Over the past month, I have established to my own satisfaction that if I schedule things, I can get them done. And I already know I can work hard even when I’m by myself, even without someone standing over me. Unfortunately, I have also established that if I don’t schedule writing fiction for the first thing on my schedule, it falls off the end and gets put on the next day’s task list, and so on and so on ad infinitum, because I’m likely to do less important things like clear my mailboxes, pay bills, and go for long walks first.*
So I am going to camp.
For an hour a day.
It’s Camp NaNoWriMo. Yes, that’s a thing. You may know about National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), which happens in November; during that month, participants commit themselves to writing a novel of at least 50,000 words, posting updates as they go. I’ve “won” that challenge twice, and as a result two of my three completed manuscripts were mostly written over the course of a crazed month focusing only on word count and not waiting for inspiration.†
Camp NaNoWriMo is slightly different. It’s in July, for one thing. And you don’t have to commit to word count. You can do minutes, lines, pages, or hours. I’m committing to an hour a day of revision.
And I can do it online, which works for me.
You can work on your own, form a “cabin” of fellow writers, or do as I did, which is let the camp assign me to a random cabin. I never went to camp myself as a kid, but so far it seems like a friendly bunch in my cabin. No wedgies. No short-sheeting.
My project? I’m revising the first novel I wrote for NaNoWriMo, which introduced a main character I like. She is the main character in another manuscript I’ve written, and she can support several more, plus some short stories. I knew when I finished the first rough draft that I had something basically publishable, but that was when I discovered that my agent had died and that his business partner was not really working as an agent any more.‡
Right now, the work I’m doing in my hour a day of camp is re-reading a printout of the draft and doing a blow-by-blow synopsis. Because of the way it was written, in a scramble, the action doesn’t rise; instead, it sort of scrambles, circles, and pops characters up like whack-a-moles.§ Once I’ve reverse-outlined it, I will be able to see how I can foreshadow, escalate the action and develop the themes.
Or that’s the idea, anyway.
One hour down. Tomorrow I will be on a plane half the day, but one of the legs of the trip is long enough that I can work for an hour then, too.‖
It’s not too late to start, if you want to go to camp yourself. You can just start today It’s free.** And you don’t need to pack or get any vaccinations.
* I’m sort of retired (I adjunct teach one day a week). But I work hard. The problem is that I have difficulty setting my priorities. I set myself all kinds of projects and they take over my life. For instance, I handwrite in my journal every day, and I type up my old journals. I expended considerable effort in pruning down my to-be-read pile and, now that I’m down to one active book at a time, I’m reading a lot more (teaching full time murdered my reading). I engage in political activism. I fence, and train a couple of days a week, and I’m about to go off to Salt Lake City to the Summer National Championships so that I can qualify for the world championships Over-60 women’s sabre team.¶
† I also recommend doing NaNoWriMo proper in November, if you’re interested. You just write and aim for word count, not quality. If you can’t think of anything to write, you can describe a setting in excruciating detail, go off on a tangent, or have your characters engage in a long pointless conversation. It’s very freeing. Many people who probably would never consider themselves novelists have completed books that way.
‡ He was very apologetic. I have realized it was probably a good thing, because the book is very much not ready and the publishing scene has changed considerably since the first time I was published.
§ That’s the downside of just aiming for word count. Or perhaps it’s just how I write. Readers have commented that my plot was a little haphazard in my first book, even though it did well otherwise.
‖ I hate flying. Hate it. And I’m not a big fan of travel in general. My ADHD means that planning for a trip is an exercise of incoherent anxiety. I have never been to Salt Lake City before, and I hear it’s very interesting, but I won’t get to see much of it and apparently the temperature is in the 100s anyway so I won’t go outside. Being a fencer means your national competitions are scheduled for off-season EVERYWHERE and you spend all of your time in the convention center in San Jose with the same people you saw last month in Baltimore.
¶ Yes, they have World Championships for old fencers. It’s wonderful being in a small sport. I have been competing nationally for over twenty years, despite not starting until I was in my 40s. This year, the Worlds are in Slovenia. I hear it’s very pretty. I won’t see much of it because I’ll be inside and because I don’t have much money to spare for sightseeing.
**Donations are encouraged, of course. I just gave them $30.