It seems like every winter and summer break since I stopped working on fanfiction every week, I vow to rediscover my love of writing, finish off some WIPs (especially the years-old fanfics that some people apparently still read because I still get requests for new chapters), develop new plot ideas, experiment with prose style … And every winter and summer break, I totally fail to accomplish any of the above. This year isn’t much different; a month and a half of my summer break has already passed without any real progress, if we don’t count blogging.
This time is different though! Instead of settling with these lofty ideals, I sat down and really thought about the areas I want to improve, and made concrete, quantifiable plans to make these goals happen. (Which is what we’re talking about today, in case you hadn’t guessed.)
Just one last thing: the one and only Sam @ Fictionally Sam and I have done it again, posting about very similar topics in a very short time period! (Last time, it was Goodreads guides.) If you haven’t already read, liked, and commented on Sam’s Camp NaNo post, make sure you do.
My recent writing routine is basically nonexistent, because college classes and clubs took up a lot of my time and I just couldn’t muster the mental energy to sit down and write. Plus, by sophomore or junior year of high school my WIPs were mostly fluffy, tropey fanfic oneshots — nothing wrong with that, and I don’t really regret it, but it’s a very different kind of writing process than original fiction. Basically, every time I sit down to write fiction, I’m reminded of how hard it can be, and it’s daunting. I’m out of practice; it sucks.
It’s been a while since I worked on developing original characters and storylines, but part of my problem has always been striking a balance between planning and plotting. If I don’t outline the story arc(s), I tend to write myself into a corner, but if I work out a detailed timeline, I may lose interest partway through actually writing the thing. Or the characters do something I hadn’t planned on, and suddenly I find myself neck-deep in plot quicksand: the worst of both worlds. I need a flexible itinerary, so to speak, enough of an outline to know where I’m going, but not so much that I constantly feel stuck.
And don’t get me started on endings. I’m the worst at those. Seriously, the ending paragraph of a blog post is always the hardest to write (unless it’s the intro, but I’ve always enjoyed figuring out a fun hook). Although I’ve made it to the end of some works — too long to be called short stories, too short to even be novellas,
just awkward like me — I’m never really happy with the conclusion.
I don’t expect one good session (or even the upcoming Camp NaNo session) to fix all these issues, but hopefully this time I’ll be able to stick with it and make some headway towards forging a new relationship with writing.
Plans for Camp NaNo
What is Camp NaNo?
In case you’re not familiar with it, NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel Writing Month: from November 1st to 30th, participants try to write a 50k novel (or screenplay, or poetry collection, whatever they like). Camp NaNo is held every April and July, with the primary differences of “cabins” (mini-forums / group chats) of participants and the ability to choose your own goal. If you manage to reach your goal by the end of the session, you win!
My storied history with Camp NaNo (badum-tssss)
This past April, I made a cabin with friends from the Writers’ Cove discord server. Unfortunately studying had to take priority since my finals were at the start of May, so I didn’t end up doing much writing of my own, but I really enjoyed chatting with fellow writers and the general productive vibe. We’ve already created a cabin for next month, and I promise we’re friendly if you want to hang out with us!
Maybe it’s just my past tendency to work on 20 WIPs at once to see which, if any, actually pan out, but when I had a regular writing habit it was almost more about the routine / process than the end product. Of course I got attached to my characters and plot arcs, but I especially loved that this all came out of my brain. Unfortunately, the process has always been the weakest part of my (Camp) NaNo projects: after months of planning timelines, mapping out fictional settings, creating character spreadsheets, abruptly the motivation fizzles and I’m left with yet another half-finished story.
Because I never actually finished them, for the past few years I’ve ping-ponged between two multichapter fanfic WIPs and two original fiction plot bunnies that I’ve never managed to pin down satisfactorily. With that settled, I usually just set my goal for 50k words because my intention were to finish the WIP and/or hit 50k, ideally both but if I accomplished just one I’d consider it a win.
This session’s WIP
Originally for this Camp NaNo (and the previous one, in April), I wanted to finally finish one of my ongoing multichapter fanfiction WIPs. Honestly though, it’s been years — apparently I uploaded the first chapter sometime around middle school graduation, and this fall I’ll be a junior in college, so you can do the math if you want — and I’ve come to the realization that I actually don’t really care about the story I was telling. Generally I don’t consider myself very susceptible to peer pressure, but it’s by far the most popular fic I’ve ever posted, and even now I still get comments asking for updates. The thing is, I never knew where I wanted to take that story; I was just writing a series of fun domestic scenes. It used to be my Carry On, Simon, but now it’s joined the ranks of my many abandoned story ideas.
I know it’s all too easy to say new session, new story, new me, so I’m compromising by re-tackling an older plot bunny that still interests me but didn’t really come to life the first go-round. It revolves around memories and what-ifs, which always feels thematically appropriate since that’s a recurring theme in my own life, but I don’t know much more yet. In my planning I’ve been focusing on the writing process itself, so I’ll just let the story go where it wants and see what happens.
(Since high school I’ve picked up a reluctance to share too much information about my original fiction — due to a rather long and personal series of events — so I probably won’t be sharing a ton more details or scene snippets. Plus, I’m easing back into the mindset of “messy first draft” and all that.)
This session’s battle plan
Like many people, I spend the majority of my life staring at a computer screen, so it feels natural to write in MS Word or Google Docs. But I’ve been considering trying out Wavemaker, which I discovered through a post by Ity @ Ity Reads Books; since I’m winging so much of the actual content, it might be helpful to make sure I remember how I’ve developed the world and characters and don’t contradict myself into a plot knot.
I’ve also switched from tracking word count to tracking time spent working — with the caveat that this has to be time spent actually writing, not just staring at my computer or checking social media; since my main goal is to revive my writing habit, I’m aiming for an hour a day (31 hours total). Maybe too ambitious, we’ll see if I end up needing to bring it down, but for now that’s the plan.
Have you ever participated in (Camp) NaNoWriMo, and will you be participating next month? What keeps you writing when you lack the time or energy?
If you want to join our cabin and/or the Writers’ Cove discord server, just let me know!