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Camp Care Package/April 2019

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This page contains the Camp Care Packages from Camp NaNoWriMo April 2019.

April 2019's Camp Counselors were Alexia Gordon, Adib Khorram, Lilliam Rivera, and Cass Morris.

This event's care packages included writing challenges from the NaNoWriMo staff.

Alexia Gordon

Alexia Gordon was Camp Counselor for the first week of April 2019. Author bio included in the care packages:

Alexia Gordon is a Virginia native, a physician by training, and an author by passion. She writes the Gethsemane Brown mysteries, from Henery Press: Murder in G Major (Lefty winner, Agatha nominee, Suspense Magazine Best Of); Death in D Minor; Killing in C Sharp; and Fatality in F. Find her on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or visit her website.

1 April 2019

I procrastinate. I'm the kid whose parents help her finish her science project the night before the Science Fair. The college student up until two a.m. writing a report due at noon. The adult waiting until she's forty-four to write seriously.

Why? Not laziness. Not apathy. Fear. Fear I don't live up to impossible self-imposed standards.

This April, I'm going to take fear on a hike deep into the woods surrounding Camp NaNoWriMo and leave it stranded. For the next thirty days, I'm going to write fearlessly. No procrastinating. I will vanquish fear.

Are you with me?

Today's writing challenge: Take Alexia's advice and don't procrastinate! Even if you don't know what you want to write yet, or where to start, just begin. You might be surprised where that beginning takes you!

2 April 2019

Every writer, while writing her current work, thinks of a hundred great stories she should write instead of her current work.

Don't change. Stick with one story for thirty days. Then, if you decide you'd rather write about unicorn bank robbers instead of singing fish, go ahead.

Don't forget those other ideas. Keep a notepad handy. Write them down. (To this day, I kick myself for not jotting down the Greatest Story Idea of All Time before it fled my mind.) Because unicorn bank robbers sound like a great sequel to singing fish.

Today's writing challenge: Take a few minutes to jot down those extra novel ideas that are trying to distract you from your current work in progress. Do they make you feel excited? Good! Use them as incentive to finish your current project, or take a look at them when you're feeling stuck.

3 April 2019

Everyone gets stuck. Five novels written and, still, sometimes I stare at the screen or page, mind blank. When that happens, I close my eyes. I imagine two of my characters in a room and let them talk. About anything. Sports. Weather. Groceries. Socks.

Eventually, they'll stop discussing scores, rain, laundry, and who forgot milk and get back to the plot. Sometimes chit-chat turns into plot points. A rained-out game ruins an alibi, a suspect is spotted in the dairy aisle, a clue found at the laundromat. Next time you're stuck, eavesdrop on your characters.

Today's writing challenge: Let your characters get into a conversation just for kicks. Don't worry about advancing plot, or leading to a revelation. Just let them shoot the breeze.

4 April 2019

Your mind's blank, your characters mute. Don't fear. (We left fear stranded in the woods, remember?) Borrow Chekov's gun.

Chekov wrote, "don't put a loaded gun onstage if no one's going to fire it" (only more eloquently and in Russian). What he meant was, don't make false promises to readers. What I mean is, that gun requires your characters to (re)act.

Do they pick it up? Call the police? Hide it from the police? Decide how they react. Write it. If guns aren't for you, use Chekov's doorbell or Chekov's phone call. Any event that requires a reaction works.

Today's writing challenge: Insert something unexpected in your story that makes your characters take action!

5 April 2019

The blank page can intimidate. All that—space—waiting to be filled with words. Your words. Where to start?

Try a writing prompt, a jumping off place to get you going, a diving board into the Camp NaNoWriMo pool of creativity.

Write a scene about:

  • A vampire and a bank heist
  • A ghost and a dysfunctional family
  • A private eye and a haunted house
  • An alien and a pizza parlor

Today's writing challenge: If none of the writing prompts above work for your story, come up with your own. Then share it with another writer you know!

Adib Khorram

Adib Khorram was the second Camp Counselor for April 2019. Author bio included in the care packages:

Adib Khorram is the author of Darius the Great Is Not Okay. If he's not writing (or at his day job as a graphic designer), you can probably find him trying to get his 100-yard Freestyle under a minute, learning to do a Lutz Jump, or steeping a cup of oolong. He lives in Kansas City, Missouri, where people don't usually talk about themselves in the third person. You can find him on Twitter (@adibkhorram), Instagram (@adibkhorram), or on the web at adibkhorram.com

8 April 2019

It's week two. With luck you've spent the last week falling into a routine; now it's time to maintain it. One of my favorite things about Camp is using it to form a new habit. At the beginning of 2019, a lot of people were using the hashtag #BAYMTGO: Begin As You Mean To Go On. You've already begun; now it's time to go on!

Today's writing challenge: Need some inspiration? Check out the #BAYMTGO hashtag. Then, either write your own, or write some tweets from your characters' point of view!

9 April 2019

Camp is one of the best ways to try something new. There are no hard goals, just the ones you set yourself. What can a new way of writing teach you? What can a new writing space teach you? What can new writing friends teach you? This is your chance to break out of a rut. Be bold!

Today's writing challenge: Try something different today if you need to break out of a rut: whether that's writing in a new space, switching from first to third person POV, or even just using a different pen! You never know what might unlock a new corner of creativity in your mind.

10 April 2019

I hear people use the phrase "aspiring writer" a lot. But writing isn't something you aspire to; if you write, you're a writer, pure and simple! Remind yourself of that, and take your work seriously.

Today's writing challenge: What does your main character aspire to? What actions do they take to make their dreams come true? At what point do they feel like they've accomplished their goal? Explore some possibilities with your characters.

11 April 2019

I'm a firm believer that you have to be a reader to be a writer. Find yourself stuck? Go read something to rekindle that creative fire. Something in the same genre, something in a different genre. Something that excites and inspires you. Something that reminds you why you want to write.

Today's writing challenge: Spend at least 10 minutes reading something you love. Afterwards, jot down a few ideas the book sparked that may be related to the project you're working on.

12 April 2019

One of the greatest gifts you can give to yourself as a writer is permission to change course. It can be scary to admit to yourself something is not working; it can feel like you've wasted time and words. But you haven't! You've learned and grown and you know what DOESN'T work, which means you're a lot closer to learning what DOES.

Today's writing challenge: Throw something totally unexpected into the next scene you write. Maybe a tree crashes into the house, or the main character finds a wallet with $1,000 in it—anything to take the story in a different direction for a page or two. If you like it, keep it! If not, delete it in your second draft!

Lilliam Rivera

Lilliam Rivera was the third Camp Counselor for April 2019. Author bio included in the care packages:

Lilliam Rivera is an award-winning writer and author of the young adult novels Dealing in Dreams and The Education of Margot Sanchez, both from Simon & Schuster and available now in bookstores everywhere. Her work has appeared in Elle, Los Angeles Times, Tin House, and The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, to name a few. Lilliam lives in Los Angeles. Follow @lilliamr on Twitter.

15 April 2019

Don't compare yourself to other writers or to their word counts. Your process is your own and no one has the winning formula. Writing is just sitting down and doing the work.

Today's writing challenge: Does your main character compare themselves to someone else? Write a scene where your character notices some of their own differences or similarities (either good or bad) with another character.

16 April 2019

Whenever I feel stuck in my writing I go right back to my characters and ask, "What is it that they want more than anything? What are they afraid of?" I keep asking questions and it reminds me of their journey.

Today's writing challenge: If you haven't yet, spend 10 minutes holding an interview with your character. You can use a Character Questionnaire, watch our interview video, freewrite from their point of view, or even draw a sketch of them.

17 April 2019

Try to dedicate time to your writing every day. What does that look like? It can be just writing a couple of sentences on your phone, writing for two hours, reading, or just thinking of your work.

Today's writing challenge: What can you do every day to work on your novel, even if you don't have time to sit down and write? Make a short list of small things you can do to keep moving forward: whether that's writing one word, one sentence, reading a related book, or even just opening your writing document.

18 April 2019

World-building can seem overwhelming. One trick is to avoid listing only large-scale details. Think of it like a camera; you want to zoom in and give readers specific details of your world.

Today's writing challenge: Zoom your writing camera all the way in—pick a room or a place in your story's world and spend 10 minutes listing all the things you see (including things that may be hidden or very, very small), or try the activities in our world-building webcast.

19 April 2019

I love hearing authors talk about craft and their writing journey. I often tune in to these podcasts for inspiration: First Draft, 88 Cups of Tea with Yin Chang, and B&N YA Podcast.

Today's writing challenge: Listen to Lilliam's interview on NaNoWriMo's own podcast, Write-minded. In it, she discusses writing the book you wish you could have read when you were younger. Then, make a list of books you loved when you were young, or of themes and characters that weren't represented much back then, but that you love to see and read now.

Cass Morris

Cass Morris was the fourth Camp Counselor for April 2019. Author bio included in the care packages:

Cass Morris works as a writer and educator in central Virginia, and she occasionally moonlights as a bookseller in the Outer Banks of North Carolina. She completed her Master of Letters at Mary Baldwin University in 2010, and she earned her undergraduate degree, a BA in English with a minor in history, from the College of William and Mary in 2007. She reads voraciously, wears corsets voluntarily, and will beat you at MarioKart. Her debut novel, From Unseen Fire: Book One of the Aven Cycle, is a Roman-flavored historical fantasy released by DAW Books. Follow @CassRMorris on Twitter.

22 April 2019

Inspire yourself by seeing something you've never seen before. It doesn't have to be a wild adventure: If you usually walk clockwise around the park, try going widdershins. What can you notice about the trees and flowers that you couldn't from another vantage point? If you usually write in one coffee shop, visit another. How does the character of the location change? Stare at the ceiling or the stars until you notice a pattern that's never caught your eye before. What does it remind you of?

Sometimes the brain needs a refresher, and a bit of newness in your world can be just the thing to reboot your creative thinking.

Today's writing challenge: Try out Cass's advice and write, walk, or visit somewhere new today to inspire your story! Bonus points: write a scene where your main character sees or notices something new or unusual.

23 April 2019

"The first draft is just you telling yourself the story." —Terry Pratchett

These are the words I remind myself of when I feel like a draft has lost all aim and focus. A final project needs to be tight and trim; the initial draft can be loose and gloriously messy.

Give yourself permission to explore, even if it may not serve your eventual end goal. Drafting is the time to wander the world. You might info-dump, you might create an irrelevant tangent, you might create contradictory scenes. That's all okay! The process is important in its own right.

Today's writing challenge: Have your main character explore something (it could be a place, an idea, or even a relationship) in a gloriously messy way.

24 April 2019

When I get stuck on a story, I often try switching to a different point of view—a side character, or even introducing someone new to the plot, someone with a different background and personality than the characters whose heads I've been in.

This might not be material you end up using, especially if you're writing a single or limited POV story, but just getting into another brain for a bit can help to shake things loose. The new perspective might help you figure out what wasn't working before!

It's also a great reminder that every character is the hero of their own story, even if they're the villain or sidekick in someone else's. Spending some time in their heads can help you create a full cast of characters with real emotional veracity.

Today's writing challenge: Today's dare from Cass: Play trope roulette! Bounce over to the automated story generator at TV Tropes and give it a spin. Take one or more of the randomly generated tropes and try to work it into today's words!

25 April 2019

Other people are a fantastic resource. When you're out in the world, listen to the stories they tell, even in the smallest snippets.

I was at a store last week with a bubbly manager who confessed she was worried her lipstick was starting to flake, because the area rep was coming in and she didn't want to look like she didn't have her act together. I got all that information in the time it took to check out! And it's a great character detail—a window into her life, what she considers important, and how her anxiety manifests.

Watch and listen, wherever you are. Every interaction is an opportunity to spice your writing with details to make your characters come alive.

Today's writing challenge: Spend some time being a spy (well, a writer-spy). Go to a spot you can people watch (even if that's your own kitchen) and take notes on what you hear and see, especially small, unique details.

26 April 2019

I'm not a big fan of exercising, but I've been making an honest go of it since New Year's. There are a lot of times when, twenty or twenty-five minutes into a half-hour workout, I want to give up. I'm tired. Everything hurts. I don't possibly have the strength to go on.

But y'know what? I always keep going. Because it's just a few more minutes, a little more effort. And how could I forgive myself if I gave up that close to the end?

Camp NaNoWriMo might feel like that exhausting exercise right now, and you might be ready to throw in the towel. Who would know, after all?

You. You would know! So don't disappoint yourself. Give that final burst of effort, and we'll all cross that finish line together.

Today's writing challenge: Make your main character participate in some kind of exercise or sport that they don't normally do, either mental or physical.