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Camp Care Package/April 2017

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This page contains the Camp Care Packages from Camp NaNoWriMo April 2017.

April 2017's Camp Counselors were Karuna Riazi, Heidi Heilig, Kami Garcia, Preeti Chhibber, and Danielle Paige.

Karuna Riazi

Karuna Riazi was Camp Counselor for the week preceding April 2017. Author bio included in the care packages:

Karuna Riazi is a born and raised New Yorker. Besides being an overworked undergraduate senior in the English department at Hofstra University, she is an online diversity advocate, blogger, and publishing intern. The Gauntlet (S&S/Salaam Reads, March 28, 2017) is her MG debut.

28 March 2017

Look at the people who inspire you, and choose one trait to take on in your own writing. It doesn't have to be their distinct voice. Don't venture too far into the quicksand of, "But I cannot write like them. I'm not brilliant like that."

Reach out and pick the first gleaming fruit off their tree—perhaps, their love of description, their talent for playful banter, or even their deft weaving in of beloved pop culture.

See if you can focus on that skill as you prepare to write. See how you can work that gift yourself, or how you might have already been displaying your own talents with it without even thinking about it.

29 March 2017

Today, I have a dare for you: Switch it up.

Find a new place you could settle in and work. Add a new song or two to your playlist. Indulge that itch to write a bit of a scene you're looking forward to instead of outlining or waiting to start. Give your love interest a little more indulgence and write a page or two from their point of view, even if it won't make it into your manuscript.

See what you can do to expand the horizons of your process, or how you currently see your process, and surprise yourself by finding what you may actually like, or what might work for you that you didn't consider.

30 March 2017

I'm going to quote the wise YA author Justina Ireland today and offer you a little of the wisdom I've learned from her: "Slow the f*ck down." (Asterisk mine.)

This month will be a marathon. You'll be measuring out words, thoughts, probably even your breathing. You'll look at your cabin's word counts or that of your friends and think, "I'm wasting my time."

Let yourself slow down. You'll need to remember that idle daydreams, little scenarios dreamed up while you're listening to your carefully curated playlist, and even downtime with your favorite video game or cuddling your cat is part of the process.

So, remember to slow down when your brain gets too busy. Take that breath so your lips aren't blue. Take the time you need to relax, to be comfortable and to give your writing the care it deserves.

31 March 2017

Sometimes, you need a dragon at your heels, breathing fire and threatening destruction, to really put aside your burdens and find out what's important.

If you're worried that every writing session you set aside won't yield anything but empty space, more additions to your Pinterest boards or a few demolished candy bars—you might need a little more motivation.

Try a site like Write or Die, where you have to keep typing or watch your words fade away into oblivion. Depending on how you set the timer, it'll give you a little room to agonize over every letter you manage to think up and more concern about reaching your word count quota for the day—and you don't even need to invest in a good, flame-proof set of armor to do it.

1 April 2017

Tape over your Delete key. Press it down. Blot it out with stickers that shed glitter all over your fingers, colorful strips of washi, and a stray label or two. Turn your eyes away from it. Try to ignore the itch that reminds you it's still there, underneath all the colorful detritus, and place all of your attention on the blank screen.

Now. Write. Write for a few minutes. Write one or two words. But do not delete any of it. If you must, give yourself some space from it. Give yourself a moment to let the wild, teeming wonders of your brain clamber over your empty page. See what else is hiding inside of you that needs some freedom to come out.

Heidi Heilig

Heidi Heilig was the Camp Counselor for the first full week of April. Author bio included in the care packages:

Heidi Heilig is the author of the YA historical fantasy The Girl From Everywhere and the sequel, The Ship Beyond Time. She holds an MFA from NYU's Graduate Musical Theatre Writing Program. She is bipolar, biracial, and pansexual, and enjoys surprise twist endings.

3 April 2017

I came from a playwriting background, so I really enjoy writing dialogue. One trick I've used since those early days is to enlist friends as actors to read dialogue aloud with me, taking out all the attributions.

4 April 2017

For me, writer's block masquerades as procrastination. When I find myself refreshing Facebook ad nauseum, rewatching boring videos on YouTube, or wanting to do the dishes? That usually signals that I'm stuck on my manuscript. Because let's face it—when the words are flowing, I'd rather be writing!

Once I realize I'm not really interested in cat videos, I can work to identify the sticking point in my manuscript—a knotty plot issue, a character that isn't clicking, a world-building issue that needs solving—and get back to work!

5 April 2017

The question people most often ask when building characters is: who? Who is this person? Lists often follow of likes, dislikes, looks, and other (important!) things.

But for me, the next question must always be why? Why are they like this? Why do they love and hate the things they do? Why do they look and dress and talk this way? For me, rich characters have reasons behind their choices!

6 April 2017

Have you eaten lately? Rested? Taken time to relax and let your mind wander? Sometimes we get so focused on putting words on the page that we forget to take care of ourselves. But remember, those words come from inside you, and if you're empty, you'll have a very hard time trying to be productive!

7 April 2017

When action starts to slow down or the plot loses focus, I find it's usually because I've lost sight of my main character's goal. They should always have something they want that they don't have yet, and they should always be trying to get it!

The same goes for most side characters, too—the real fun is when two characters' goals are at direct odds!

Danielle Paige

Danielle Paige was the camp counselor for the second full week of Camp NaNoWriMo's April 2017 session. Author bio included in the care packages:

Danielle Paige is the New York Times bestselling author of the Dorothy Must Die series, and the upcoming Stealing Snow series. In addition to writing books, she works in the television industry, where she's received a Writers Guild of America Award and was nominated for several Daytime Emmys. She is a graduate of Columbia University and lives in New York City.

10 April 2017

My first writing job was in soaps (Guiding Light and later, Days of Our Lives) and it was there that I got my favorite piece of advice. A development exec told me once that every scene or chapter must end with an actual or metaphorical slap. That doesn't mean that every scene should be filled with melodrama. It means that even the quietest scenes should have an arc: a beginning, middle, and end, punctuated with some kind of decision, revelation, etc. At the end of a chapter, readers should feel the impact of the "slap" and have to turn the page for more.

In other words, your writing needs momentum. Every chapter should move the story and the characters forward. And if it doesn't, cut it. The "slap" can be a broken heart or a bullet, but readers should feel it long after they've read it and it should keep them wanting more.

11 April 2017

I am letting you in on a little secret: I have never been camping in real life. But I would imagine that this is the week of Camp where you have have gotten through the rush of meeting new characters and getting familiar with your world, and you're now ready to get down to reality of the day to day. You are about to enter the dreaded middle. The part of the story that is scarier to most than any campfire story.

Take a deep breath, and take a minute to congratulate yourself for getting this far. You are writing a book, and whether you are in chapter 5, or chapter 20, you are on your way! Now, keep writing!

12 April 2017

One of the hardest things for some writers is showing their work to someone else for the first time. I know that you are probably nowhere near the end. But maybe it's time to talk out your story.

Hearing yourself explain it out loud might help you work out what is missing from your story and help you get over any hurdles. One more thing: choose a person who can be honest, incisive, and kind.

13 April 2017

Your characters' obstacles might not be of the high fantasy kind, but thinking about how your characters would react in extreme situations teaches you things about who they are—things that you can use in your own story.

Put your characters in Hogwarts, or Oz, or some other realm that you know well. What does your character do? What house are they sorted into? How do they react when faced with a Big Bad like Voldemort or The Wicked Witch? And if you find you don't know if your character is a Slytherin or a Ravenclaw, or what they do when they drop a house on a certain witch, then maybe it's time to answer those questions before moving back to your book.

14 April 2017

There is moment in every manuscript where the world clicks into place. You can find that on page 20 or page 337. For me, in my book Dorothy Must Die, it was meeting my Goth munchkin in the middle of the yellow brick road in chapter three. It was then that the world finally made sense and the characters started to speak to me. In Stealing Snow, that moment was much later, when my Snow Queen in-the-making meets the River Witch.

Every moment after that 'click' isn't automatic or easy, writing-wise. But you've done the work—the world building, the character development, the plotting—and the world you've created has become more than words on the page. It's alive!

Preeti Chhibber

Preeti Chhibber was the Camp Counselor for the third full week of Camp NaNoWriMo's April 2017 session. Author bio included in the care packages:

Preeti Chhibber works as a book-slinger for Scholastic Reading Clubs. She has words on BookRiot, BookRiot Comics, and The Mary Sue, among others. You can find her co-hosting the podcast Desi Geek Girls and hosting RIVERDALE: #HotArchie Edition. She usually spends her time reading a ridiculous amount of Young Adult (for work, she swears!), but is also ready to jump into most fandoms at a moment's notice.

18 April 2017

It's week three, and you might be feeling a little spent. But you know what? It's already week 3! You got here! That's amazing!

Take breaks if you need to, then come back to your writing. Remember, your words don't have to be perfect. Revision is your friend, not your enemy. Get the words on the page. You got this.

19 April 2017

Be healthy! Week three means you're within sight of your goal. Sustain yourself: drink water, don't forget to eat, and sleep—I know it sounds like a no-brainer, but it's so easy to just keep going and not think about the next day. It's about the marathon not the sprint.

I keep a water bottle on hand at all times, and if I know I've scheduled a writing day, I try to get to bed early the night before so I'm well-rested. (Also: I highly recommend cucumbers + a special salt called jiralu as a snack. It is nom-worthy.)

20 April 2017

"Even printed, on pages that are bound, sentences remain unsettled organisms. Years later, I can always reach out to smooth a stray hair. And yet, at a certain point, I must walk away, trusting them to do their work. I am left looking over my shoulder, wondering if I might have structured one more effectively." — Jhumpa Lahiri

One of the worst things we do to ourselves is think that we don't belong, or we're not good enough to be a writer. I remember reading this quote and thinking: Oh, I get that. I know that feeling. We're all writers, and we all belong.

21 April 2017

If you're stuck, that might mean you need to walk away for a minute. Take a walk, see some friends, do something that turns your brain off.

It's difficult to sustain creativity, your brain gets tired and needs a break as much as your body does. Sometimes all you need is to let your brain relax into inspiration. When my brain is overworked, I make some tea and fall into a Youtube Bollywood musical hole. It re-energizes me.

Kami Garcia

Kami Garcia was the final Camp Counselor for Camp NaNoWriMo's April 2017 session. Author bio included in the care packages:

Kami Garcia is the #1 New York Times bestselling co-author of the Beautiful Creatures and Dangerous Creatures novels. Kami's solo novels include Unbreakable and Unmarked (The Legion Series), The X-Files Origins: Agent of Chaos, and The Lovely Reckless. Kami is a cofounder of YALLFEST and a member of the NaNoWriMo Writer's Board. She was a teacher for seventeen years before coauthoring her first novel on a dare from her students.

25 April 2017

I'm going to tell you a secret—a big one. I hate drafting. I love coming up with a concept and a premise, fleshing out characters and using a beat sheet to plot my novel. After all the brainstorming, plotting, character building, and outlining, it's time to start drafting. But I don't want to do it.

Why? The draft never reads as beautifully as the story in my head. I get discouraged, frustrated, scared, and angry. Drafting can be messy and uncomfortable, sometimes even painful. Keep going: the fun starts when the draft is done and it's time to revise.

26 April 2017

About halfway through the month, I start seeing disheartened tweets and posts on social media from people who report they are "losing" Camp NaNoWriMo. The structure of NaNoWriMo—the daily and final word-count goals, writing sprints, and sense of community—is what makes it fun and effective.

But you aren't "losing" if you can't hit the daily word count. If you have more words than you had before you started NaNoWriMo you are winning. You're closer to finishing your book and achieving your goals. You only lose if you don't try.

27 April 2017

Here's a dare for you: choose your favorite villain or overlooked character in your project and create a sympathetic backstory for them. Did one traumatic event send them down a dark path?

28 April 2017

Do not compare your work-in-progress to a published novel with a beautiful cover that is hanging out on the bookstore or library shelf. And definitely don't compare your first draft to that novel. I've done this. My draft looked ugly and under-dressed next to the shiny new release on my nightstand.

Before my first novel Beautiful Creatures was published, I had no idea how many times my co-author and I would re-write and revise the chapters. We couldn't have imagined the amount of refining and polishing we would have to do after our editor gave us notes and line edits and the copy-editors checked the manuscript. Comparing your WIP to a published novel is like expecting cake batter to take like a frosted cake. Give yourself a break. Your batter will end up tasting like a cake, too. But you have to let it bake first.