Saturday, April 12, 2014

Camp NaNoWriMo: Advice for April 2014

April is in full swing, but it's already 90 degrees Fahrenheit here in Austin, Texas.  

Seasoned writers know that there are many demands on our time, attention, and priorities. CampNaNoWriMo offers us an opportunity during the Spring and Summer months before NaNoWriMo to schlep our way through our novels employing the same principles we use in November. Here is a short compilation of tips I've gained from numerous NaNoWriMo sources and my own research.

Priorities: When to Say "No!"

There are somethings we cannot ignore. We can't ignore our children; we can't ignore work; we can't ignore school, but there are definitely times when we don't have to take on more than we should. As people, we strive to be helpful. No one wants to be branded a "bitch", that friend that never shows up to events, that guy that never helps me move. This happens to be more than I care to admit. Sometimes, I do things I can't figure out. I gave a ride to a homeless person the other day to a terrible part of town, even though I was perfectly on time to a networking event and had no incentive to do so. The person lied to me, first of all, stank up my car (I wish she'd been a transient. She probably would have smelled better), then threw the food I gave her out my window while I was still driving. I was sitting right there. There was no good reason for  me to put myself in that situation. For one thing, it was freaking dangerous. For another thing, I was rudely and unreasonably taken advantage of. Did I mention she stank up my car? Took me days to get the smell of stale alcohol, cigarettes and BO out of my car. That was an unnecessary action that made me late to my networking event and took years off my life. There are some things you should just say "no" to. Letting strange people in your car is one of them.

Here are some other helpful pieces of advice if you want to finish your work during your lifetime. No, they're not dangerous and stupid. By the way, I've never been "haunted" by anything in my life, but having just wrote that, the person's smell, I suppose the memory of it, just invaded my personal space. Incredible. Donna Tartt was onto something after all. 

Other People's Projects

 My ex-husband and his mother had a really bad habit of pulling other people into their projects. Once I was conscripted into washing PVC pipe that would later be painted to make some decorations for my mother-in-law's church. My father-in-law had already left for his favorite place to escape to when his wife bit off more than she could chew: the bar. Conversely, I was also conscripted into helping my ex reupholster a futon cover. Yes, we sewed our own toile cushion cover, with repeating patterns. This meant bringing in my mother-in-law, who had no interest in the project and added it to her list of things we weren't allowed to ask her for (pot calling the kettle black, as it were). I suppose I should say, they sewed their own futon cover. I wrote Star Trek II: Wrath of Khan fanfic. Currently, I'm dog-sitting for a friend for money. I feel like it's necessary. I get a little bit more money every week, but at what cost? Half of that money every week goes into my gas tank. I am doing a favor that devastates my work and takes precious hours of my time. Don't let other people's projects interfere with your time when you are writing. 

The Importance of Exercise

An active mind is necessary for composition. When I first moved to Austin, I did everything wrong. I moved into a cave of an apartment. I stayed out of the light. I trolled Facebook and Reddit. I didn't even consider going back to school, and there was no reason why I couldn't have. I didn't consider getting a job. I drowned in depression and misery. It wasn't until I began exercising that I began to be active with my writing again. I wrote for whole days at a time. I still can't believe how much time I wasted, how many days I lost. By the time I began my novel, I was running three miles a day and lifting weights. My back stopped hurting; my hands stopped hurting. I had forgotten that when I lived in San Antonio, and worked, I was always writing. I felt great; I felt confident, and that confidence lead me to my keyboard. I wrote my blog, and I wrote fiction. I had a great time, and my exercise has, once again, lead me back to my work. An active body will beget an active mind.

Never Feel Guilty

When I was in college, I was constantly writing what someone else wanted me to write. So much so, that when presented with the opportunity to write even an ounce of fiction, I pounced on it with more confidence than my skill level could account for. I felt guilty, though. I thought, "If I'm going to write, I should focus on my school work." My professors had me writing term papers, essays, articles, journal entries, and by the end of my bachelor's degree, 30 plus hours of writing and reading a week. It's no wonder I did dumb things, like reading Harry Potter when I should have been reading Shakespeare, or reading about Drizzt when I should have been reading for Third Planet. You should pace yourself, give yourself time to write, and read, even if it's nothing important, nothing you ever intend to publish. I've written hundreds of pages of useless content that will never see the light of day. Never feel guilty that you seem like you'll never finish your writing project. Never feel bad when you hit a dead end and move on. Your wasted time is not important; it's what you've learned along the way that will make a difference when you sit down to your magnum opus. Never feel guilty.

Read, Read, Read!

If you are writing, but not reading, yer doin' it wrong. Read everything: newspapers, articles, biographies of interest, magazines, fiction, science-fiction, Eighteenth-Century fiction, Nineteenth-Century Gothic fiction, blogs, fantasy fiction, everything. If it sucks, put it down and move on. Read all the time. If you are not immersed in the culture of reading, you cannot hope to enter it. I  love fantasy and science-fiction. The other day I finished Donna Tartt's The Goldfinch, and piece of literary fiction. I read whatever grabs my interest, and I read classics and Medieval literature in college. Do you have to read Beowful? No, but it'd be nice if you did. Follow a few publishers on Twitter and Facebook, a few authors here and there. Talk to people, and put yourself out there. Read and keep up with today's literature, yesterday's literature, and our masters from the past. I stopped reading once. It was terrible. I had myself convinced that the thing I loved most was keeping me from my dreams. If I read all the time, how could I write? In a way, I was right, but I had villainized my profession. I'd made my dream taboo. If I was unwilling to read, how could I expect to be read? Everything I ever believed in centers on books, and my refusal to read was irrational and inexcusable. Read.

That's All Folks

I've been writing a novel for over two years. I'm 238 pages, 127,345 words in. I can't always write when I want, but I will never give up until my work is done. No matter how much my hands hurt, no matter what job I have, I will not stop. I encourage everyone to keep that stiff upper lip. I encourage everyone to read, pace themselves, and sometimes be that bitch that just says "no". Keep positive people in your corner, eat well and exercise. Be good to yourself. Actually, that's probably the best piece of advice I could possibly think of. Good luck, guys. Happy writing.


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