If you are like 90% of Americans, you’ve probably never heard of Camp NaNo, even if you have heard of its terrifying counterpart and older sister, NaNoWriMo *shivers at the memories of sleep deprivation and caffeine abuse*
I’ll lay it out simply for you:
-There are cabins that you can create or join on the site to “hang” with your buddies or get randomly assigned with new writing friends.
-Forums allow you to share snippets of your story and offer up encouragement, advice, and fangirling during your cabin mates’ writing process.
-And the best part is that YOU set your own goals for April!
That’s right. During the month-long fest of awesomeness that is Camp NaNo, you decide a realistic word count goal that works for you. Or if you’re better at managing chapters or pages, then use that as your motivational guide. You can work as hard as you want to, and instead of burning yourself out by reaching 50,000 words in 30 days, you can set a goal of 30,000 words (like me!). And the best part of April is the community of writers you get connected with, who are aspiring and struggling to meet goals or connect ideas just like you.
I have never been to camp and haven’t *cough* successfully participated in Camp NaNo before. I know, the horror! But knowing that my circle of amazing encouragers and beta-readers and writer-friends has grown so much makes me want to dive right in and tackle whatever goal I’ve set for myself. That’s my favorite part of Camp, just understanding a goal and having the support you need to reach it or the Oreos and coffee when you don’t. As cheesy as it sounds, it isn’t about the goals you set but the journey and the people along the way.
So here’s to the next 30 days, friends. I have a feeling it will be epic!
And stay tuned this month for more Fangirl’s Survival Guide posts and Camp NaNo updates.
I returned from another fun-filled day at San Diego Comic Con (swag, books, panels, fun. Details to come!) to a surprise package on my doorstep.
Yes, my copies of Defying Shadows have arrived!!! I requested a few more copies of Chasing Shadows, and I’m so excited to bring these with me when I fly out to Pennsylvania for Realm Makers next week. And I’ll admit I had some fun staging little mock battles between Damien (Hook) and Will (Arrow).
Also, a ton of people on Facebook are already posting pictures of their copies of the book that arrived on their doorsteps today, and I’m so excited that this is finally happening. I know you’ll laugh and cry and hate some of the characters while sobbing over others with all the love you have in your heart. But I hope, most of all, that these characters stay with you for a long time, as I know they’ll live in my heart forever.
Find your own copy of Defying Shadows, the final book in the Rising Shadows Trilogy, on Amazon today. If you post your pics of your copy, use #TeamHood and tag @TownsendTales for a surprise!
And don’t forget that the Rafflectoper giveaway only goes through 11:59pm this Sunday. So follow the link below to enter to win an Amazon gift card and your own paperback copy of Defying Shadows
Wow, has it really been so long since I last posted?! . . . . Oopsies! Got a little distracted there for a bit, but now I’m back on track and ready to get at it. Now, where were we? Ah, yes:
Writing is an Art, I Tell You!
Part 6: The Tricks of the Trade
Things a writer should definitely be aware of:
In the modern age, it’s crazy simple to search “Writing conferences in your area” and get a ton of hits. Conferences are going on all the time and are a great way to expand your network and learn things about the industry that you never even imagined.
I’m attending Realm Makers at the end of July. It takes place in Pennsylvania and is an awesome conference for Christian spec-fic writers to share their stories and learn about the craft. I’ve had the pleasure of getting connected with authors and speakers who will be in attendance this year, and their encouragement and lively attitude is incredible. I hope you’ll join us there, and registration is open now!
This app saved my life while editing Chasing Shadows! (download the free version here) I was going bonkers reading the manuscript over and over, and then I discovered this bad boy. I would copy and paste a few chapters at a time into the app, and then while I’m cleaning the house or getting ready for work, I could audibly catch errors that my eyes had just skipped right over by the 32nd edit. When you read you manuscript so much, your brain just auto-fills, and although the monotone voice can be a little grating at first, this was such an invaluable tool! I’m also pretty positive it saved me from chucking Chasing Shadows right out the window.
I joined PicMonkey a little while ago, but never really took full advantage of its process until recently. It saves so much time and makes every announcement or advertisement look so much more Wow! when you can create your own graphics over an image and design it specifically for your event/announcement.
This website is fantastic! I have it bookmarked on my phone so whenever I have a quick grammar issue to check, and I can just look up the problem super quick and be done with it, rather than stare at the screen vacillating between whether I’m right or wrong.
Evernote—basically it links all of your devices and the work you do on them so you’re never without it! I’m still getting used to it, but it’s pretty fantastic and handy.
Click to Tweet—now this is awesome! I’ve seen Nadine and other bloggers use this little tool, and it. Is. Marvelous! It’s only free for the first month, but for a measly $7 a month, I can embed links for people to easily tweet about anything I post on or share. Just invest, okay?!
Well, that’s about it for today. I promise not to let so much time pass before I chat your eyes off next time. But until then, stay crazy, Shadows!
Writing is an Art, I Tell You!
Part 4: Oops, You’re Dead!
This post was going to be so large I had to break it into two, so next week we’ll discuss how a character moves from the drawing board into (semi) reality. I’m working backward, but I couldn’t resist when I found the perfect gifs to address the idea of dealing with a character once they’ve spent enough time in your story—also known as *cough* knowing when to kill them. When has a character reached their end? When is it useful to kill them off? The former is the most important question you can ask in regards to a character’s demise.
One frustrating thing I’ve encountered as a reader is the unnecessary death count just for the sake of having someone die. It’s like an author reached the end of their story, slapped a palm to their forehead, and remembered they were supposed to kill somebody off, so they choose some background character to avoid upsetting the plot. But was I attached to them? No. Did their death affect me in any way? Hardly. And if this is the case, then odds are the protagonist’s emotions over this character’s death won’t matter to you, which is exactly the opposite of what should happen. You should be emotional, justified, or outraged they died; their death is pointless if you aren’t wildly flipping through the pages to see if they’ll make it, or running like mad to stop the author from writing them out of your series.
As a writer, everything we do should have a purpose, especially when it concerns death. I read so many books where filler is everywhere (snooze), and while most understand that not every moment of a story can be action-packed or filled with romance, creating dialogue or descriptions for the sake of word count is just lazy writing; you should be able to engage your readers and give them information they’ll need later on without putting them to sleep.
The idea of lazy writing plays into that pesky issue of death-for-death’s-sake that I lamented above. Yes, Chasing Shadows has a . . . high-ish death toll, but every single character dies for a purpose. To avoid spoiling the story for those who have yet to read it (but, really, what’s stopping you? Get it here!), suffice it to say that these tragic passings either drove a protagonist into someone’s arms, explains a character’s actions, wedged a useful bridge between characters, or caused so much emotion in the heart of the reader (and writer) that it plays into the tone for the rest of the novel. Some of my favorite books were memorable because they made me feel like this:
And there is one particular death in Defying Shadows (add it on Goodreads) that even I was crying over, and while emotion is good, I’ve always made sure that every loss I have ever created has a purpose and causes a chain of events that lead to certain points in the story. One important thing is to remember that it is never okay to kill off a character for convenience’s sake, because someone has to die, or because they’ve simply outlived their usefulness. Make it count! A character’s death should be marked by one of two things: tears for a martyr or a sense of justice when an ultimate evil is vanquished. Let me tell you, few things are more satisfying than killing off a villain who has been tormenting your favorite characters.
I don’t like to make too many rules for writing, but I think this is something important to keep in mind—to have a purpose for a character’s demise and make sure that it is felt. And if you’re a reader like me, then you know how random character deaths get under your skin, so don’t make the same mistakes as a writer that have driven you up a wall in your favorite books. Remember that mantra: no tears in the writer, no tears in the reader!
Writing is an Art, I Tell You!
Part 1: Plotting v. Pantsing
Ah, writers. We can be curious creatures, each having different writing talents and habits as we pound out our creativity on the keyboard, praying that the tangled story that seems just brilliant in our minds will appear on the page with even a modicum of clarity (sometimes with very little success). But to make this curious bag of creative minds a little easier to explain—indie and sci-fi and fantasy and YA and non-fic and historical and middle grade *sucks in a breath*—I have divided the types writers into three general groups.
Types of Writers:
This type of writer loves to plot out their entire manuscript, in vivid detail, generally before they sit down to write a single morsel. The process of a Plotter involves a lot of organization, forethought, notecards, and perhaps strings linking images from one side of the room to the other (although I have always wanted to try this method, I have yet to prove if this method exists outside of TV). They enjoy creating a word count goal for the final product and designating what events should occur in each chapter and each. Blasted. Paragraph!
Pros: After weeks or months of plotting out their entire novel/series to a T, the result is a fairly smooth writing process, and all their intense preparation leaves room for very few plot holes and little to no rewrites.
Cons: Nobody puts Baby in a corner! There is absolutely no margin for error in the tale or creative rewrites because your entire story fits into, essentially, a single mold that reaches a single conclusion. So if you want to eliminate/add a character and/or scene, good luck!
*rolls eyes* Yes, we all wish we could be a total Pantster and have an incredible idea for a beginning and end to a story, and then just magically write an entire middle with absolutely no storyline errors or issues with how the plot suddenly evolved. I said we’d like to do that. The truth of the matter is that being a Pantster can be hard, like, really hard. Some writers can pull it off, and this was basically how I wrote my first novel Rising Shadows. But because I went this route, I spent a couple years playing around with my first book, doing countless rewrites and total plot conversions. It. Was. A. Hassle.
Pros: You have tons of creative control over your story and will never get fenced in by your pre-constructed plot structure.
Cons: You have absolutely no pre-constructed plot structure and therefore can write yourself into a hole that you have absolutely no idea how to write yourself out of because there was no real story structure to keep you on track in the first place!
–The Plotting Pantster
I am proud to lump myself in with this category. This type of writer does not like to be fenced in by a specifically designed and action-by-action plot that is already completely detailed out, with no room for creative shifts or changes. But they also acknowledge that flying by the seat of their pants all the time can hinder their progress and that they need some creative structure. What I did for Chasing Shadows and Defying Shadows was create a general plot structure for the stories—big plot reveals, events that had to occur before another instance, important character revelations—that helped to keep the stories on track and events in order, but it also allows room for a ton of creative freedom and surprises for me along the way. I hate making a writing project seem like schoolwork and having zero freedom, so the culmination of the two techniques works for me (plotting and flying by the seat of my author-pants!). It also helps to have a couple big events jotted down on notecards because then you can put a little checkmark beside each one once it’s written, which means you won’t have to flip through half your manuscript trying to figure out if you’ve already addressed something. And trust me, you will at some point. Plotting out certain big events really helps you to keep your focus, but you’ll never lose that creative freedom to have fun with your story. That’s the most important part!
Pros: see above description
Cons: N/A (I thought that should be obvious)
So, are you a Plotter, Pantster, or a little bit of both? The creative choice is yours, my fellow bibliophiles!
This post is sponsored by,
A Plotting Pantster
Stop by for Part 2 in the “Writing is an Art, I Tell You!” series. Coming soon!
It seems a few of us didn’t quite reach NaNoWriMo Conqueror status this year, although many of us exceeded 50,000 words in previous months. Hey, it’s ebb and flow in the writing process, and we can’t always hit our goals in any given month, no matter how hard we push and slave and abuse our coffee IVs and social network and neglect that thing called “sleep.” So to encourage those who, like me, fell just shy of their goal last month, I thought I’d share this email I received from the NaNo team. I found it to be pretty encouraging, and I hope you do, too. Remember, no one will ever write your novel, and whether you are published or not, as long as you keep writing, no one can ever take your story from you. Be proud of what you accomplished this month, and don’t worry, fellow dreamers. We’ll get ’em next year! ^_^
AND congrats to the winners of NaNoWriMo season–you all worked hard, and I can’t wait to read your WIPs soon!
You might not have hit 50,000 words this month, but you did something tremendously important:
- You felt a story stirring in your heart, and you began to explore it.
- You bravely signed up to make creativity a priority in November.
- You created a beginning—a beginning that will lead to other beginnings.
Sometimes an illness or the demands of life can sidetrack a creative endeavor. Sometimes a story just isn’t quite ready to be written. But don’t despair. A novel travels the same labyrinthian and nettlesome path that its main characters do—overcoming setbacks, facing down gnarly antagonists, and then moving forward toward the light. You built a cocoon for your novel this November. A butterfly will emerge.
So I urge you to keep your creative fires burning and ready yourself to reach 50,000 words next NaNoWriMo. Here are three things you can do if you haven’t already:
- Donate to celebrate your novel’s genesis—and to finish it!
Keep the writing conversation going in NaNo’s forums (the lights are on all year!)
Sign up for Camp NaNoWriMo in April to renew your creative commitment.
Most importantly, please keep believing in the transformational magic of creativity, and how it can amplify life in all ways. Our stories connect us. Our stories make us who we are. The world needs your novel, so please write it.
Saluting you for your many future NaNo wins!
P.S. Today is #GivingTuesday—a celebration of generosity. You can also donate to support a classroom in NaNo’s Young Writers Program. We sent 2,000 free novel writing kits to classrooms in 2015. In 2016, we’d like to expand our reach by sending 500 more kits to classrooms near and far. After you donate, let the world know.