as well as the note card for the current and next chapter. However, sometimes things change. I recently started a chapter off differently than I planned and ended up not using my original plan for that chapter. Then in another chapter I used something from a future chapter. When I got to that future chapter, I had no idea what I was going to write. So I again stole something from a future chapter and the original thing that I ended up not using because the chapter had gone in a different direction, suddenly had a new place that it could appear. Basically I shuffle these cards up good, but it worked out. Whether we are pantsers or plotters,  its a good idea to follow paths less traveled.


Following these paths is not always an easy thing to do. After all, some things have to happen in an order, or maybe you’d just prefer them to. But, what this works best for, are subplots, setting up character arcs, and side problems differently can add so many different dimensions to a story or character development. It’s worth trying if you are struggling with getting words. Think of alternative things that can be occurring. Even if you decide not to use what you think up in the part you are at, its nice to have a cache of potential scenes for that day when you’re staring down a blank page.

Little gems. 

One thing that’s really nice about taking unusual turns in you’re story, is that you give your characters a chance to live and reacted with your decisions. This gives you a chance to see them under pressure, or maybe see how they are when left in a room all alone. These little things can have a huge impact if you let your characters be free. Sometimes what you want your characters to do, and what they actually do, is not as similar as you would hope. So when you see a moment where maybe they say something they shouldn’t, and that you didn’t plan for them to say, let them speak and see where it takes you.


Progress as of this post:  16,711

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Camp Tip #17 – Visualize

May 1st. 

On of the hardest things about writing a book, script, or whatever your working on this month during camp, is the long journey you have from where you started to where you want to be. Sometimes when I think about the 30,000 more words I have to write to get to the halfway point in my book and the 75,000 words that I still need to write to get to finish the book, it seems daunting and frankly, impossible. But, sometimes I think about the day after camp, and in those daydreams I’ve worked hard, and came back from being terribly behind, and I’ve hit my goal. On May 1st I’m halfway done with my book, and that much closer to finishing my book, and getting it published. It’s that much closer to being in the hands of my readers.


Why this matters. 

When I started writing as a teen, I did it, because it was fun, and I loved stories, and I wanted to create my own story. To this day, coming up with stories and getting them down on paper(typing them up) is still my favorite thing to do.  However, now because I want more than to just have stories that I’ve made, I want to share them, there is a pressure that I didn’t always have. It’s good, because without that pressure, I would push myself and strive to be better day. I would bother to finish novels, and come up with new ideas. No matter how daunting thousands of words can be, and hundreds of thousands of word are if you’re thinking about all the books you may one day write, there is nothing like the feeling of sharing your stories with someone else. Holding on to that feeling is what will push you forward when you want a break. It will drive you when your lost. Best of all, it will be reality, if you just keep chasing that feeling. Its the only drug worth being addicted to.



But, may, and next year, and years down the road are very far away. Instead, focus on tomorrow. Where could you be tomorrow? Where do you want to be? What can you do today, to help you achieve what you want for tomorrow. I know that I’m tired today, and I hadn’t planned to write anymore today, but you know what, maybe I’ll just write 100 more words. A paragraph or two. A page.  Because tomorrow, I want to be closer to my goal than I am right now, and I don’t have to wait until tomorrow to achieve that. I can do it today, right now, and then keep working on it tomorrow.


Progress as of this post:  16,711

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Camp Tip #19 – Candy Bars

The tasty stuff. 

In writing, there are parts that are just the most fun to write, or maybe not fun, but the most intense. These are the scenes or chapters where you get to do neat stuff. It can be anything depending on your genre and preferences. For me, I love moments were I can foreshadow something in a subtle way. Especially when I’m foreshadowing things that are going to be huge. Sometimes that’s a earth shattering revelation, or a tragedy to come. Let’s be real, that’s mostly ones I get excited about. These scenes break up the work from transitional scenes, or more quiet scenes. I also love to torture my characters or bring them joy. It depends on my mood. But I love taking them out of their norm. Those are my candy bar scene. The ones I just can’t wait to write. These are also, they ones that usually have readers gripping there books(e-readers) with white knuckles and bated breath. And this doesn’t have to be life or death, or a steamy scene between two lovers. It can be just about anything.


These parts, while fun, do need to be spread out a bit though. You need to think of it like this, if every day is a great day, how is it any different from an ordinary day. Now, I’m not saying to make the rest of the book boring or bland, but not ever scene needs to be a battle, not every scene can have new crucial information. Some scenes need to deal with the fall out of those scenes. Some need to show the characters growth. A book should have an ebb and flow. Imagine riding a roller coaster. You get started with the ticking climb, it builds anticipation, and for a moment, you sit at the highest point, ready, but never prepared for the fall. You plummet and probably scream, I do, and at the end you laugh. But, if its all a gut wrenching, white knuckled ride, eventually all your going to want, is off the ride. You need the anticipation so that the pay off is nice release.


Progress as of this post:  16,711

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Camp Tip #16 – Keep Going

Fun stuff. 

I got to write a chapter that I’ve been excited about for some time now. There are parts of it I love, and part that I may have to tweak in revision, but overall I’m really happy that I got to that chapter. My characters are really starting to form, and it moments like these that make me love writing and make it so much easier to stay on task. Camp is still moving forward, and so am I. There have been some times that I’ve wanted to quit camp this month, but I’ve manage to stay with it, and I’m glad that I did. Each day I get a bit closer to my goal, and it makes me so happy. I’m hoping that all of you are having a good time writing, and for those of you who have struggled as I have this time around. Remember that the best thing you can do, is keep writing, and stay in this. It’s easy to stop. It’s easy to give up. It’s a lot harder to work on this, and get something done everyday. Don’t take the easy way out.

Hard stuff.

The one thing that can really make it a lot harder do well and stay in it during Nano, is when things run of the rails as they sometimes do. I’m currently writing a chapter that is somewhat of a transitional part, and I’m stalled out badly. I don’t know how I’m going to push forward with this chapter, so for tonight, I’m going to sleep on in, and while I’m working tomorrow, I’m going to try and figure out what I can do to spice up this chapter and make it more exciting to write.

Sticking with it. 

That’s one of the tricks I like to utilize when I’m blocked. If you have to go to bed and work, and do chores, use that time to take a trouble part of the book and dissect it. That way when you come back to the story, you’ll have an easier time trying to get into the flow of the story. It can make a huge difference also, just being somewhere else while you’re working on the problem. When you’re sitting at a desk, with the cursor blinking at you, there is a bunch of pressure for you to solve the problem right then and there, and move on. However, when you take the cursor out of the equation you can take your time with the problem, and find a solution more organically, and often times you can find a better solution than just trying to power through the problem. Hang in there. Camp is over in two more weeks, and then you can take a break, but for now,  keep getting words.


Progress as of this post:  16,025

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Camp Tip #8 – Benchmark

Where you started. 

When I started CampNaNoWriMo this year, I hadn’t written consistently in months. I hadn’t blogged. I hadn’t bothered. I was so wrapped up in my regular life, that I forgot about the thing I loved most. Well, I didn’t forget. I knew I hadn’t written, and I knew, that I wasn’t getting any closer to my goals. I just didn’t know how to jump-start my progress.  That is why I joined Camp this year, and why I may always do camp. It gives me focus, motivation, and best of all, a network of people to communicate with. When I started camp, I had a long way to go. But every day that I participate, that I show up and try, I get closer to my goal. It’s so important to know where you started, because otherwise, how can you measure how far you’ve gone.


Where you’re going. 

Equally as important, is where you still have to go. What is your deadline? Where are you hoping to end up. Setting a goal like writing 500 words a day is great, but without knowing why you’re doing it or what the end goal of doing it is, can be just as detrimental as not setting specific goal at all. Just like if you say I want to write every day. Without a specific amount, this is a hard goal to achieve anything major with. You have to know what that goal is meant to achieve.  With Nano and Camp you have a predetermined end goal. So you know where you are starting and where you will end up.


How you get there. 

With camp and Nano, it also estimates your daily goal. Because knowing where your going and where you’re starting is only half of the problem. You also need to have directions on how to get there. That is where your daily goal comes into play. It tells you how much you need to write everyday to get where you are going. Also, if you are ahead or behind, it will tell you how much based on that information you need to write. It’s a fantastic tool to have. So if you find that you are setting goals and not hitting them, you may need to go back, and make sure that the map you’ve set up for yourself reflects what you are supposed to be working on.



Progress as of this post:  5,637/13,500

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Camp Tip #7 – Week One

Harder than I thought.

Going into Camp, I had such high hopes of what would happen. I knew there would be times where I struggle, but for some reason, I didn’t think I would struggle as much as I did this first week. I’ve fallen behind quite a bit, and while that makes me a bit nervous, everyday I open my laptop, and write. I work on my blog, or my story, I write notes for the next day, or research something that will help my career as a writer. I do this everyday, and although I still have much to do to get where I’m going, every day I take another step closer.

Many of you may be finding yourself at the end of this week struggling. It can be daunting, but the thing I can’t stress enough with this pursuit, is that it is an every day goal. Do not let yourself get caught up in the words you haven’t written, and instead, focus on the words you have written. Think about the words you will write today, and not the ones you may not get to.

Still excited.

No question about it. Even without the buzz of starting camp with all the hope and promise of good intentions, I’m still so glad I joined. I’m even more glad that I have such a great cabin that keeps each other motivated. With only a quarter of the month gone, there is still plenty of time to push forward and hit your goals. Keep your head up, and stay positive, because we are all here to push ourselves, and though that may not always be easy, or comfortable, it will bring us closer to our goals.

What about week two?

As week two begins, I’m really going to have to work to catch up on some of the ground I lost over the last few days. If your also behind, here are my tips to catch up, and if you aren’t behind, here’s how you can stay ahead.

First, try breaking up your writing session is smaller bite sized pieces throughout the day. Writing 200 words isn’t so hard, even if you do it five times in one day. However, if you’re looking at your word document knowing that you have to write a thousand words, you may find yourself quitting before you even begin. When you can, stop at a part that is easy to pick up from. Depending on your preferences, this might be in the middle of a chapter or during a fight scene. I will sometimes start a sentence and leave it unfinished which gives me a place to immediately jump in. Lastly, if you need to get words, and you keep feeling you’re mind go blank, start describing something. Describe a character, the room they are in, how there feeling in that moment. These might not be things that you ultimately put in your novel, but sometimes you just need something on the page to get you going.

Good luck to you all. May the words be with you.


Progress as of this post:  4508/10,500

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Camp Tip #5 – Scenery

Location. Location. Location.

Whether you’re writing an epic fantasy spanning over several fictional nations, Sci-fi with whole galaxies to travel, or writing a story that takes place in one single room (think Saw 1), where you’re characters are can have a huge impact on your story. Your world, no matter the genre, grounds your characters it your fictional reality. It is their backdrop, and as one it can either make them stand out, it can drown them out, or if its not describe and utilized well, it can leave your characters moving from one hazy void to the next. If it’s bit long winded or overly described that’s fine, you can always fix that in the revisions. Now, in the middle of camp might not be the best time to figure out your world building if its a bit lacking.

If it is lacking, what I would recommend is at least try to make sure your characters are grounded. In any given chapter or scene the things you should try to mention are the time of day, whether it’s inside or outside, and if they are coming or going from the place. Not all of these need to be mentioned all the time, and definitely not all at once. It should be more organic than that, just like describing your character.


Atmosphere and Tone.

Another thing to consider is  how your environment reflects the characters or plot. A character who is sad or angry wouldn’t likely be sitting in  a park on a bright sunny day. If they are, there should be a reason, and at the least the cheery environment should be used as a contrast to the emotion the scene is trying to convey. Similarly, if your in a place that a character frequents often, such as their home it should reflect their personality. A busy, lazy person isn’t likely to have a neat and orderly house. Let the characters surrounding serve the story.



 Speaking of serving the story. The information you provide should be relevant in some way. When introducing elements of an environment, you don’t need to describe everything in the room. It so easy to get lost in trying to create a vision that in doing so we bog down the story with unnecessary detail that either slows the pace, or distracts from the things that really do matter in the story. This is particularly true when mentioning odd or otherwise memorable detail about a setting. For example, if you mention that a window is on the east of the house, the sunlight creeping through it in the morning better be important, or it better look out into someone else’s house. Otherwise maybe don’t even mention the window. Unless you need it as an escape route later on, then definitely mention it.


Progress as of this post:  4508/7500

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Camp Tip #4 – Buddy System

Chill with your Cabin Mates.

One of the great things about Camp are the other people in your cabin. They can motivate you and cheer you on, and even get you involved in word sprints or other activities that can help you get words. In addition to that, you can check your cabin’s progress as a whole, which can be motivating to keep you on track. They are your built in safety net. If you’re feeling blocked or stuck, ask your mates for advice. This may be a self challenged, but you aren’t doing it alone.

Participate in write-ins.

Now, I don’t know how active your cabin is, but if you’re needing a bit more support you can always do a write in. You can meet up with other Wrimos locally and work on your goals. This can be great because writing can be a very solitary pursuit, especially when trying to hit your goal on a deadline. This creates a bit of solidarity, and give you a chance to be social during a time when you might be otherwise canceling plans or delaying social outings.

There are also virtual write-ins for those of you who may not get a chance to get out, or who simply don’t have other writers in the area. Just hope on YouTube and write with people all around the world via internet. The fun thing about this is that they may at times do little prompts or other activities that just make the write-in a bit more engaging.

Utilize Twitter and NaNoWriMo forums.

 If you’re looking for a bit of motivation or support, then hop on twitter or the Nano forums. You can check up on other peoples progress, or follow along with sprints. Either way, there is always something available to help you through this month. Take advantage of the resources and the comradery  available to you. And as always, have fun.


Progress as of this post: 3682 /6000

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