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Camp Care Package/April 2018

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This page contains the Camp Care Packages from Camp NaNoWriMo April 2018.

April 2018's Camp Counselors were Taran Matharu, Helen Hoang, Sarah Raughley, and Amy Spalding.

These care packages included writing challenges from the NaNoWriMo staff.

Taran Matharu

Taran Matharu was Camp Counselor for the first week of April 2018. Author bio included in the care packages:

Taran Matharu is a New York Times bestselling author. He was born in London in 1990 and began his first book at 9 years old. Taran wrote the Summoner series during NaNoWriMo in November 2013, at the age of 22. Updating the story daily on Wattpad.com, its popularity dramatically increased, reaching over 3 million reads in less than six months, and becoming published as a bestselling series. Since then, the book has been translated into 15 languages around the world.

2 April 2018

As with all writers, there will be days where you're just not in the mood. But what happens if you tell yourself that you're only going to write a few sentences rather than skipping a day? Open up the manuscript and start writing, just for a few minutes. You will be shocked at how quickly you are pulled back in and the words mount up. Sometimes I go well above my daily target when starting like this. Even if you don't, something is better than nothing, right?

Today's writing challenge: Take Taran's advice and just start writing, even if you don't feel like it or don't know exactly where where your story is going. You can do this any time you have a few minutes to spare—waiting in line, on the bus, while your shower's heating up. Make a start on your project!

3 April 2018

It's easy to convince yourself you've earned a break from writing, especially when you come back home after a long day and there's something good on TV. My advice is to embarrass yourself into writing. Announce your goal to the world, both on social media and to your friends and family. You should also promise to update them on your progress as you go, so they know if you skip a day or fail to meet your target. It's rather like running a marathon. You can't say you're going to do it and then chicken out, right?

Today's writing challenge: Tell someone what your writing goal is this month, whether it's your best friend, your cabin mates, or everyone you know on the internet. Ask someone to check in with you about your progress daily or weekly. Sometimes, just knowing that you'll be held accountable can give you that extra push.

4 April 2018

We all write differently; some of us are plotters, some of us just wing it. But when you're writing so much so quickly and are trying to hit a word count, it can be easy to write yourself into a corner or fill your manuscript with pointless descriptions as you flounder for what happens next. I'm not suggesting you should always plan out the entire novel, but it can be good to have a rough structure first, so you know in which direction to take the story.

Today's writing challenge: If you don't already have an outline or structure for your writing project, make one! It can be as rough or as detailed as you want to make it.

5 April 2018

For me, finding readers was a very important factor. There is nothing more encouraging than feedback on your work. Writing is usually a solitary activity, but why not make it a social one? Feedback on your work triggers the reward center of your brain, helping you build good habits. It also affirms that your story is one people enjoy reading. I found Wattpad was a great place to find these readers (it's a very positive community). Family, friends and colleagues can be just as good too, and if they're biased to be more positive than a stranger... all the better!

Today's writing challenge: Talk to someone about your writing project! It can be scary or difficult to talk about your story when it's not done yet, but try to push through that. Even if you share as little as your basic premise or one paragraph with someone, you can get some valuable feedback.

6 April 2018

This is a secret I wish I'd been told a long time ago. It's significantly easier to start writing on a half-finished sentence or scene, allowing you to easily pick up where you left off and quickly get back in the zone. Equally, if I finish a chapter, I always make a start on the next one while the writing juices are flowing, no matter how tempting it is to stop there. That way, I don't start my next session staring at the blank page of a new chapter.

Today's writing challenge: Take Taran's advice, and wrap up your writing today mid-sentence, mid-paragraph, mid-chapter. If you reach a point where things wrap up nicely and you would normally stop writing, write just a little bit more to give yourself a jumping off point for tomorrow.

Helen Hoang

Helen Hoang was Camp Counselor for the second week of April 2018. Author bio included in the care packages:

Helen Hoang is that shy person who never talks. Until she does. And the worst things fly out of her mouth. She read her first romance novel in eighth grade and has been addicted ever since. In 2016, she was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder in line with what was previously known as Asperger's Syndrome. Her journey inspired The Kiss Quotient, which releases in June 2018. She lives in San Diego, California with her husband, two kids, and pet fish.

9 April 2018

Frequently when I'm drafting, I need to get rid of the garbage I've written and start with a clean page. Do it if you have to! But save everything first. There might be brilliant phrases (or even the whole thing) that you'll want to use later, and you can't if it's gone. Delete nothing.

Today's writing challenge: Create a document (or use a notebook, if you're a handwriter) just for the pieces of your story that don't quite fit. If you come across something you've written that no longer works, drop it in that document to use as inspiration later!

10 April 2018

Feeling Imposter Syndrome? Me too! But remember that beautiful message you wanted to convey? That shiny reason why you wanted to write THIS BOOK? Cling to that. Think of why you're passionate about this project and put it all on the page. Sometimes in order to say something well, you need to say it crappily first. Do your best. Fix it later.

Today's writing challenge: Make a list of the things that stop you from writing—the feelings or thoughts that come up and make you want to throw in the towel. Then, go through each point and write a counter-argument or plan to combat that feeling. (For example, if the thing that stops you from writing is feeling like you don't have enough time, plan to set a timer for just 5 or 10 minutes a day to write.)

11 April 2018

How can you keep writing if you're feeling stuck? For me, sometimes it's as simple as switching POVs. If that doesn't work, I question why this scene is important. Is it moving the plot and the character arcs forward? Is there any conflict? If not, how can I add conflict? Key point: Does this scene elicit emotion in ME? What does it need to get a reaction from ME?

Today's writing challenge: If you feel like you're in a writing rut, try switching something up to get the juices flowing again! Use Helen's advice to change the POV, introduce some conflict, or add in something completely different. What can you write that will elicit an emotional reaction in yourself?

12 April 2018

The excitement is gone. Maybe I should play on social media, watch TV, or take a nap. For me, this is when I start collecting new music until I find a song or songs (usually one is enough for me) that I really like and can play on repeat. It becomes a drug. When I'm high on music, my brain fires with the need to create, and my excitement is revived. Art makes art. (Side note: When I'm writing hard, I burn through a lot of music.)

Today's writing challenge: Find some art that inspires you to create your own. It can be anything: a piece of music, a painting, a dance, a novel. It can be created by you or someone else. Write about how it makes you feel, the things that you find compelling about it. Let it fire up your imagination.

13 April 2018

"I'm too stressed to write. I'm afraid I'm going to fail." Play your music louder. Get lost in it. Get lost in your words and your story. Fight the voices in your head, for just thirty minutes if that's all you can manage. Take a short break, and then do it again. And again. And again and again and again. Until you write THE END.

Today's writing challenge: Set a timer for increasing amounts of time to write today. Start with 5 minutes, then take a break. Then set a timer to write for 10 minutes, and do the same. Increase the amount of time you write until you either hit your goal for the day or get to a place where you want to keep writing even when the timer goes off.

Sarah Raughley

Sarah Raughley was the Camp Counselor for the third week of April 2018. Author bio included in the care packages:

Sarah Raughley grew up in Southern Ontario writing stories about freakish little girls with powers because she secretly wanted to be one. She is a huge fangirl of anything from manga to scifi/fantasy TV to Japanese role-playing games, but she will swear up and down at book signings that she was inspired by Jane Austen. On top of being a YA writer, Sarah has a PhD in English, which makes her doctor, so it turns out she didn't have to go to medical school after all.

16 April 2018

This month is gonna go by in a flash. But every day you sit down and write, you need to remind yourself that there are so few people who can do what you're doing. I still have friends and family amazed that I can write "that many pages." I'm amazed. Because it's amazing. What you're doing is amazing. Don't get caught up in feeling bad about the writing quality (it's just a first draft!) or worrying about reviews. Just know that what you're doing is inspiring, pat yourself on the back, and get ready for the next week!

Today's writing challenge: If you're feeling discouraged or stuck, start making a list of the things you've accomplished with your writing so far. Even the smallest things, like making an outline, or writing the first sentence, are steps in the right direction. If you keep building on them, they'll eventually come together and snowball into the story you want to create.

17 April 2018

Here's a fun writing prompt for those of you thinking of how to spice up your scenes and plot. Is there a throw-away character you introduced? Someone that's just kind of there to move the story along? A background character? A mom? A side character? The principal? A person your character passed on the street? I want you to take that character and give them an ugly backstory. Then think of how that character can be driven by their origins to royally screw up your main character's central goal. Make that throw-away character not so throw-away.

Today's writing challenge: Try out Sarah's prompt. Who is the side character that you're fleshing out? What are their goals and motivations?

18 April 2018

I personally don't subscribe to the idea that you should never read what you've already written while you're still drafting. I mean, I get it—you want to keep the writing momentum rolling. But as the weeks go on and the writing gets a little harder, sometimes you might find it more difficult to keep going. I really recommend going back and re-reading the early scenes that you just love. Don't bother with the ones you hate or the ones you will probably cut. When you find yourself in a rut, read those brilliant YAAAS moments to recharge the fuel!

Today's writing challenge: Take Sarah's advice and find a scene, chapter, or even just a character description you've written that you feel really proud of. What do you love about it? How might you be able to use this to keep your interest and enthusiasm alive for the rest of your project?

19 April 2018

My mom always used to say, "What is worth doing is worth doing well." And she's right! But when it comes to NaNoWriMo, what does it mean to do something "well"? As you write, remember that this is a first draft. Heck for some people, it's Draft 0. Just getting something down and participating, just putting yourself out there and trying, in my opinion, is doing NaNo well. Remember, your work doesn't need to be perfect. Perfect is boring. Just put the words down and when the dust settles, see where the story can grow from there!

Today's writing challenge: As you're writing, cherish the moments or sections of your writing that you think are going really well. If you're feeling discouraged, or come across something you wrote that you don't think is "good enough", remind yourself that just the fact that you're writing means it's good enough! You can always change it later.

20 April 2018

As a writer, there's lots to fear as you write your book. Think about the doubts that creep into your head as you trudge along and the page count gets bigger.

What if people hate this? What if after all this work I've put in, this book ends up getting shelved?

Think about those doubts...

...and shrug.

What we fear doesn't have to come to pass, and even if it does, it's not the end of the world. But if we stop because of fear, we'll never achieve our dreams.

No matter what, keep moving forward.

Today's writing challenge: Recognize the fears that you face when writing your story. What you're doing is brave, and worthy, no matter what those fears try to tell you. Take a deep breath, and keep writing.

Amy Spalding

Amy Spalding was the Camp Counselor for the final week of April 2018. Author bio included in the care packages:

Amy Spalding grew up in St. Louis, but now lives in the better weather of Los Angeles. She has a B.A. in Advertising & Marketing Communications from Webster University, and an M.A. in Media Studies from The New School. Amy studied longform improv at the Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre. By day, she manages the digital media team for an indie film advertising agency. By later day and night, Amy writes, performs, and pets as many cats as she can. She is the author of five young adult novels, including her latest, The Summer of Jordi Perez (and the Best Burger in Los Angeles).

23 April 2018

Writing a first draft can be so scary—especially when you feel like it isn't great. You don't know where it's going or how it's going to fit together. The good news is that even a bad first draft is a huge achievement! For most writers—seriously, almost every single one of them—editing and revising are when the magic happens. But you can't revise something that doesn't exist. Your draft doesn't have to be good right now! Just get those words down. I promise you'll have something you can dig into later.

Today's writing challenge: If you're feeling discouraged, take a look back through what you've written to find one moment (it can be as small as a sentence or a turn of phrase) where the words just magically flowed out of you in exactly the right way. Remember that the more you write, the more of those magical moments will happen!

24 April 2018

I used to think that I had to write important works of literary fiction or I shouldn't even bother trying. It feels silly in retrospect; I rarely even like to read important works of literary fiction! I like romantic comedies. I love stories where groups of friends figure stuff out together. I live for makeover scenes and love interests with great hair. And as soon as I stopped trying to be a writer I never was going to be and leaned into what I really loved, writing didn't just get easier, it got a whole lot more fun.

Today's writing challenge: Make a list of the things you love to read or see in stories. Pick something from the list and write a scene that revolves around that item, character, or event. If you love reading it, you'll probably love writing it, too!

25 April 2018

"Write every day," they say. Well, sometimes you can't. That's OK! "Real writers have MFAs," they tell you. Nah, some do, some don't. "Day jobs are for hobbyists, not published authors," you'll hear. It's news to me as someone with a day job as well as published books.

The truth is that any advice that seems to hold you back is advice you can probably ignore. There are so many journeys to publication and so many ways to be a writer. The only way that matters is the one that works for you.

Today's writing challenge: Identify the things that make you feel discouraged about your writing. Remember that these things are just holding you back! As Amy pointed out, there are many different ways to achieve your creative dreams. Find one that works for you.

26 April 2018

If you're stuck, think about the last story you loved. It doesn't have to be a novel; it could be a musical, your favorite TV series, even a commercial that moved you to tears (look, it happens). Think of the joy or the catharsis or the side-splitting laughter that creative work gives you. Maybe that's the thing to infuse into your work. Inspiration can come from all over, and I bet if something moves you, that's a feeling that others are looking for too.

Today's writing challenge: Follow Amy's advice and find a story—of any kind—that moves and inspires you! Then take those strong feelings and channel them into your own work.

27 April 2018

If you get feedback that you disagree with, it's OK to disregard it. But I often try to figure out why that person gave me that feedback. Maybe they tell you it'd be cool if there were a big explosion in the story, and that sounds bananas to you. But they might be getting at the fact that nothing big or exciting happens. I bet there's a big or exciting thing you could write about that isn't an explosion and would have lots to do with your story. I even do this with my own bad ideas!

Today's writing challenge: Think about the advice and feedback you've gotten about your stories. What are some things that keep coming up? These might be indicators of parts of your writing you can focus on more. (If you haven't shown your work to anyone yet, try asking someone for feedback!)