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Apr 07

Susan Shiney

5 Ways Camp Nanowrimo Helps Me Revise My Novel

I have been participating in Nanowrimos and Camp Nanowrimos since 2012 so I always forget that some people haven't heard of it before. I usually hear people respond with interest about going on a writing retreat in the woods in a cabin somewhere and I do want to do that one day as well. However, Camp Nanowrimo is a virtual writing accountability event with writers from all over the world participating. The official Nanowrimo stands for National Novel Writing Month and this one takes place in November where writers set goals to write 50,000 words in a month. Camp Nanowrimo differs in that it is in April and July and has more open goals set by the participants.

But I don't want to give away everything about Camp Nanowrimo here, keep reading to learn about five ways Camp Nanowrimo helps me revise my novel:

1.You can count time instead of words. The goals are more open during a Camp Nanowrimo event.

This forces me to think about my novel each day on a micro and macro level. I am the kind of writer that trudges ahead, focusing on getting the words on the page is easy for me. I struggle with being thoughtful about the prose and taking a step back and seeing how all of the elements work together. During Camp Nanowrimo I take the time to make the more advanced progress I need beyond getting that first draft out. Although, I wrote my first draft during Nanowrimo and I can't recommend that enough. In the past they have had several different kinds of drop-down menus to set up your goal, this year they revamped the website at www.nanowrimo.org merging the Camp Nanowrimo and Nanowrimo websites. You can only choose word counts this year, but they did have a clear graph that said you can count each minute of writing as a word, my goal is 60 minutes a day for a total of 1800 minutes by the end of the month. I am looking through the notes that my critique partners gave me, making new checklists, pulling out all of my old notebooks, and have a pile of craft books next to my desk. All of these tools are there to help me dig into my draft and revise and making the hard decisions that require you to slow down. The opposite of the fun fury of getting out a first draft without letting your inner editor out.

2.You can set your own realistic goal for the amount of words or times to complete by the end of the month.

I tend to burn myself out during Nanowrimo months and for camps in April and July there is no excuse because I set the time limits. I want to keep up a daily habit so I am doing one hour per day. It has been a week now and I have made good progress and it feels like play and not work. In November it is understood that everyone tries for 50,000 words and you cannot alter the goal. There are writers called rebels that choose to use the momentum of this month to focus on revisions as well, but it is not as motivating since you can't change the goal as easily. I was a rebel last November and did not get as much done as I am this month. I have found it easier this month to find other writers that are in revision mode as well.

3. I am motivated to make progress on my novel with the status tracker. It requires me to make a monthly goal. You input your time daily and you get badges for keeping up with the daily check-ins .

I think it depends on what motivates you, but I love this feature. I found a spreadsheet once that had a similar set-up but it wasn't quite the same. I know that if I fall behind I will give up so I make sure to push myself to get that butt in the chair time each day. You get a virtual badge on your profile for the first day, second day, third day, seventh day, fourteenth day, and twenty-first day of writing in a row. There are also personal achievement badges you can choose like a writer wellness badge that you award yourself for eating healthy and getting enough sleep.

4. There are cabins or groups of other people to check in with and keep each other motivated.

We ask each other questions about the process and share book and writing recommendations. There is also a wider forum with topics that I have yet to take advantage of. I love the momentum of taking part in something with other people. Most of us leave comments daily and each group has a maximum of 20 people. This adds another layer of accountability because we are cheering each other on and our badges are on display as updates for the whole group to see. I ventured out and offered to start my own cabin for writers interested in Magical Realism and Surrealism this year. There was so much interest we needed to open two cabin groups. I have also already found two betareaders from my genre who are willing to give me feedback on my novel.

5. It happens every April and July for Camp Nanowrimo and November for the bigger Nanowrimo event. It is possible to plan your yearly writing schedule around these events.

I want to set a deadline for myself to have betareaders read the next draft and get their feedback in time for the next Camp Nanowrimo in July where I will intensely look at their comments and make changes and do another round of revisions. I would love to have my next book outline prepared for November 2020 so I can start the vomit 50,000 word first draft then. As writers it is so easy to let time fall through our fingers and having these events through the year leaves an opportunity to be more intentional with our planning.

Finally, I am grateful to be living in a time where there are so many online accountability communities for creatives to connect and support each other. It brings even more meaning to the idea of focusing on the journey and not the destination. It is about the spirit of creating and who knows where our work will lead, but we are there to support each other in enjoying the process.

Have you ever done Camp Nanowrimo? What did you think of the experience?

Please leave a comment below.
Mar 31

Susan Shiney

Flash Fiction: Sailboat Swans

Caredwyn played with the threads of the worn beach quilt her mother made from her childhood t-shirts that she couldn't bear to donate or throw away. Her mother sat next to her staring out at the waves as if the sets were speaking to her in morse code telling her what to say to her recently divorced daughter. Crash. Smash. Whoosh. "Just listen," they advised.

Running her fingers over the Carebear's belly to her right, Caredwyn took a handful of sand and placed it on the quilt square sculpting the sand around the cartoon character. She looked at the horizon as tears trickled down her cheeks. The liquid spread as she smiled when she saw the line of sailboats racing to the harbor. "Remember what I used to say about sailboats?" she said and rubbed her face with her sleeve.

Mar 25

Susan Shiney

7 Tips for Writing Twitter Stories

I used to be like most people and thought the story form classifications were either short stories or novels. There is so much more! Novels usually have a minimum of 50,000 words. Short stories have anywhere from 1,000 to 7,500 words. Novellas fit the space between short stories and novels and apparently they are getting more popular in the e-book world.

I have a growing interest in the stories that are below the short story designation. Flash Fiction can be anywhere between 100 and 1,500 words. There are several online literary magazines dedicated to this type of fiction. The 100 or 101 word story movement even has a space for itself too. Below 100 words can be designated as micro-fiction. And an even more specific type of story that we are covering in today's post, a story in a tweet of 280 characters. Twitter doubled its character maximum in 2017 from 140 characters and this is a much better character count for stories and can usually encompass about 55 words.

Mar 17

Susan Shiney

Q & A with L'Abri Tipton of the De Wilgen Farm Stay

What is the De Wilgen Farm Stay?

De Wilgen Farm Stay is a small creative working residency in the countryside of the Flemish region of Belgium. De Wilgen is run by myself and my partner, Jonathan Vanhaelst. The residency is open during the summer months for one and two-week stays. This summer, now in our second season, we will be open for residencies from early July to mid-August. We provide space where writers and visual artists can come to spend time doing the work that feeds them. We offer a space to artists that allows them to focus on their work while we take care of day to day things such as meal planning and dishes.

Mar 10

Susan Shiney

10 Takeaways from The Gift by Lewis Hyde

I had heard of this book through the years in different circles when I lived in New York City. When my current Lille/Brussels writing group brought up reading it, I was interested in checking it out. I bought the twenty-fifth anniversary edition published in 2007 entitled The Gift: Creativity and the Artist in the Modern World. The original title was The Gift: Imagination and the Erotic Life of Property, I prefer the latter title and think it captures its essence much better. I love books about creativity and leading a creative life and this book did have a profound effect on me and my view of the world.

So, here are the ten takeaways I had after reading it:

Feb 29

Susan Shiney

Pheromone Folly: When Magazine Cologne Man Asks You Out

Mimi VanHopkins peeled her glittery black shoes off and exhaled for so long it turned into a chuckle. She stretched her toes back and then pointed them out like a ballerina, fanning them open and closed. Her foot joints popped like cracking knuckles.

She played her voicemail message as she unbuttoned her white collared shirt and took off her slacks. ¨Hi sweetie, it's Mom. My friend Betty has a son I would like to set you up with. I think it would be good for you. Call me when you can.¨ She rubbed the bridge of her nose and let her shoulders slouch low as she dropped her phone on the black leather sofa and headed to the bathroom.

Feb 25

Susan Shiney

5 Tips for Writing while on Vacation

1. Schedule imaginative alone time.

I set up a routine and space for imagination time and I guard it. I tell my loved ones that I will be taking time for myself and don't offer what that space entails because funny enough not everyone will want to respect my imagination time needs. I do find it easier to set up the expectation well in advance. Or I might go on vacation alone and still need to schedule it with myself because days fill up so quickly or disappear so easily on the couch.

Feb 18

Susan Shiney

Magic Realism

An elderly writer once gave me this advice. "You can't write that magic realism unless you've lived it too."

I've often thought a magic realist must be like the painter, Marc Chagall, who said, "I live my life beside the pond with one foot stuck in, and the other planted on solid ground." That certainly suggests Chagall moves effortlessly from our realistic dimension, which we share, to a more personal, unconscious level where inspiration and creativity lie.

Feb 11

Susan Shiney

5 Reasons Why I Love Gothic Fiction

Genre is a tricky thing, mostly a grouping tool for scholars and marketers. Chunking and dissecting is fun. Gothic as applied to fiction started in 1764 with Horace Walpole's novel The Castle of Otranto. In his second edition of the book he added the subtitle "A Gothic Story", hello marketing! The novel kicks off with a character being smashed by a huge helmet that falls from the sky. I am interested in checking it out...

Jan 29

Susan Shiney

Short Story: Weavering's Path of Whispering Pleas

This is the short story I wrote for NYC Midnight's First Round of the 2020 Short Story Challenge. Writers from all over the world are given 8 days to write to an assigned genre, subject, and character. The maximum word count is 2,500 words. There were about 4,000 writers all around the world participating in groups of 40. The top 5 of each group will progress to the next round. The winners will be announced at the end of March/ early April.

My genre was suspense, my subject a path, and my character a beekeeper.