WRITERLY WEDNESDAY: Camp NaNo Week One Roundup

Greetings, fellow Campers!

Last week, my flexible Camp NaNoWriMo plans were flexed almost immediately upon discovery of new opportunities. To recap, this was my original Camp schedule:

Week 1: Submission Call out entry, due April 30. Getting it done sooner will afford me more time for revisions.

Week 2: Read through/revision of a MG Fantasy WIP

Week 3: Read through/revision of a Grounded Sci-Fi Thriller WIP

Week 4: Buffer week for any of the projects.

Rather than words, my Camp efforts this month are time-based and the goal is to work on my writing projects for a minimum of six hours a day. I laid the out the plans, posted them here, and sure enough, as we neared midnight last Wednesday, I already found reason to play Musical Chairs with my weekly itinerary.

I submitted my application for the internship and I’ll update on how that goes. As for the MG Fantasy that I intend to query, I’m approaching this realistically.

Given the importance of this and the time required before the April 17 query submission, I’m going to aim for it, but not put pressure on myself to send it off to that particular literary agent because, really, that’s just ten days from now. This would be my first query submission, my first synopsis. It’s a big deal. It’s Lucy first stepping into Narnia big. So much for no pressure.

They say it’s good to leave a project for a while to come back to it with fresh eyes. When I’d shelved this first revision seven years back, it clocked in at 67,000 words. It’s been long enough that I can dust off the digital cobwebs on the thing and bring it back to life. If I were to leave the characters and plot line as is, I’d need to read through the entire manuscript again to gauge the flow of the story before paring down the excess. Since I’m currently in writer/editor mode, I’ve already caught some technical errors that I glossed over during that revision. Plus side, I’ve developed my skills since then and now see where the story can be improved.

However, as mentioned in my last post, I’d been tinkering with the essence of the story and wanted to infuse my Asian heritage into the narrative. That meant an overhaul of characters, culture, and the necessary research to incorporate folklore into the existing plot. I want this to be a strong story through and through, so it would be such a disservice to myself and my intention of showcasing diversity and inclusivity in this debut release, by trying to rush a deadline.

The opportunities are out there, but I need to make sure I put in solid work before I take that next step. I know that seems like such a common sense approach, yet I think that’s why I’d always semi-ignored those social media hashtags such as #mswl#querytip#amquerying, and #literaryagent before now. I’d always assumed that the publication stage was so far away that I didn’t want to think about it. Now, it’s all I’m thinking about, so much so that I’d only slept two hours this morning. The stress, anxiety, and excitement of all the possibilities had my insomnia take over.

So, as we head into Week 2, I’m going to focus on 3Rs for this WIP: review, research, and revamp. It’s safe to say I can push my Week 3 plans to May. If I don’t make the April 17 deadline, that’s okay. I’ll pause and use the rest of the month to work on the Submission Call out entry that’s due April 30. Whatever happens, I’m excited at the direction this WIP is going and it’s the farthest along I’ve been on any of my novel-length WIPs before, so I have to keep going.

How was your first week at Camp? Everything go smoothly or are you also facing some plot twists of your own? First week down. Came out of the gate at full force. Let’s keep going. We got this.

Stay creative, stay weird, be kind to yourself and others.

Until next time,

T out.

WRITERLY WEDNESDAY: This One Time at NaNo Camp…

And a Happy Camp NaNoWriMo Eve to one and all!

After some self-reflection (read: tumultuous debate with myself, dry erase markers, and my mirrored closet doors that ended up looking like a scene from A Beautiful Mind), I’ve come up with a strategy for April.

Since Camp NaNo doesn’t have the strict 50,000 minimum word count to stick to, I’ve decided to track time versus words. They’re still working on the tech behind the tracker variations now that they’ve merged the Camp NaNo site with the original NaNo site, so in the meantime, I’m using their math to convert the word counter to represent time spent working on the project(s).

Reminding myself that this is a flexible plan, that wiggle room is allowed, accounting for wind chill, and carrying the one, I’ve set my sights on a minimum of six hours a day devoted to my writing projects which by conversion standards comes out to a 10,800 word (or minute of time) goal. I certainly intend exceed this goal, but I wanted to give myself something realistic to work with.

So, how am I divvying up the time? There’s a submission call out that interests me with a deadline for April 30. It’s a 5,000 word max short story submission, no fee (yay!), and I have the option of submitting up to two stories. I will begin with one, for now, see how that feels and go from there.

Here’s my tentative working schedule for Camp NaNo:

Week 1: Submission Call out entry, due April 30. Getting it done sooner will afford me more time for revisions.

Week 2: Read through/revision of a MG Fantasy WIP

Week 3: Read through/revision of a Grounded Sci-Fi Thriller WIP

Week 4: Buffer week for any of the projects.

Experience has shown me that taking time away from the drafting to the re-reading of my work can offer more insight than barrelling through each stage without pause. I’ve seen the evolution in my writing. I have the opportunity to adapt new techniques I’ve learned and improve the overall flow of the story. There are a lot of considerations now that involve current global events that might effect how my story is received, especially since some of them were first drafted more than a decade ago.

I still have my awesome writing groups that are always buzzing with daily activity, as well as some upcoming writing craft webinars I’m excited for, so those will be interspersed in the schedule.

If April goes according to plan, I intend to continue this method throughout the year in hopes that I’ll have a handful of polished manuscripts ready for the next stage of review, edits, beta reads, and *gasp* the foray into querying for a literary agent, mayhaps?

A lot of great apps and services are available to Camp NaNo participants at a discounted price. Winners often get an even bigger discount. What’s great about these offers is that some companies extend their usual free-trials so you can explore the product in depth during Camp, a few extend a couple weeks beyond, as well. This is the best time to try these products and it’s unlikely you’d get a better deal outside of this. Many NaNos ago, I bought Scrivener at 50% off it’s already reasonable price. It’s a robust writing software program that seems to be the go-to one stop shop for writers these days. I still haven’t explored its full potential. There’s a bit of a learning curve, but what it does, it does well.

But don’t wait too long, or even wait until the next NaNo comes along. I could’ve gotten a lifetime license of Campfire Pro with the World Building module free at a lower price point. I heard they were working on something called Campfire Blaze and it purported to be better than its predecessors. I took the gamble and held off on the purchase only to discover that Blaze was subscription based and they no longer offered the version I wanted at the price point I could’ve gotten it beforehand. They do have some discounts available during Camp, however, and I’ll do more research before forking over the dollars.

Last NaNo, I took advantage of their discount offer and finally joined Sisters in Crime. There was a discount for ProWritingAid and World Anvil, but I held off on those, at the time. I’m looking to explore these programs further. YouTube vids are helpful, too, both with reviews and tutorials. I’m tempted to get ProWritingAid. I’ve never seen a lower price than this. And let me tell ya, these prices are in American dollars and when you convert that to Canadian… I American’t sometimes, you feel me? It’s important to grab these opportunities before the prices go back up. For us struggling artists in the world, every penny counts.

Here’s a quick reference with links to NaNo Offers I recommend and that I’m also interested in (These are non-affiliate links and taken from the NaNo site itself.):

  • Scrivener – 20% off for all Camp NaNo Participants; 50% off for all Winners. CODE: HAPPYCAMPER (EXP: 05/07)
  • Sisters in Crime – 20% off the first annual membership (for new members). CODE: SINCCAMP21 (EXP: 08/01)
  • ProWritingAid – Save $200 on a Premium lifetime licence (pay $199 instead of $399). (EXP: 04/30)
  • World Anvil – 30% off 12-month memberships of Master Tier and above. CODE: CAMPNANO2021 (EXP: 06/01)
  • Campfire Blaze – 30% off lifetime purchases of modules (Pro excluded). CODE: CAMPNANO2021 (EXP: 08/01)

There are other offers available and they may still add more before Camp is through. When I first checked a few weeks ago, World Anvil had not yet been included in the offers, so be sure to have a look around and see what might interest you.

Whatever your plans for April, I hope it’s filled with writerly goodness. I’ll be checking in each week with the highs, lows, lefts, and rights, that I’ll be trekking through in hopes that this will be my best Camp NaNo experience yet.

Stay creative, stay weird, be kind to yourself and others.

Until next time,

T out.

WRITERLY WEDNESDAY: Guess I’m a Prepper Now

No. Not that kind.

We’re just a week away from 2021’s first Camp NaNoWriMo and there’s still plenty to prepare for–even for those who are more pantser than plotter.

Here’s quick reminder of the difference between Camps and the main NaNo in November. The original beast of a challenge involves writing 50,000 words in a writing project. The Camps are more flexible and allow you to do anything from prepping, drafting, editing, rewriting previous drafts to writing blog posts, tracking time or page counts versus words, or doing other writerly projects for the month. It’s a more forgiving endeavour and a great introduction for someone who’s been considering jumping in to a NaNo challenge. There are plenty of people who still follow the 50,000 word count goal, while others can increase or decrease the goal to suit their individual needs.

Join me, as I gather my provisions in order to successfully make it through April’s writerly challenge.

We begin with the hardware. My primary tool of choice is my trusty (read: please don’t die on me Early-2015 Macbook Air 11″) laptop. I also have my Freewrite Traveler, along with notebooks, and writing implements. On standby, I have sketchbooks, coloured pencils (regular and watercolor), as well as alcohol based markers. These will come in handy for mind mapping, actually map creation, as well as a creative outlet when I need to take a break from the work itself. I also have my dry erase markers and my mirrored closet doors on which to brainstorm extensively.

Now, let’s add the software. Apps of choice: I’m still progressing with Plottr. Once I have a handle on it, I’ll do a full review, as with the other apps I try out. I’ve also got Scrivener, my old pal Google (for, you know, research), and I’m strongly considering looking into ProWritingAid (they have a Camp NaNo Offer that seems to be the best deal available for a lifetime license). Although not on offer for this NaNo, World Anvil has also piqued my interest, but I’m also considering the pros and cons of other map making software, as discussed on the World Anvil blog.

Other tools that might help in the writing process include music. Spotify, Apple Music, YouTube (for both audio and visual enjoyment) are just a few options to keep the creative juices flowing.

How about some extras? Nice to have, not all are entirely necessary, yet fully appreciated as we enter the “writing bunker” for the next 30 days. First up, we need to have sustenance. If we’re in the middle of something and can’t be bothered to get up from our desk (or wherever you plan on writing) for fear of coming out of writing mode, we need rations to sustain ourselves. Water, of course, is paramount. Other bevvies are great, too. For snacks, I’ve got Doritos, (Nacho and Zesty Cheese varieties), dill pickle chips (can’t go wrong with Lays, but I’ve been enjoying the Compliments brand, as well, from Sobeys. More chips for cheap), Milk Duds, Nerds, Gobstoppers–yes, I still eat these, what of it?–and whatever else I can socially distantly acquire before April. Bonus: take a mini-break after Easter and buy up all the Easter candy that’s gone on sale.

Now, some options on what to work on. Since Camp NaNo is more relaxed versus its big sister in November, the flexibility is both freeing and suffocating. I’ve been pondering which of my WIPs I might want to work on and in doing so stumbled upon a couple new story ideas.

Another goal that could be a ‘two birds, one stone’ perk is that I’ve been overlooking so many submission call outs and contests that have themes or genres that interest me. I’ve spent the last week or so, combing through these announcements to see what stands out to me. Anything that has an immediate deadline, I can keep as a story prompt for future writing.

For the rest of the week, I’ll review the top WIPs I want to tackle first. After all, there’s still another Camp NaNo in July. Oh, and the couple months in between.

I’m hoping that 2021’s global writing challenges are productive. I’m still in the mid-range of plantsing (the flexible hybrid of plotting and pantsing) so I know that I’m in for an adventure, regardless of which path I take.

Stay creative, stay weird, be kind to yourself and others.

Until next time,

T out.

WRITERLY WEDNESDAY: The Music in Me Vol. 2

In case you missed my first instalment discussing music and my WIPs, you can catch up here. Musical choices in storytelling fascinate me. After watching the LoTR franchise, I can’t fully appreciate life in The Shire without hearing the jaunty melody that enhances the light and playful experience of running through the grass. The juxtaposition of rock and roll and other more modern songs in A Knight’s Tale doesn’t seem like it would work, but it does. And our favorite erstwhile bounty hunter The Mandalorian, a.k.a. Din Djarin, travels about in a galaxy, far far away, to what? Space Opera music? Space Western music? You can hear some of the score in the Season 2 Final Trailer here. (Fair warning, there are spoilers if you haven’t watched the show yet. And if not, what are you waiting for?) Whatever we want to call it, the music brings that part of the universe to life in a way uniquely its own.

It’s as though the music becomes as integral to the worlds we create and the characters within them. One could argue that the music we ascribe to the stories we tell are characters in their own right.

Yes, these examples are for a different medium. However, I’m a visual writer and have been told as much by others who’ve read my work. I want my words to leap off the page and into life, whether on the page or on screen. I aspire to write screenplays as well as adapt the WIPs I’ve already begun in book form. Either way, music has always been an essential part of my writing process.

If it’s not music I already love that I incorporate into my WIPs, I somehow hear a score as the scenes unfold in my mind. There’s no other way to describe it than that. I’m not adept at music production but I am intrigued by the process. As part of the various creative outlets that I’m pursuing for my own edification, as well as for their therapeutic benefits, I want to delve more into illustration and music creation. The art supplies have been purchased and I do have music apps and tech that will (ideally… hopefully… lol) help me bring out the musical notes that have been dancing around in my cranium as I write. Adding other tangible aspects to my stories to supplement and enhance the words is an exciting prospect for me. Considering the technology available to us and how innovative people have been during the pandemic, I would be keen to try an immersive, interactive and potentially collaborative means of storytelling. I’ve been wanting to do something like this for years and there’s no time like the present, right?

Have you ever seen behind the scenes footage of a show or film you like? They’re blocking the scene, filming it from different angles, but it’s completely silent other than the actors speaking or certain sound effects activating. The score is added in post-production. The viewing experience is completely different when you have music accompanying the various emotions of a scene. How about moments where no words are necessary but you see a character realize something crucial to the plot?There are musical cues and dramatic pauses that allow the audience to come to that realization along with them. You’re really brought deeper into the story and find yourself in suspended disbelief. You’re no longer a spectator but an active participant in the story and the stakes are just as high.

I have a very similar experience when reading or writing stories. The scene unfolds, the music swells, and I’m right there with the characters amidst the adventure and turmoil. I’ve had to close a book because it left me overcome with emotions. The respite is almost immediate as I’d be drawn back into the story, no matter how late into the night I’d go. As an insomniac, it’s so late it becomes early–as in, early morning.

Do you have musical inclinations when you’re drafting your stories? Do you like listening to music to help you get in the writing mindset or do you also enjoy particular music to help inspire the scenes themselves? Either way, music is a powerful component of my story creation.

A compelling score adds texture and nuance to the scenes as they unfold in my mind and translate to words on the page. What are you writing? And what music, if any, moves you? Music that moves you to write, music that moves your story forward. I’d love to hear what inspires other writers and add to my playlist.

Stay creative, stay weird, be kind to yourself and others.

Until next time,

T out.

WRITERLY WEDNESDAY: Pitch Perfect

a.k.a. Prompt Submission Update #3

We’re in the third week of impact x SKYDANCE prompt submission period. How did time slip away so quickly while at the same time, I feel like I’d been suspended in a vat of molasses? Monday’s upcoming deadline draws near. I suspect Dali’s clocks are going to melt all over my face soon if I don’t start wrapping this puppy up.

I’m polishing a short film screenplay I’m submitting as my writing sample. I’ve got the story ideas for each prompt ready-ish to go. The other major submission requirement is a 30-second video pitch. In the last year of zoom meetings and social distancing, I was never in front of the camera. I attended webinars where participants were visible in username only. Heck, it was only a couple days ago that I got my hair cut after two and a half years. I didn’t attempt any quarantine DIY hairdos (or hairdon’ts, as they more frequently appeared to be). Now I gotta go in front of a camera? My introverted self didn’t just pump the brakes, I got outta the car!

Shyness aside, it’s the pitch itself that I’m more antsy about. I had the wonderful and terrifying experience of pitching a Middle Grade Adventure story at a writers conference eleven years ago. It was my first writers conference and I did not prepare myself for the magnitude of the event. Sure, I read all these primer articles long after the fact, but that was probably one of my most “fish out of water/deer in headlights” experiences, so far, as a writer.

By all counts, this should be easier. I just need to record myself summarizing my two story ideas in under 30 seconds each. I don’t have to quietly fidget in front of a literary agent or editor. I even have the opportunity to finesse and edit the pitch so that the final product is seamless. Well, that’s the logistics covered, what about the pitch itself?

The story pitch, also known as the elevator pitch, is a convincing argument or idea that can be summarized in the amount of time it takes for an average elevator ride. Simple, right? What happens if you’re overwhelmed with ideas but the person is already out the door before you can finish? Lucky for us fledgeling writers, many have come before us and many have shared their expertise on the subject.

When Kenn Adams created this method 30 years ago, he called it “Once upon a time…” Initially intended as an improvisation exercise, this set of steps has since been widely used, adapted, and modified by authors, playwrights, and screenwriters. It’s even found its way into the world of marketing and other aspects of collaborative brainstorming. Over the years, it became known as The Story Spine. Adams, a teacher, author, and Artistic Director of Synergy Theater, outlined the pitch steps and broke down the animated film The Incredibles, to illustrate the story flow. SPOILERS AHEAD if you haven’t seen the movie yet.

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I read the example aloud and it ran around 45 seconds. My story ideas are for one-hour television series, and while the ideas have to be overarching for their respective series as a whole, each episode, would probably require only one or two “Because of that…” steps. What I like about the breakdown in the chart is that it goes hand in hand with story structure so I can be sure that I’m covering the basics of the story’s progression. As the name suggests, this is only the spine of the story. Anatomically, we’d need to put meat on the bones. In the physical sense, we’d need to add the many leaves to the book where the spine holds everything together. Even in scriptwriting, we’d need to fill in the spaces between each story beat.

A great story idea is one thing. A great story pitch is another. Even after all that goes well, the story ain’t gonna write itself. That’s where we can add texture and depth and take the reader or viewer on a journey we hope they enjoy as we do. Everything is coming along nicely. I still don’t want to put too much pressure on myself to meet this deadline on Monday. If it goes through, great. If not, there are always more submission call outs ahead. I’m happy for the opportunity to focus on a meaningful writing project again and whatever happens next week, I’m a better writer for it.

Stay creative, stay weird, be kind to yourself and others.

Until next time,

T out.