Camp NaNoWriMo Returns in July and I’m Bringing Conflict With Me

Hello again, old friends! It’s been a month or so since I made it back from my first successful trip to Camp NaNoWriMo and came home with a winner’s button. Since then, I’ve been alternating between some casual editing on my unfinished Boyfriend Experiment manuscript (aka going through and just removing the “fluff”) and reading up on the craft of writing. I picked up quite a few reference titles during the Austin Book Store Crawl on Independent Bookstore Day, April 29th, and on a shopping spree over Memorial Day weekend. I cracked the cover on my Writers Digest book Writing Monsters, and I’ll definitely get back to it when I return to my other fantasy novel (there’s a really nasty shapeshifter dragon bad guy in that one). The other WD book I picked up, Elements of Fiction Writing – Conflict and Suspense, basically confirmed my suspicion that my current work-in-progress is going to need a bit more of a rewrite than I originally expected.

According to the book, “the stakes in an emotionally satisfying novel have to be death” and “somebody has to be in danger of dying”. That somebody is your main character and s/he’s in jeopardy either physically, professionally, or psychologically. Now, when your MC happens to be an immortal, that makes thing a bit more tricky. Fortunately, Reese believes the cure to his curse is mortal death, so that’s in line with the psychological aspect. Maybe I’m not as far off the tracks as I thought.

Yet when it comes to conflict, I think I can do better by this manuscript. It needs some work on its pacing at the beginning, in order to get things zooming along to the all important middle. We’re on the countdown to the breaking of the curse, and I’m sure Reese can hear the ticking of the clock in the background. Still, unless I bring back the ex we haven’t seen since Reese scared the crap out of him by coming back from the dead, I’m not sure who my late-novel antagonist will be to add those elements of conflict. Well, external conflict anyway. I’m sure my leads will have many things to argue about between now and the start of the eclipse regarding how each believes the curse will end should all go as planned.

In any case, I will keep you guys up-to-date with letters home from Camp in July like I did in April. I’m also excited for my very first homemade writers retreat, which Meagan and I created for ourselves (we even came up with our very own swag!). It will happen smack in the middle of Camp this month, so stay tuned for additional updates from the Texas Hill Country.

You may also want to check out the Curse of Camlann excerpt page between now and July 1. I’ve updated the page with a scene from last session so you can see where our knight and lady have landed.

Here’s to another winner session, a great retreat, and all the words we’re all going to write!

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New theme to welcome Camp NaNoWriMo

Hello everyone! How do you like my blog’s new look? After my last post went live, I was looking at my site and realized I’d had the same theme for quite a few years and decided perhaps it was time for something different. So I previewed and played and this style spoke to me. I like the notebook header image (very appropriate), and the colors are great; anything green makes me happy. Even my BFF approved, and we all know how important that is.

Once the new theme was in place, I felt a review of my novel pages was also in order. That task resulted in a makeover for them as well. I renamed a few pages, added Details and Reference sections (some of the word counts are astounding, especially considering the books aren’t finished yet!) and added Frankie’s someday novel to the main page. I’ll work on tweaking the other story pages too so stay tuned.

As for Camp NaNoWriMo itself, I’ve got a few days until it’s time to hightail it to my cabin, say howdy to my bunk mates and start writing. I’ll start Saturday, April 1st with my morning ceramics class — totally an approved camp activity, right? — and then meet M for dinner and a writing work session. By then I’ll need to have finished the last little bits of prep work so I know where I left off in November and where I need to go from there. Thankfully I found my outline, but now the question is: how will I end the novel, should I be fortunate enough to get that far? After reading what I jotted down, there’s a part of me that isn’t sure it’s the best way to go. I know how I’m going to resolve that last big story arc (aka casting the counter-curse) and yes, it’s a given that my two MCs will get together in the end, but what that really means is now a big ol’ question mark.

I guess I’ll keep brainstorming until I come up with an ending I like or the characters have their say and tell me how they think it should end. I should probably listen to them; it’s their story, after all. =]

April Camping I Will Go, NaNo-style

KALOTS
Charlie Hunnam as Arthur in the upcoming movie “King Arthur: Legend of the Sword”

Well hello there, old friends! I would love to tell you I’ve been so busy writing that I just haven’t had the time to blog, but alas ’tis not the case. After November, I took a short break as is my norm, and then things went KABOOM. My long-time boss retired, the annual year end processing project seemed to develop quirk after quirk thus driving all of us to the edge of insanity, and to top it off my best friend left the company, leaving a huge hole in my world. Not to mention a hellish allergy season, worrying about my cat (she’s got kidney disease) and a wicked bout of winter blues. So things have been off for a while and I just couldn’t find the motivation to write.

Then I saw the email that NaNoWriMo sends out at the beginning of March announcing Camp once again. My first thought was (and yes, it was John Hurt’s voice I heard in my head from that scene in Spaceballs), “Oh no, not again!” Yet the more I thought about it, the more it appealed to me. I’ve been thinking a lot about my book–I always do in the off-season–and even more so after seeing the trailer for the new King Arthur movie that’s coming soon. It’s as if the universe is saying, “Hey, Nik – pay attention! There’s a reason they call it a legend. People are still interested. So finish your freaking novel!”

I took the hint.

My current Camp NaNoWriMo bullet journal page (click to enlarge); banner courtesy of NaNoWriMo and bookshelf courtesy of Boho Berry aka Kara Benz.

I pinged my bestie M on Facebook and asked her if we were going to Camp, and she (a little too readily for my waffling heart) agreed. I really like her flash fiction plan, and of course I’m returning to Reese’s world. So between now and April 1, I’ve got lots to do:

  • finish up my bullet journal Camp page(s)–as you see from the snapshot, I’ve already added the official Camp plot bunny banner (so awesome) and Kara’s bookshelf that I’ll use to track my word count (1,000 words/book). I still have a couple of things to add like title banners, additional tasks and the like.
  • review where I left off in the story;
  • find November’s outline so I know where I’m going;
  • make any necessary edits in Scrivener; and
  • celebrate my birthday!

I do hope to keep you guys up to date with letters home from camp this April, which I neglected to do last summer, so stay tuned. I’ve also tweaked the Curse of Camlann synopsis page, and here’s hoping last year’s COC playlist remains inspiring as it has in the past. I thought you might be curious about the story, so I’ve created a new COC excerpt page and shared a scene written at the end of NaNo.

Happy reading and writing, everyone!

NaNoWriMo, Meet My Bullet Journal, Take 2

Click here to see my NaNo profile and read the new excerpt

Good afternoon, wrimos! I bet you’re wondering what’s been going on since my last post waaaaay back in July when I was last talking about Camp NaNoWriMo. Well, from the sheer lack of posts you can probably surmise that I didn’t do well at all. You are not wrong. I got about 3,500 words written out of my projected goal of 15,000 and then I went kaput. I can’t really recall why that happened, just that it did. What I do remember is that my plan to use my bullet journal to track my word count actually was the most successful thing about Camp this year. Fortunately, I have a much bigger support network for the real deal competition that is National Novel Writing Month, aka NaNoWriMo. Plus, many more friends are participating, so it’ll be much easier to get motivated and stay that way.

As a result, I am in full NaNo prep mode. Here’s a look at what’s been going on:

  • Official site updated. On the first day it was available, I went in and added all the details I could, including a brand-new excerpt from the story that I worked on last month. My BFF likes it, but I’m hoping she’s not just saying that because she’s my BFF. You’ll have to let me know. I also got to check off a bunch of personal achievement badges, including the one for Camp. Nifty!
  • Novel chosen. I’ve decided for the third year in a row to once more work on my story about an immortal knight, The Curse of Camlann. Hopefully I’ll finish the thing, or at least get darn close. It also earns me the NaNo Rebel badge, which is pretty cool.
  • Playlist page added. Since I’ve been listening to the thing for almost a year, I thought it might be fun to post it on the blog like I did the one for The Great Boyfriend Experiment. To see what tunes I’m grooving to while writing, or driving in the car thinking about writing, check out the page under About Nik’s Novels in the menu above, or you can go there directly by clicking here. This too earned me a badge, the Novel Maestro one.
  • Working lunches scheduled. Fellow wrimo and co-worker KellyLindy and I will once again be meeting up during the week to write together, inspire each other and have mini word wars during our lunch hours. We’ve co-opted a conference room with no windows so the only distractions will be those we bring in with us in the form of healthy and not-so-healthy snacks, and caffeine. This one got me the Wrimo Spirit badge. I’m racking ’em up!
  • Pinterest inspiration board updated. Not that long ago, I discovered a little gem of a BBC television show called “Merlin” during one of my summer Netflix binges. I am here to tell you that I have totally and without any remorse whatsoever stolen the Camelot they created and made it the one that Reese was born into back in the 6th century. Heck, the show’s finale two-part episode takes place during the battle in which he gets cursed, so it doesn’t get more perfect than that. To find out more, check out my Curse of Camlann board.
  • Word count pages recycled/created. As I mentioned at the top of this post, the best thing about July’s Camp was the word count chart I’d created. So, I’m going to do that again. In fact, I’m going to also reuse the one from July; it still has 86 books to color in as I’d set it up for a 25,000 word count goal. I’ll just use a different color, perhaps blue to match our NaNonaut, for November’s goals. I think this one definitely counts for the NaNo Prep badge, right?

Whew, that’s a lot to get done so far. According to my bullet journal NaNoWriMo task list, I have only a couple items left to check off. One is definitely optional, and the other is half optional. I need a reliable computer, and thanks to a failed Windows 10 update, I am now tied to my power cord since my battery got all mucked up. Cross your fingers I find a good deal on the laptop I’m looking for; I don’t need a lot, just something that will run a few Office apps and Scrivener. I’ll hopefully check back in before NaNoWriMo officially starts. If not, I will definitely keep you in the loop about how writing’s going once it’s in full swing.

Talk to ya soon, wrimos!

Camp NaNoWriMo, Meet My Bullet Journal

buildaplanIn last week’s post, I made an indirect reference to the Bullet Journal system. Some of you may know what that is, others of you may not. So, I thought I’d take this opportunity to share with you what it is, why I care, and how I think it’s going to help me this July with Camp NaNoWriMo and regular NaNoWriMo this coming November. This is going to take a little bit, so I apologize in advance for the length of this post.

Even in this digital age, I still like to write things down on paper, especially lists. I love them, and here’s just a few I’m currently keeping handy: a general wish list; craft project to-do lists; must-see summer movie list; binge-watching TV lists, one each for on- and off-air shows; and Magic-cards-to-buy lists, just to name a few. I like the satisfaction of crossing things out when they’re done, and hitting “delete” in my Google app just doesn’t have that same oomph to me. So I’ve always had problems finding an agenda system that worked for me. Daily pages waste too much space, weekly pages don’t have enough space, and monthly pages are just ridiculous.

Enter the Bullet Journal.

I discovered it by way of my friend and YA author, MG Buehlren, when she was posting on Facebook about her BuJo templates for sale on Etsy. My brain perked up, and soon I was reading about a planner system where order matters only as much as you want it to, and you determine how much or how little space you use for your calendar/list/doodles or whatever. Ever curious, I joined MG’s Facebook group for Bullet Journal Junkies, started scouring Pinterest for more pictures and ideas, and followed Bullet Journal-related blogs and Instagram accounts. I was so eager I started with the last week in October 2015 because I couldn’t wait for the new month to get going.

My oh, so lovely purple Leuchtturm 1917 dotted journal to which I added washi tape and an initial sticker because they matched oh, so perfectly
My oh, so lovely purple Leuchtturm 1917 dotted journal to which I added washi tape and an initial sticker because they matched oh, so perfectly

I began with an old composition book I had lying around, playing with the layout and using boxes to fill in completed tasks because that was immensely more satisfying than X-ing out a small little bullet icon. It didn’t take long before I was redoing everything into a new fancier Circa binder from my existing stash with new dotted grid pages, Circa being Levenger’s system of movable pages I’ve been using for years for my movie and book lists. I even created a couple NaNoWriMo pages in November, but because it was still a new system for me, I wasn’t happy with the pages I’d created and I stalled out on NaNo after a couple of weeks.

At the end of May 2016, it was time to start journal #2. Despite my good intentions to use a grid notebook I had on hand, I saw the gorgeous purple Leuchtturm 1917 dotted grid version in the photo at a local bookstore and just couldn’t not take it home. I also picked up a black soft cover dotted grid version as well. While I use the purple one for my daily journal, the black one holds my collections: lists of books to read, movies to see, Xbox games and LEGOs to buy. I also wanted to get a bit creative this time around, especially with my “Books to Read and Buy” pages. So I proceeded to create a layout that looked like bookshelves, with varying sizes and styles of volumes, spines and stacks. 

Then I decided that since I’d flaked and not joined Camp for April, I definitely needed to do Camp in July because I really wanted to see how Reese and Rowena’s story would end. So that brought up the question, “how do I track July’s goal of 25,000 words differently than back in November, so that it’ll be something I’ll keep up with, too?” Then it hit me. Remember that “Books to Read and Buy” page I mentioned a moment ago? Well, I wondered if I could modify that somehow into a word count tracker page.

Turns out, I could, and I did, with what I think are fantastic results. Heck, I even shared snaps of the pages to the Bullet Journal Junkies Facebook group, and received lots of positive comments on it. One gal even requested the original large images I’d taken with my phone to print out on poster paper so she and her son could use them to track their summer reading. I mean, c’mon, how cool is that?!

CampWordCountExcerpt
A section of my new Camp NaNoWriMo Word Count Tracker page. Click the image to see the full page design.

The photo at left shows you a couple of the shelves I’ve created, especially that last book sporting my final goal. Clicking on the image will bring up the entire page of books (250 words per “title,” for 100 total) so you can see the variety of spines, flowers and other goodies I added to the page to make it fun and interesting. Now, with this page, instead of updating a boring blank line with a number, I get to fill in the spines of books, each representing words written. No matter how much or how little I write each day, I’ll be able to see the progress grow as I color in each spine as the goal is reached. I’ll still let Scrivener do the heavy lifting as far as targets go, but I’m looking forward to sitting down after writing with my colored pencil at the end of the day and coloring in as many books as I can up to that day’s total.

If it works well, and I have a feeling it will, I’ll have a tried and true method to use come November. With double the word count to track, I admit I’m looking forward to drawing out my shelves and books in order to get to that last 50,000 volume. Hopefully, I’ll have a finished novel at the end, too!

More Words About Plot, and Halloween

typewriterladyHello, world! It’s almost the end of October, and this year I can say I’m looking forward to Halloween for the first time since… well, since I was last able to fit into my Supergirl costume. I received two separate invites from two different friends to attend their parties, and much to the surprise of those friends (and me), I accepted! This Saturday I’ll be learning how to play bunco while wearing an Italian commedia del’arte mask (costumes are optional, and my “zombie meatballs” are a cinch to whip up). On the 30th, I’ll either be decked out in my original planned costume of SSR agent Peggy Carter (provided the exchange for the most important piece of the costume comes in time: her iconic red hat) or my standard backup costume of a toddler with pigtails and teddy bear.

I can pretty much guarantee that no matter which costume I’m sporting, or how many games of pool I win, or how much pizza and beer I will consume, the fact that National Novel Writing Month begins the next morning will never truly be far from my mind. Especially since my hostess of the evening is also doing the competition with me.

Happily, I can report that after a little bit of internet research and a trip to the library, I found some plot advice that is working wonderfully. In fact, it’s so useful that I can use it not only for my two main characters, but also for the lesser characters as well. Then I can put it all on index cards (or post-its or what-have-you), then arrange everything in a timeline. From there, I don’t think I’ll have any trouble filling in the rest of the scenes. Heck, I might even temporarily become a “pantser” and let the whims of the characters dictate the scenes as I’m writing.

It’ll be interesting to see who wins out, the “planner” that is so very me, or the “pantser” that is whispering to give her a chance.

A Word About Plot

My comic book hero for the day, Marvel's Black Widow
Me, as my comic book hero for the day, Marvel’s Black Widow

I don’t know how your day is going, but mine’s been pretty freaky, and it ain’t even Friday. So far, the least stressful thing that’s happened was logging into Facebook and seeing that friends were changing their profile photos for 24 hours to fill Facebook with comic book heroes to support Childhood Cancer Awareness (go to my Facebook page for more info). Well, okay, I’m also getting to go to Chuy’s for lunch and some comfort food, but that’s nothing unusual in my world.

Procrastinating on my NaNoPrep because I can’t wrap my head around a good plot? Well, that’s definitely a new twist.

See, I had this whole other post started, updating you guys on my NaNoPrep progress to date, with multiple bullet lists all leading up to the one thing I was missing. But after like 10 saves and revisions, that thing had gotten really long winded and even I wasn’t sure where I was going with it. So I scrapped it.

So I pose this question: how do you guys flesh out your plots for your novels?

This always seems to be the thing that bogs me down, and yeah, perhaps it’s that whole planner thing working against me. I like having an outline to follow, even if while writing the characters or situations deviate from it. I know that my characters should drive the plot, rather than me contorting them into random or ridiculous situations to fit where I originally intended them to go.

I’ve even been known to keep a plot bunny or two that hopped across my path, but they were very, very tiny bunnies.

My last two NaNo novels have been fantasy novels with a subplot of romance thrown in, which interestingly made them easier to plot. This time around, it’s the romance that’s taking the drivers seat. While I’ve had some pretty decent scenes popping into my head, they’re all over the place. As a result, I haven’t quite been able to figure out how to start getting the plot shaped into a nice cohesive thing I can work with.

I’ve got a worksheet printed out that I found from a web search, and I’m hoping Meagan can find the worksheets we used a couple years ago. Aside from that, I am kind of floundering plot-wise. Granted, I’ve got some time, so I’m not in panic mode quite yet.

In the meantime, I have been successful with a couple of fun things: a) creating my novel’s cover and b) writing up the synopsis. The image in the background is the view from my main character Frankie’s late father’s back door, looking out on Wild Horse Canyon at the edge of the fictional town in which the story is set. To read more, simply click on the image.

Working Title for NNWM 2015 novel: Frankie's Homecoming
Working Title for NNWM 2015 novel: Frankie’s Homecoming

Hopefully my next post will be chock full of plot goodness! *crossing fingers*