NaNo Update #3: Camp NaNo Edition

Hello, September.

The last few weeks of August are always an equal mix of sad and happy: I don’t know if it’s because of summer’s inevitable end, or the smell of slow burning charcoal floating from backyards in late evening, or the fact that all the meaningful anniversaries of my adult life happen to fall in those few weeks, but I always get a little nostalgic (which is great for writing blogs!).  But by the time Sept. 1 comes, I feel re-energized– maybe because of the sense of movement, with the city playing musical apartments, people rearranging their lives, packing and leaving furniture and dishes and other free stuff on the curb, hoping that someone else can use their junk.  Even though the end of summer is always sad, there is that feeling of hope.

At least, I’m hopeful.

And after 2 weeks of vacation, I’m ready to get back to work.

So much of this blog has been about how I figure out how to balance my work and the rest of my life.  I’m happy to report that, after three years, I’ve finally outsmarted my workaholic tendencies and have learned some new habits that are more sustainable.  This summer has been a good stretch of this balancing act, with days spent writing and reading and taking walks and playing board games with friends and going on a weekend trip here or there, and, of course, keeping up with work at The Day Job.  What has made this summer such a success was partnering up with Jessica Critcher, a friend and fellow writer, to take on NaNoWriMo’s summer challenge: Camp NaNo.

We had 31 days to complete a word goal of our choice.  We decided to tackle a 70,000 word sci-fi novel, each of us drafting 35k words.  We had both written our first book, and had successfully completed the November NaNoWriMo, so we felt that 35,000 words would be more than manageable.  Of course, as we got writing, we realized that it wasn’t as easy as we had thought.  But we used WriteTrack to break our goals into more digestible daily targets, and Write Or Die for that extra push of motivation.  And our writing sessions were punctuated with sci-fi “research”– watching movies and marathoning shows and playing video games.  We also kicked off Camp NaNo with a Beyonce concert, which, while not officially sci-fi, was a surreal experience in its own right.  When we made our word count, we celebrated at Veggie Galaxy, keeping with our theme.

I admit, NaNo doesn’t entirely keep with my goal to maintain some work-life balance.  After both challenges, I left with aches in my wrists and hands from the many hours spent hand-writing and typing, although the July NaNo wasn’t quite as bad as last November (More breaks, and most of my writing time was at the computer, not my usual legal pad).  But these marathons to meet a word goal are worth the temporary strain.

My first NaNo had taught me that not every story is worth telling.  Last November I drafted projects that I had been meaning to work on for years.  Seeing them all lined up in their early stages, I could see which stories had potential, and which stories were better as vignettes in my imagination.  I was surprised to discover that the pieces that I was most attached to were the ones with the least amount of story.

My second round helped me build in more accountability factors.  Not just to my self, because over the years I’ve become quite good at keeping myself accountable to my writing, sitting down and doing it day after day.  But, working with another author, talking about our project with mutual friends, I was reminded of a crucial factor in this writing game: the readers.  Somehow with all the preoccupation of writing and figuring out how to do the work, it’s easy to forget that there’s an end goal: for people to actually READ your stories.

In the coming months, I’ll be working on getting more of my work available to actually be read.  And that’s why I’m hopeful, and maybe a little terrified, but that’s okay.  I’m ready.  Are you?