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Camp Care Package/April 2016

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This page contains the Camp Care Packages from Camp NaNoWriMo April 2016.

April 2016's Camp Counselors were Marieke Nijkamp, Nic Stone, Karuna Riazi, and Lisa Amowitz. NaNoWriMo staff also sent out care packages in the days before Camp NaNoWriMo began.

NaNoWriMo Staff

NaNoWriMo staff sent care packages during the few days before Camp NaNoWriMo began.

28 March 2016

At some point in the next month, you may feel like the world doesn't want you to complete your writing project.

To help ensure that other things (or people!) don't encroach on your writing, block out time -- 30 minutes, an hour, whatever you can get away with—on your calendar every day for the month of April. Remember: This is your sacred time.

If you find it helpful, give yourself daily incentives: a sticker chart (hey, they work for toddlers, right?), an ever-increasing list of rewards for each additional goal you reach, or flat-out bribes for daily or weekly success.

--Rebecca Stern

29 March 2016

In the last few days before I begin the mad dash of Camp NaNoWriMo, I like to let my ideas slowly marinate so that they're tastily seasoned and ready to cook in the fiery heat of writing. A marinade usually includes three things: an acid to tenderize the meat, an oil to keep it from drying, and flavorings, such as herbs and spices. What on earth does this have to do with your novel?

I choose writing prep activities that are the equivalent of a good marinade. I might sit in a café to people watch (my version of acid and oil) and conjure characters (herbal flavorings). Or I might take a long, lazy walk with a notebook in my pocket, or just read a novel to get ideas. The important thing is to get out, shake up some ingredients, and let them seep into your story.

--Grant Faulkner

30 March 2016

Sakichi Toyoda developed the Five Whys to understand and solve issues -- from the front office to the assembly line -- at the Toyota Motor Corporation. The gist: start with a problem and work your way back, asking "Why?" for each step. Within five or so questions, you'll likely find your root cause.

Consider this technique if you have writer's block or time-management issues next month. Start with "Why am I having trouble sitting down and writing?" and go from there. You may be surprised at what you realize when you ask yourself (and honestly answer) a simple, one-word question.

--Chris Angotti

31 March 2016

If big goals don't work for you, set small goals. Don't think about writing 50,000 words in one month, think about writing 100 words during your very first writing session on April 1.

Neuroscience and video games demonstrate that finishing one task primes your brain to succeed at the next, but the window isn't open for long. Find a word count and timeframe that works for you, then narrow your focus to meeting that goal. When you've written 100 words celebrate briefly by clapping or ringing a bell. Then—without taking a break—do it again. You'll finish your project in no time!

--Dave Beck

1 April 2016

Too intimidated by the blank page? Just sneak up on your story. The first sentence can literally be "I have no idea what I want the first sentence of my story to be." (Once I started my novel with "I probably should have written an outline. Why on earth would anyone choose that for a karaoke number?" Karaoke bars: surprisingly good places to write novels.)

You'll be surprised by how easily tricked your brain can be: if you just start rambling around typing random thoughts, even just meta commentary about being nervous about writing, you'll soon discover that all of a sudden you're typing actual story. It's like giving a stalled car a push start. You can edit all that nonsense out in the second draft!

--Sarah Mackey

Marieke Nijkamp

Marieke Nijkamp was Camp Counselor for the first full week of April 2016. Author bio included in the care packages:

Marieke Nijkamp is a storyteller, dreamer, globe-trotter, geek. Her debut young adult novel This Is Where It Ends (Sourcebooks Fire) follows four teens during the fifty-four minutes of a school shooting. When Marieke grows up, she wants to be a time traveler. Until then, she’s delighted to be back as NaNo Camp Counselor. Find her on Twitter.

4 April 2016

Welcome (back)! You’ve made it to Camp NaNo! It's so great to see you here, and so great to be your Camp Counselor (again)! Every story starts with a question -- or maybe more than one. For the writer, it’s usually: what if? What happened? For the reader, it’s: what will happen? And what will happen next?

Those questions should form the heart of your story. So when you write, infuse your plot with question marks. Keep yourself wondering, too. And don’t give away the answers too easily. After all, not knowing is what keeps us reading. Not knowing means anything is still possible.

5 April 2016

Are you in a flow? Pumping out words for today's session and shattering your word count target? First of all, well done! Give yourself a pat on the back and enjoy the moment! It's one of the best parts of writing, when the story takes shape and slowly becomes a Real Thing™.

Second, help yourself pick up tomorrow where you leave off today. End on a cliffhanger. End mid-sentence. End in a place where you're excited to continue writing, to find out--

6 April 2016

We all need encouragement from time to time. Writing can be lonely. It can be scary. Sometimes you can feel wholly intimidated by your manuscript, because the story feels too big for you to do justice.

In those moments, what can help enormously is having an amazing alpha reader. Someone who is excited to read your story, even in the roughest of forms. Someone who keeps you accountable beyond mere word count. Someone who clamors for more. (Tell me! Tell me! Tell me!) Someone who needs to know, maybe even more than you do, what happens next?

7 April 2016

If your process is anything like mine, your inner perfectionist will have reared their head to demand you fix that small error on page two, and that continuity issue in chapter three, oh, and how about that characterization snafu, and maybe you should get rid of the entire first act of the book because there's a better way to go about it, oh, and, and, and.

Get rid of that voice. This is not yet the time for perfection. This is the time for creativity instead.

It doesn't have to be perfect. It just has to be written.

It doesn't have to be perfect. It just has to be written.

It doesn't have to be perfect. It just has to be written.

8 April 2016

And at the end of the day -- no, at the end of the first week -- only one thing truly matters. So let me reiterate what I said last year:

"Only you can write your story. Think about what makes your story uniquely you. Is it the way you look at the world? Do the characters share your hopes and dreams? Does your story explore things that terrify you or secretly fill your heart?

Once you've figured out the truth at the heart of your story, you have gold. And I for one can't wait to find that treasure on the shelves one day."

Nic Stone

Nic Stone was the Camp Counselor for the second full week of April 2016. Author bio as it appeared in the care packages:

Nic Stone was born and raised in a suburb on the outskirts of Atlanta, GA. Growing up with people from a wide range of cultures, religions, and backgrounds fueled her love of stories and insatiable wanderlust. After a few years living in Israel, she returned to the US to write YA fiction with diversity in mind. She has a BA in Psychology from Spelman College and currently lives in Atlanta with her husband and sons.

11 April 2016

Distraction. The rapacious megalomaniac out to devour productivity. Seems like as soon as I set out to achieve some writing goal or another, a handful of other things look more appealing. Social networks. YouTube. Online window-shopping... Each more absorbing than the one before, and all working to keep me grounded where I am and out of my story-world.

My solutions: "Focus"/"Composition" mode in my word processor. Putting my cell phone in airplane mode and out of reach. Turning off my laptop's Wi-Fi.

In the words of Toni Morrison: "Wanna fly, you got to give up the sh*t that weighs you down."

12 April 2016

No matter what genre you're writing, or what species--real or imagined--your characters, I think it's safe to say all stories are designed to either reflect or impact the human experience. As such, one of my favorite ways to get going is to spend some time people-watching at my local shopping center or park.

It may sound a little creepy, but by (discreetly) watching people's mannerisms, or listening in on bits of conversation and paying close attention to body language, I'm able to collect little character-gems that I can later draw from when writing.

13 April 2016

There once was a girl--a little girl mind you--who had a bit of a penchant for befriending monsters. "Their hearts are really good," she said. "They're just misunderstood..." She invited them to play, and they munched her.

Cadence is the rhythmic flow of a sequence of words. It's foundational to the element of fiction craft known as "voice". Whereas poetry is reliant upon meter, in prose, cadence is largely created by the unsung heroes of punctuation. Reread the top sentence, and pay attention to the punctuation that creates the rhythm. Would varying the punctuation in your work improve the voice?

14 April 2016

Often in interviews, you see the question, If you could have any superpower, what would it be? As a writer, you already have a pretty major one: mind control. With your words you create people, places, scenarios, problems, solutions. You trigger the firing of neurons, make people think, cause them to feel. You plant seeds that affect behavior, stimulate the imagination, boost people's ability to empathize.

No, it's not easy, and yes, self-doubt kicks in.

But at the end of the day, you've put something into the world that wasn't there before.

This, in my book, makes you a superhero.

15 April 2016

Don't let someone dim your light, simply because it's shining in their eyes.

Not everyone will be supportive of what you're doing. Some will balk. Some will tell you not to waste your life on pipe dreams. Some will treat your desire to write like it's nothing more than a hobby, and will judge the way you use your time. When you do pull it off, and you show these people, they're the same ones who will try to diminish your accomplishment by downplaying the difficulty of the work.

Know that it's not you. It's them.

Shine on.

Karuna Riazi

Karuna Riazi was the Camp Counselor for the third full week of Camp NaNoWriMo's April 2016 session. Author bio as it appeared in the care packages:

Karuna Riazi is an online diversity advocate, essayist and overwhelmed undergrad student. Her writing has been featured on The Toast, Brown Girl Magazine and Love, InshaAllah. Her debut novel, The Gauntlet of Blood and Sand, will be released in 2017 under Simon and Schuster's new Salaam Reads imprint. You can find her on Twitter at @karunariazi.

18 April 2016

Let me go mom on you for a moment: have you done your laundry? Washed the dishes? Slain that dragon that decided to start a hoard of cast-off drafts and takeout napkins under your bed?

(Well, save the dragon for last.)

Sometimes, you need to ease up on your brain. Don't unplug it entirely. Just stop shaking it frantically between your hands like a piggy bank, hoping for some loose change to fall out. Clean your room. Water the plants. Give your brain a break and see what it can do with some downtime. It never fails.

19 April 2016

I dare you to move. No, not from your chair. Therein lies the path of danger once your friends, family, and pets discover that you have been attempting to do Something Productive.

What I want you to move is your position in your novel. Shift around. Switch to a different chapter, a different voice, a different location. Explore the scenes you've been hungering to sink your teeth into but putting off in favor of a healthy diet: linear drafting and dull exposition.

The great thing about the Great Outdoors is exploration. Go off the beaten path and see what calls to you!

20 April 2016

"When you are in the middle of a story it isn't a story at all, but only a confusion; a dark roaring, a blindness, a wreckage of shattered glass and splintered wood; like a house in a whirlwind, or else a boat crushed by the icebergs or swept over the rapids, and all aboard powerless to stop it. It's only afterwards that it becomes anything like a story at all. When you are telling it, to yourself or to someone else." - Margaret Atwood, Alias Grace

Today's advice, my dear campers: listen to Margaret Atwood. There is nothing easy about this portion of your writer's journey. It is the storm between the precluding blue skies while you were expectantly planning, and the reassuring calm during which only the last chapters are left to be written.

These are the moments where you realize that the woods are dark and deep and you forgot to pack your mosquito repellent. But, dear Camper, you are not alone. For one thing, there's extra bug spray under your bunk. For another thing, you are surrounded by friends -- good friends who will urge you on when the hike seems too long and arduous.

Take a deep breath. You are not caught in despair and quicksand. You are exactly where you should be at this moment, in your cabin, in front of your computer. Dig deep and forge on.

21 April 2016

"Beginning authors often get in their own way... They forget that they've been telling stories since they could talk. ...The important thing to remember is, you know how to do this. You’ve been doing this your whole life." — Cynthia Leitich Smith

Time to remind yourself why you are doing this: it is because you can.

This is not a fanciful venture. It is the most meaningful, purest step forward in your own personal art. Do not diminish the importance and power in your own fingers tapping at your keyboard or wrapped around a pencil. This is the moment in which you embrace the might of your creation.

22 April 2016

Today's reminder: Don't forget to treat yourself!

Whether it's a freshly toasted s'more or a new bestseller, remember that part of the fun in Camp is in having time to indulge in what you enjoy most--and not all of that has to involve stringing together perfectly polished, presentable words.

Indulge in a form of media that isn't necessarily a novel or a book on craft. Watch a TV show and find yourself absorbing thoughts on plot or sudden dramatic twists of fate. It may help to get a different approach, or at least let yourself breathe and relax before the next exciting activity on your April agenda!

Lisa Amowitz

Lisa Amowitz was the Camp Counselor for the last full week of April's Camp NaNoWriMo 2016 session. Author bio as it appeared in the care packages:

Lisa Amowitz is the author of three fantasy/thrillers for young adults: Until Beth, Vision, and Breaking Glass. She is also a cover designer and a professor of Graphic Design at Bronx Community College. She's represented by Shannon Hassan of Marsal-Lyon Literary Agency. Lisa tweets about writing, design, and other random, and occasionally meaningful things at @lisa_amowitz.

25 April 2016

Find a time of day you can devote to writing. It can be an hour, or fifteen minutes. Early morning. Late at night. Lunch time. Promise yourself to carve out this little chunk of time each and every day.

Don't fret if you are short of your goal. Whatever you have at this point is more than you did! I last participated in NaNo during a very busy time of year for me, but I decided to take it seriously and vowed to get up every day at 6:30 to write--no matter what. The experience was transformative. 2015 was a tough year personally and it was the wonderful discipline of NaNoWriMo that helped to put the rough stuff behind me.

26 April 2016

I often find my writing takes me to far-flung places (both real and imaginary)--or even nearby places I don't have the time to explore. Google Earth allows you to walk the streets of distant places you may not otherwise have the opportunity to visit. Of course it’s no substitute for actually traveling to a locale, but it's a decent stand in.

For me, understanding the physical layout of my location helps with moving my characters through time and physical space. For my recent manuscript, I needed to get a sense of Zurich, Switzerland--so with the help of Google Earth I took a virtual tour and prowled its cobbled streets and alleyways on my laptop!

27 April 2016

Remember: Comparison is the thief of joy. This is a quote I took to heart. No matter how high you climb, it's always easy to worry about who has climbed higher, or if you are climbing fast enough.

I keep this quote on my writing desk and stare at it every day to remind myself never to compete against anyone except myself. There will always be someone better, and there will always be someone else who believes that I am better than they are. It doesn't matter a whit--what matters is your heart and your drive. And nothing else.

If you do NaNo--do it for you. If you make it--pat yourself on the back. If you don't, pat yourself on the back, too. You can always try the next go round.

28 April 2016

Dialogue is supposed to flow like spoken language. Character is revealed by great dialogue and should match the individual's speaking style. You might write something and think your dialogue sounds fine--but when you read it out loud, you'll hear if it has a natural cadence or sounds stilted.

29 April 2016

I’m a seriously nosy person--and since I don’t want to pry too much into the lives of everyone I meet, I tend to pry into my characters'. I'm borderline obsessed with planning my character's personal history--figuring out the family connections that reach back generations and contribute to making the character who they are.

In my current WIP, I delved into the history of the DaDa arts movement of the early 20th century and built my villain's past out of real and fabricated historic events. I connected my current day hero to this history as well--and wove my usual tangled mess, which I am still combing the knots out of. But man--has it been fun! You never know where your prying will take you!