Week four of camp: What really counts

My stats for Camp NaNoWriMo are embarrassing. However, I am proud of the fact that I blogged every week, which is a goal I set for myself in late March. And while writing often slips down to the bottom of my to-do list, it has not fallen off completely, even if my desk is a mess of all things not related to writing, and I spend far to much time wandering around my house completely overwhelmed by the stuff that seems to multiple while I sleep.

Data is great. It helps with identifying a problem and measuring the success of implemented strategies (wow, I totally sounded like an administrator right there). Data can also make you feel worthless, like when I look at my project statistics and the bulls-eye that barely made it through the second outer ring.

I taught special education in middle school for four years. During my second year, our building was in danger of a massive restructuring and forced to focus a ridiculous amount of time and energy on improving test scores. My small group of students were reading below grade level. Way below grade level. To go from a 1 to a 3 (out of 4) on their state tests was not reasonable despite the desperate pleas of my administration, and I struggled to find ways to help them feel successful. In the weeks leading up to the tests, I set individual, attainable goals for each student, worked on skills that would help them do better — and here’s the most important part — taught them how to be calm and confident during a testing situation. Not focus on what they couldn’t accomplish, but rather what they could. I’m happy to say that many of my students improved on their previous scores, and we celebrated the success — even though their scores were still below the “acceptable” level.

I am a bit ashamed by the lack of overall progress during camp but happy to say that my percentage accomplished went from 27.6% in July to 36.9% in April. An improvement. And while my final day of working on the camp project was spent deleting more words than adding new ones, I decided that what really counts is forward momentum. Not giving up. I will continue to write, continue to work on my WIP, continue to participate in theĀ monthly writing challenges.

What really counts is attitude. Confidence. Belief in yourself no matter the obstacle. My students were told they were the lowest performers in the school, but they refused to let a number dictate what they were capable of accomplishing. In my current job, I see adults return to school after years of working, raising a family, overcoming illness — they sit in my office and tell me they are finally ready to earn their degree and will do whatever it takes.

What really counts is determination.


Week three of camp: Balance

Total word count this week: 504 words. Grand total after three weeks: 2492 words.

Perhaps I should have made my goal a teeny bit lower.

I’ve made peace with my need to set the bar higher than reasonable. Have I learned my lesson? Maybe. Ask me again in July when the next session of camp comes around and I decide the night before that I’ll be able to write/revise way more than I allow myself time for.

It has been a stressful few weeks at work. I’m not sleeping well. Schedules shift with the season, and change makes me anxious.


Tonight is a gorgeous spring evening. I dropped kiddo off at his last indoor soccer practice, walked down the street to a local coffee shop, and am sitting in the warm late day sun, happy to breathe fresh air and have these precious moments to spend with words and a delicious cup of ginger mint tea.

Life brings me down sometimes. Tries to pull me under with both the mundane and the soul crushing. Writing has always been an escape. For years I journaled, poured my teenage/early twenties angst onto page after page, book after book. Wrote poems that I read now and have to laugh at the shear drama of it all. When life stopped requiring regular mental purging, I turned to fiction and found release in the stories of people who took up residency in my brain. (Apparently they didn’t get the memo that it’s crazy in there.)

Sometimes, writing brings me down too. The pressure I put on myself to write more, write better, find an agent, get published. Create a brand.

You know what I’d like my brand to be?


Me, standing in tree pose, roots firmly in the Earth, hands extended to the sky. Strong. Not falling over. Giving love to my family, my friends, myself. Giving my all at work, but then leaving it there. Giving my all on the page, but not worrying about perfection. Getting into nature and being one with the sights, the smells, the sounds. Dancing when the music moves me. Being still.

I sat down once this week to work on my new project. Distractions continue to haunt me, brought on by fatigue, a lack of self-discipline, time. It’s okay. I wrote once, and once is better than nonce. I’m happy with how things are going and feel like I have a decent amount of momentum. There is one final week left in camp, and this week is crazy busy, so I don’t see a miraculous race to the finish happening.


My camp mate is coming in from out of town at the end of the week. The three members of our cabin along with a couple other awesome writing peeps are getting together. I can’t think of a better way to celebrate the end of this mini journey.

Sometimes you sit alone in a coffee shop (or outside of one) and type away into the void, and sometimes you hang out with friends and laugh until your sides hurt. I expect to do a bit of both this week.



Week two of camp: Working backward

Princess Bride is one of my favorite movies as it contains many quotes applicable to real life situations (as does one of my other faves, Real Genius). An example:

Inigo makes it sound so easy. “A” is happening, so we must do “B”, and then “C”, but not before I do “D”. Ah, the perfect plot prescription.

I’ve struggled to settle into the plot of my new project. I know what I want to write about and have a rough idea of how to get there, but I’m pretty sure someone tossed the road map out the window. Wait, there never was a road map. Who uses road maps anymore?

Enter my Camp NaNoWriMo cabin mates. There are only three of us in our self-proclaimed “Cabin of Fun”, but three brains are better than one and seeing as mine seems to be stuck like a record player needle (record players? see note above regarding road maps), I need all the help I can get.

The other day we chatted about zero drafts, another way to describe when you gather up information for what will eventually become your first draft. Reading, researching, jotting ideas down in various journals and then forgetting where you left the journals, stream of consciousness writing that will hopefully lead you to the place you need to be. It’s all an important part of the process. But so often we want to rush through it to get to the YAY, WORD COUNTS! LOOK AT ALL I ACCOMPLISHED! part of the writing. Which I have been feeling. Hard. I desperately want the little arrow on my target to inch closer to the bulls eye. We’re halfway through the month and I am hovering around 10%.

I promised in last week’s post that I would keep moving forward. And I did.

No, wait. I didn’t. I moved backward.

Lemme ‘splain.

My cabin mate suggested I think about what happens in the end of my story and work backward. There are two main plot threads, one in real time and one through a series of flashbacks. She said I need to start with where my character is at the end, then figure out how she got there, and how she got into each previous situation. Cause and effect in reverse. She said he helps her identify potential plot holes and makes it easier to create an outline and from there a first draft.

Sounded legit, so I tried it.

I didn’t add any new words to the story itself this past week, but I wrote approximately 360 words in my journal using her exercise. It helped me see the big picture better. And I’m excited about using the plot points to move forward with the draft. Which may end up being a zero draft. Right now it is one giant chapter that jumps all over the place. Most of it will be cut, but in those pages I hope to find something worthwhile.

When you feel like there is too much and you need to sum up, try doing it backwards.

Week one of camp: Procrastination and doubt

Camp NaNoWriMo started last Sunday. I didn’t add any new words to my project until Wednesday, when I managed to eek out a measly 142. Part of the problem is that it was spring break this past week and the boys were off from school. To save money hubs and I alternated days off with the kids. On my days off, instead of my usual writing time, I hung out with the boys and we visited friends and family. It was fun, but draining. I love my boys to pieces, but they have entirely too much energy. A quick trip to the grocery store is like taking monkeys through a tree farm.

I love springtime, but the weather this week has been cold and ugly, and it’s making me feel restless and trapped. I want to take walks, breath fresh air, and warm my face in the sun. It doesn’t help that my WIP takes place in winter. Those 142 words? They were all about how much we look forward to spring.

On Wednesday night I met up with a few of my writer friends for coffee and conversation. It was great to see them and reconnect. But I continued to feel listless and uninspired. Sometimes when I work on a project, it calls to me. I can’t wait to get back in front of the screen and get lost in the world I’ve created. The characters meet me in my dreams, tell me their secrets, beg me to get their stories onto the page. Right now? All I feel is doubt. I’m often crippled by decisions required at the beginning of a new project, and this is definitely one of those times. The creative flow is blocked by my inability to commit to an idea. Remember that outline I talked about in my last post? Yeah, that totally hasn’t happened yet.

Saturday morning I sat in my usual place during soccer practice and decided to do a bit of stream of consciousness writing in the hope that I could dislodge the dam of doubt in my brain. It helped, and I walked away with 695 new words, bringing my total for the week to 837. To reach the goal I’ve set of 10k, I need to average 2.5k a week.

I need to pick up the pace.

Life returns to normal this week. Kinda. My parents are home from their snowbird place down south and my dad likes to bring the boys to soccer, which means less time in the chilly yet muse-filled indoor arena. (Although my days were numbered anyway – the outdoor season will start next month and it’s difficult to type while sitting in a camp chair. In the rain. I have little hope for a decent spring to ever arrive.)

The bottom line? I allowed myself time for family this week, and time to wallow in the murky pool of procrastination and doubt. Now it is time to light the fire of let’s-get-moving-already. My goal for week two is to spend some solid time at my desk, not worrying about what is or is not working; simply writing. If the words are garbage, then the words are garbage. Hopefully they’ll lead me to where I need to be headed with the story. And hopefully it will stop snowing and I can get outside and talk a long walk full of positive brainstorming energy.