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Camp Care Package/July 2019

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

July 2019's Camp Counselors were Kat Yeh, Kat Zhang, Katya de Becerra, and Yangsze Choo.

The care packages included daily writing challenges from the NaNoWriMo staff.

Kat Yeh

Kat Yeh was Camp Counselor for the first week of July 2019. Author bio included in the care packages:

Kat Yeh is the award-winning author of middle grade novels, The Way to Bea and The Truth About Twinkie Pie (an NPR Best Book of 2015 written during NaNoWriMo!) from Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, and picture book, The Friend Ship, from Disney-Hyperion—as well as others. Kat currently lives with her family in Philadelphia, PA. Learn more at katyeh.com Follow @yehface on Twitter.

P.S. You pronounce her last name YAY!

1 July 2019

Some people say write what you know—I say write what you feel.

After all, if there's one thing we all know, it's how we feel. Don't feel like writing today? Write about that. Somewhere in your story, there is a character who doesn't feel like doing something (A cloud that doesn't feel like making rain. A detective who doesn't feel like solving their case.) Same with being bored or frustrated or anxious or just sad. Your emotions are your strongest writing allies. And when you write from a place of real feelings, your reader will feel it, too.

Today's writing challenge: Take Kat's advice and spend 10 minutes just writing about how you feel in the moment. Then, write about that emotion from one of your character's perspectives.

2 July 2019

Stuck? Try this: Grab a pen and paper. Set a timer for 3 minutes and when it starts—just write. Write without lifting your pen and don't stop no matter what. Attack the scene that's bugging you. Don't worry that anyone will ever see it. This is just for you. Be loose and free and write every thought that comes to mind—how you feel about being stuck, your character, their situation. Even if it makes no sense, keep writing. You never know who or what may show up. Because, when you truly let loose, you'll find hidden gems.

Today's writing challenge: Have a character attack a problem head-on. Do they normally try to avert or go around obstacles? Make your character push straight through without stopping!

3 July 2019

Did you ever read a book and just feel so glad it exists?

Or maybe it was a single scene or one minor character who wandered in and out just long enough to connect with you.

At some point in your life, a story helped you feel Not Alone.

Because it rang true.

And something you write could do that for someone else out there. People respond to and connect with stories that feel vulnerable and honest. Whether they are sci-fi or mystery or romance or any genre.

So, go write your truth. Someone's waiting for it.

Today's writing challenge: Write a scene where a character thinks they're alone, but they're really not. It could be reassuring (a friend comes along to help them out of a tough situation) or sinister (an enemy spying on them) or accidental (a random person in the wrong place at the wrong time).

4 July 2019

Whenever I'm feeling anxious about writing, I say three things I'm grateful for. If I have trouble thinking of things, I start with easy ones:

I'm grateful for air.

I'm grateful I'm alive.

I'm grateful I live in a country with freedom of expression.

And work myself up to things related to my manuscript:

I'm grateful I have time to write.

I'm grateful for a place to use this emotion in a story.

I'm grateful I can try again tomorrow.

Gratitude is such a simple thing. It's precious and free and we can use it as much as we need.

Today's writing challenge: Now that you've thought about what you're grateful for, think about how this exercise applies to your character. Do they have a long list of things they're grateful for, or just a few things? Is it easy for them to recognize the things they're grateful for, or are they focused on or distracted by other events?

5 July 2019

Keep a notebook by your bed to write down anything you remember from your dreams. Even just feelings or images. Dreams are what happens when your brain free associates new information with the stuff it has in storage. It isn't worried about what anyone might think of what it comes up with. It's just putting images and ideas together in random ways. Trying out things for future use.

A lot of famous books have come from dreams.

Experiment with thinking and writing about your story in your notebook before you go to sleep. And see what happens.

Today's writing challenge: Write a dream from the point of view of one of your characters. What are the images and ideas swirling around in their head? In what weird or wacky ways do those images and ideas come together in their dream?

Kat Zhang

Kat Zhang was the second Camp Counselor for July 2019. Author bio included in the care packages:

Kat Zhang is an author of books for teens and children. Her Young Adult trilogy, The Hybrid Chronicles, is published with HarperCollins, and she has two Middle Grades, The Emperor's Riddle and The Memory of Forgotten Things, as well as two picture books, Amy Wu and the Perfect Bao and sequel Amy Wu and the Patchwork Dragon with Simon & Schuster. She wrote her first novel for NaNoWriMo a great many years ago! Follow @katzhang on Twitter.

8 July 2019

Whenever I'm frustrated and uninspired while drafting, I remind myself: You cannot revise a blank page. A first draft is raw material. It's not supposed to be pretty. It's not supposed to be perfect. It doesn't even have to be coherent! It just has to exist. This is why NaNoWriMo worked so well for my perfectionist brain. It let me focus on something less terrifying than "Write A Good Book" while I was still trying to push out the first draft.

Today's writing challenge: What sorts of unfinished projects are your characters working on? Do any of them have creative outlets? Do they share their creativity with others, or do they keep it a secret?

9 July 2019

Even the most Fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants writer can ease the way while drafting by doing what I think of as "mini-synopses". If plotting out your whole book isn't your style, but you find yourself writing yourself into corners or staring at a blank page, try describing what'll happen next in a stream-of-consciousness, synopsis-style paragraph or two. You can even stick in dialogue. This allows you to see the shape of the next few chapters (and possibly realize some sticking points!) before you commit to writing out everything in detail.

Today's writing challenge: Try writing a "mini-synopsis" for one of your chapters. It can be for a section of your project you haven't written yet, as Kat suggests; or it can be for a section you've already written to help you identify the most important moments of each scene.

10 July 2019

While reading good books is a great way to stay inspired as you write, sometimes inspiration strikes even better if you immerse yourself in a different medium of storytelling. I learn so much about writing from watching television, or movies, or going to a ballet. How does each medium use similar or differing techniques to get their stories across to the audience? How can you use these same techniques in your novel?

Today's writing challenge: Write a scene in which your main character is inspired by something surprising or unexpected!

11 July 2019

Character arcs and plot should be closely intertwined—each should affect the other. Does your plot push your character to develop and change? And does your character's growth allow them to then make decisions that shape the plot?

Today's writing challenge: Write a scene in which a character has to make a BIG decision. How does their choice influence the other characters? What events does this set in motion?

12 July 2019

Writing a first draft can be a lot of fun because at this point, anything can happen in your story. But for this same reason, it can also feel really daunting. Whenever I get overwhelmed by the possibilities, I go back to the basics. What was the initial kernel that made me want to write this book? A theme I wanted to explore? A character I wanted to bring to life? A relationship I wanted to write? Re-centering myself with this reminder of what made me fall in love with this story idea to begin with can be really helpful in deciding where to go next.

Today's writing challenge: What's your favorite thing about your writing project so far? Take 10 minutes to journal or freewrite about the things you absolutely love about your story. Then, if you need an extra push to start writing today, use that as inspiration to decide what to tackle next!

Yangsze Choo

Yangsze Choo was the third Camp Counselor for July 2019. Author bio included in the care packages:

Yangsze Choo is a NYTimes bestselling author of The Ghost Bride (soon to be a Netflix Original series) and The Night Tiger, Reese Witherspoon's Book Club Pick, Amazon's Spotlight Pick, and one of USA Today's best books of the year. Yangsze loves to eat and read, and often does both at the same time. She lives in California with her family and several chickens. Dark chocolate is her writing inspiration. Visit her blog at www.yschoo.com. Follow @yangszechoo on Twitter.

15 July 2019

Sometimes your characters will want to choose difficult or inconvenient things. It's all right. Let them go ahead. Later you can decide whether that fits in with the story arc or belongs elsewhere. There is no need to maintain perfection in your writing world. In fact, I find letting the characters wander around alternate storylines very helpful. Even if you never use the material, it adds richness and depth to the world—you will know whether character A is really the sort of person to do x and y!.

Today's writing challenge: Ask your characters what they really want to do. You could conduct an imaginary interview with them, author-to-character, or write a scene where they talk about their hopes and dreams with another character. Do their desires align with the plot of your story? Or is your plot forcing your character to do something they'd rather not?

16 July 2019

I am a very slow writer. It took me 5 years to write my first novel, The Ghost Bride, and then 4 years for The Night Tiger. Before that I spent 8 years writing another novel about an elephant detective that didn't go anywhere. So don't worry about taking time to write. Everybody has their own personal rhythm.

Today's writing challenge: Choose a specific point in time in your story, and write short summaries of what each of your characters are doing at that exact moment. This can include the obvious ones like your protagonist and antagonist, but what about your main character's mom? The villain's best friend? The innkeeper your characters stayed with way back in chapter three?

17 July 2019

Try to finish something. It doesn't have to be a full-length novel—for years I only wrote short stories, never thinking I could manage a novel—but I do think it is good for the practice of writing (and we are always learning, with each new draft) to actually finish a piece, no matter how short it is. Completing a short story, a poem, or a play etc. is a helpful experience in writing endings and conclusions. Plus, it takes the terror/mystique away from completing projects!

Today's writing challenge: Write (and finish!) a short piece related to your longer work in progress. Maybe it's a poem written by one of your characters, or a piece of flash fiction about a side character.

18 July 2019

The act of writing is to create, and sometimes it's easier to let that urge manifest itself in other ways, if you feel stuck. Draw, knit, cook, fix a bike, plant a garden, or make something with your hands—whatever renews you. It is often through doing something else that I feel rejuvenated about writing. Don't force it. The flow will come back to you.

Today's writing challenge: If you're not sure where to go next with your writing, create some kind of small project or craft that relates to your story. Whether it's drawing a map of one of your settings, creating the perfect playlist for your main character, or making a meal your characters might eat, do something that revitalizes you and rekindles your excitement for your story.

19 July 2019

If you feel your book is dragging, perhaps this is a sign that the slow bits aren't necessary. I think that readers can tell when the writer has lost interest in the narrative—from my own experience, those parts of the novel that I've particularly enjoyed writing are often the most alive and vivid. Don't be afraid to cut. Passages often find new life in other settings. I keep all sorts of loose thoughts and sentences in a Word doc while I'm working on a book. It's rather like having a bin of extra ideas!

Today's writing challenge: Look for a section of your project that feels boring or lackluster to you, then ask yourself, "What could happen here that would make me interested in this scene?" Write an alternative to that passage full of weird, wonderful, or high-stakes hijinks. It doesn't have to go in your final draft, but it might give you an idea of a way to make that section sparkle more!

Katya de Becerra

Katya de Becerra was the fourth Camp Counselor for July 2019. Author bio included in the care packages:

Katya de Becerra was born in Russia, studied in California, immigrated to Australia in 2006, and now lives in Melbourne. She earned a PhD in Anthropology from the University of Melbourne. She is a mentor with 1st5Pages Writing Workshop, where she provides free critique to help foster new writing talent. Released in 2018, her debut novel What The Woods Keep is a genre-bender combining mystery, science fiction, and dark fantasy. Her second novel Oasis is forthcoming in 2020. Follow @KatyaDeBecerra on Twitter.

22 July 2019

"Write what makes you blush" is my favorite writing advice. It comes from the brilliant non-fiction writer, Lee Kofman, but it translates well into other genres. Writing horror? Write what you fear! Your book is science fiction? Write what makes your inner science fan excited! Regardless of genre, you can draw on your personal knowledge, experiences and emotions to fuel your writing. It could really make a difference to how readers engage with your work and how well they relate to your characters.

Today's writing challenge: Take a few minutes to brainstorm scenes, characters, or themes in your project that make you react strongly—with fear or excitement, anxiety or satisfaction. It doesn't have to be cohesive—it can just be a list for you to look at when you're feeling discouraged or stuck!

23 July 2019

There's a multitude of resources and tools for writers out there. I've definitely tried many. Though, I find that for me the most effective writing tools are... pen and paper! And also post-it notes! We're all glued to our digital screens, and sometimes our brain needs a change. That's where handwriting comes in useful. If your book hit a roadblock, step away from the computer, pick up a pen and a notepad and jot down ideas. You can also use post-it notes to storyboard. Different color post-its can signify specific plot-lines or character arcs.

Today's writing challenge: Take Katya's advice and try writing with a different kind of writing tool or implement. You don't have to stick with it, but you may find that it jogs your creativity in different ways!

24 July 2019

Keep writing because someone out there is going to love your book. Someone out there needs your book. Someone out there is going to call you their "favorite writer". That feeling you get when you hear that readers have connected with your work, that they "got it" is so special it's totally worth all the creative agony that comes with writing, revising, querying agents, submitting to publishers and so forth. Keep writing.

Today's writing challenge: Write a scene where your main character meets a fan of theirs. What has your character done that this other person is excited about? Did your character know they had a fan, or is this a surprise?

25 July 2019

One of the first things I do when I start a new book project is write "character sketches". Think of these as extended bios for your protagonist and other important characters. Keep the sketches in a separate document and treat them as ever-evolving: they change, grow and get more complex as you flesh out your characters. I start each new sketch by asking questions like: What are this character's strengths and weakness? What do they want? What scares them? These sketches can help you figure out your characters' motivations and, hence, advance your plot.

Today's writing challenge: If you haven't already, draw up a character sketch for your main character. If you want an extra challenge, write a sketch of a minor or side character! See how many new things you can learn about your characters (take a look at our Character Interview blog post for ideas).

26 July 2019

Query is not only a pitching tool used to entice a literary agent to request your book, it can also be a great drafting tool. It can help you see your manuscript from a new angle. I tend to write a query for a new book when the manuscript is almost finished. Or even if I'm stuck halfway! Writing a query can reenergize your brain and answer whatever questions about your manuscript you're still struggling to answer—including how it ends!

Today's writing challenge: Take Katya's advice, and write a query for your novel, even if you're not planning on showing it to anyone else. How would you pitch your novel idea to an agent, publisher, or even just a friend? What plot points or characters feel exciting and original?