It’s Camp Time Again!

Anna Camp

Anna tries to sneak away to do a little writing at camp.

We’ve been busy for the past few weekends, between house repairs and guests from out of town.  So we haven’t really had time to write blog posts.  But now it’s July, and Camp NaNoWriMo is in session again.  It’s lots of fun, and we’ve been meeting up regularly to have write-ins with some of the people in our local NaNoWriMo group, just like we would in November.

I’m working on a novel that’s a sequel to two previous novels.  It took most of June to get prepared to write it, because I had to reread those two books and then figure out what all the characters had been doing in the time since.  And, because it’s a nautical story and I’m not really into boating, I had to do a lot of research.

S is finishing up a regency romance that she started a while ago.  And then she will be working on some fanfic projects when she’s done with that.

She has a new computer: a Lenovo X1 Yoga that she has named Gwen, after a female spy in our shared fantasy universe.  Her old computer, Konrad, developed a problem where it turned off suddenly without warning.  That’s bad enough if you’re just scrolling through your Twitter account, but if it happens when you’re trying to write, it’s really annoying.  So far Gwen is working out well, which is nice.  I’m still using Ellard, my HP Elitebook 850, S has promised that when I need a new computer, she will support me in getting a really nice one.  So that’s something to look forward to.

And now, back to writing.  I’m past the climax now, and now I just need to write a few chapters that wrap everything up nicely.

 

J

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Leaving Camp

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Having finished Camp NaNo, George heads boldly into revision.

It’s May now, and that means April Camp NaNoWriMo is over. S and I celebrated our customary double win. I finished Old Habits Die Hard, and now we’re reading through it. S finished her new Turn fanfic, which we have been slowly typing up. I believe there are still three chapters that haven’t been typed yet.

May means revision, and it also means starting on a new story that might hypothetically be a present for someone whose birthday comes at the end of this month. I’m not naming any names, you understand. I’ve got an idea for a series of stories, each with different POV characters, that together make up sort-of a novel. I don’t normally write short stories, and these stories won’t really be all that short, but it’s interesting to think in terms of shorter, episodic story arcs, rather than a single longer one.

The stories are all going to take place during the same period of imaginary civil war in our Myrciaverse, covering the five years between the end of the novel I just wrote and the start of Called to Account, which I wrote as S’s Christmas present in 2015. I once made up a timeline of everything that happens during that century-long civil war, and about a week ago, as I was trying to come up with something to write next, I was looking at the events that happen in the five-year gap between books. A lot of it was interesting, but I couldn’t think of a single storyline that reasonably tied it all together. Hence, a series of shorter stories.

Also, as our friend who blogs over at Philosofishal pointed out to me, May is Short Story Month. So there’s that, too. Of course, the Short Story Month people seem to be envisioning much shorter stories than what I’m writing, but whatever.

In case anyone is curious about the progress of our recent move, we’re still settling into New Unicorn HQ. Today S continued organizing our awesome new library. Yesterday we planted a bunch of daylilies, so we’re both feeling as if we’ve accomplished a lot this weekend. Our hope is that over time, the lilies will spread out and take over a lot of the empty space in our garden. And then with any luck there will be less yard work.

And now we need to go start on supper. The party just never stops here.

J

Revision at Camp

Washington Letter

George suddenly realizes just how much revision his first draft is going to need.

S and I are still hard at work on our projects for Camp NaNoWriMo. In fact, if all goes well, we might both finish today. I’ve got one more chapter to write in my novel, Old Habits Die Hard, and S has one chapter left in the big fanfic project she’s working on. We’ve both already hit our goals for the month, which means yet another double win for Team Unicorn.

Once we finish writing, it’ll be time to start revising. I already started rereading my book from the beginning, even as I was finishing it up. I had time to do this because I’ve been trying to limit myself to only writing three chapters a day. Yes, I know that sounds like a humblebrag, but in the past (particularly during November) I have sometimes just kept writing and writing, even long after I had done a reasonable amount of work for the day. It’s exhausting. The difference between writing 5,000 words a day and writing 8,000 or 10,000 is whether I get to do anything else besides writing.

In other news, we’re still in the process of moving. With luck (fingers crossed) we may have a buyer for the original Unicorn HQ. Once that’s finished, I think we will have to go out for dinner or something to celebrate. Or maybe just take a nap. It’s been a very long moving adventure for us.

Anyway, that’s what’s up with us. Now back to writing!

J

Busy at Camp

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Anna hits her word count for the day.  Ben and Caleb haven’t even started their projects yet.

We’re in the middle of the first week of Camp NaNoWriMo, and of course we were so excited about it, that we forgot to post a blog on Sunday. I suppose we could also blame it on the fact that Sunday was Easter, but let’s be honest: we forgot.

I’m ten chapters into my new novel, Old Habits Die Hard. One of the main characters is a nun trying to save her convent. Hence the title. (Picture S groaning and holding her head.) So far I think it’s going pretty well. I’ve introduced most of the POV characters, and I’m in the middle of the inciting incident, where the characters become invested in the plot. And hopefully the reader, too.

S is working on some fanfic projects, of course. Maybe next week she’ll post something about them. She’s writing in a new fandom: Turn, the TV show about Revolutionary War spies. It’s been kind of fun helping her do research on George Washington and other various figures of the time. My parents are getting rid of some of their books, and I made sure to grab any that had anything to do with the Revolution.

Anyway, that’s what we’re up to. I’ve got to get back to work. My next chapter is from the POV of a sad teenage girl who is missing the boy she loves, but can never have. Her life is hard enough already; I think it would be unkind of me to keep her waiting any longer.

J

Heading into Camp

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From the set of Turn via landis487 Instagram.

Amidst all the boxes and cleaning and repairmen of not one but two houses, we’re attempting to get ready for Camp NaNoWriMo. J is doing his usual outlining and character prompts for a new Myrcia ‘verse novel, and I’m…. As I often do for Camp, I’m going to juggle multiple projects, trying to make a little headway on all of them, and then running with whichever particularly catches my fancy. There’s a Regency erotica novella I started a few months ago that is honestly going quite well when I can squeeze in time to work on it. And I might try to tackle some Vikings fanfic that I’ve promised some folks and I’ve been meaning to write for ages. And I will definitely find time for a Turn fanfic I’m planning and have even written a bit of. (I’ll admit, I’ve become quite smitten with the Tallmadge/Washington ship, and I’m looking forward to writing more of this one a lot.) And who knows what else might pop up for me. It’s Camp, so anything can happen.

~S

Boxes…So Many Boxes

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Current interior view of our new house.

We’re still in the process of moving to the new Unicorn HQ, which is where I’m writing this evening. We’ve got pretty much all our stuff here already, but we still need to do some cleaning up at the old house, and we’re having it repainted, and there are things we need to get fixed, too. With any luck, though, we can start trying to sell it soon. And then all we’ll have to do is go through our dozens and dozens of boxes that are filling our garage and living room and get everything set up the way we want it.

We’re still planning on doing Camp NaNoWriMo. We’ve got a group of our local NaNo people in our cabin, along with some of S’s friends from online. It’ll be fun. And most importantly, it’ll be something that we can do that doesn’t involve going through boxes or hanging pictures or cleaning. I’ll be writing another Myrciaverse novel that’s part of my civil war timeline. S is going to be doing some fanfic. If we have some spare time, we might be able to post a little more about our projects, but for now, we’ve got boxes to move!

J

Still Unmoved

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Mr. Bennet is unimpressed.

We’re still working on finding a new Unicorn HQ. For a while it looked as if we might have found a house, but negotiations broke down over some problems that were found during inspection, so now we’re looking again. We’ve found another house that we like, but we’re not letting ourselves get too attached until the inspector has had time to look it over and see if there’s some ghastly problem that will cost thousands of dollars to repair. S and I will be talking about where we’re going to put the TV, or how we’re going to arrange the library, but then we will pause and say (often in unicornic unison), “pending inspection.” It’s sort of like knocking on wood.

“It’ll be so nice to have a flat driveway…pending inspection.”
“That shed out back is really cute…pending inspection.”
“I’ll finally have room for my own dedicated writing space…pending inspection.”

That last one—a writing space for S—has been one of her main requirements for our new house. I don’t know how she feels about £500 a year, but she definitely wants a room of her own. She promises to let me in, of course, so it’s not as if she’s just trying to avoid me. But she has found that she writes better and more consistently if she has a space set aside just for writing. It has to be a separate space, removed from the comfy chairs and TV where we spend most of our time. No doubt once we move (pending inspection) and get her new writing room set up, she will blog about it, possibly with pictures.

In the meantime, though, she’s starting a new writing project, and she actually wrote part of the first chapter yesterday while waiting for me to finish teaching classes. I’ll leave it to her to say more about that particular project, though, if she wants to.
As for me, I’m doing prep work for my April Camp NaNo novel. And I’ve been doing some reading, as well. I finished The Magicians, by Lev Grossman. You may recall that S and I have been group-watching the TV show with an online friend. The book was pretty good, though as our friend promised, Quentin is even worse in the book than on the show. He’s just so whiny and self-absorbed.

I’ve also been working my way through Call Me By Your Name. S and I saw the movie last weekend. S had already read the book, but I hadn’t. She and some of her online friends have all been squeeing over how awesome the book is—even more awesome than the movie, apparently. On her recommendation, I decided to give it a try. It’s very good, and the squee is justified. I haven’t quite finished it, because I have to do things like plan classes and grade papers. But hopefully this week I’ll get around to it. And then maybe I’ll start the second book in the Magicians trilogy, if I can just steel myself to endure more Quentin.

J

Huzzah for the New Year!

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Starting supper means it’s beer o’clock.

Farewell 2017, and hello to 2018!  S and I have just started our traditional New Year’s pork roast and sauerkraut.  It has to be in the oven for at least 4 or 5 hours, so it’s important to start in the early afternoon.  This is our big New Year’s excitement here at Unicorn HQ.  Well, that and the champagne that we open after supper while we watch a movie.  It’s quite the party.

Looking back, we’ve made some serious progress on Magnificent Kingdom.  Those of you who are keeping track at home will recall that Magnificent Kingdom is the story of the founding of the main country in our fantasy universe.  S has been wanting to write it for years now, and we finally got around to planning and starting it this year.  We’ve written through the end of Act I (the first quarter of the story), and a few chapters into Act II.  Sometime in the new year, we’ll regroup, look at the outline, and start tackling the second act.

S had a tough year, obviously, but she did manage to write half of Act I of Magnificent Kingdom, and she wrote fanfic in four different fandoms, which is pretty cool.

I also did some writing on the side.  In April I wrote Black Eagle Rising, which is the story of how a civil war gets started in our universe.  I’ve written a number of other stories set during that century-long war, so I thought it was important to set up how everything began.  Then I wrote Unspeakably Wooed and (in November) When You Are King, both sequels to Black Eagle Rising.  In the future, I think I’m going to stick to writing these civil war stories chronologically, since it helps keep the characters straight and saves a lot of rewriting and retconning later on.  Already, some of the first stories that I wrote in this time period, like Lady’s Knight, are going to need some revision to make them match up with everything else.  It’s best to avoid that whenever possible.

Oh, and for S’s Christmas present, I wrote Twilight at Noon, the story of an exiled secret agent.  It takes place hundreds of years after the civil war stories, closer to the “main” timeline of the Myrciaverse.  S and I had been talking earlier this year about Orson Scott Card’s MICE Quotient, and we noticed that, although we write fantasy novels, we’d never really done a proper Milieu Story.  So Twilight at Noon is my attempt at writing one.  I also did a bit of an experiment with the structure—rather than just doing the traditional three acts, I built the novel around my main character, Martina, experiencing the stages of Culture Shock.  So that was a lot of fun.

Anyway, for the new year I’m already planning the next novel in the Myrciaverse civil war timeline.  It will probably be my Camp NaNo project for April, I suppose.  But first, of course, I need to plan my classes and get ready for the start of Spring Semester.  I’m going to be teaching some new classes, and as I’ve mentioned before, preparing for a new class is a lot more work than teaching one you’ve taught a dozen times before.

J

A Moving Story

New Howse

So once again we’ve forgotten to blog for a few weeks. In the meantime, NaNoWriMo came to an end, and once again, Team Unicorn emerged triumphant. S in particular has reason to brag, having made a dramatic, come-from-behind finish. At one point she was more than 10,000 words down, but she rallied and actually got to 50,000 words several days ahead of time.

As for me, I wrote a number of chapters in the book S and I are currently writing together. And then, because I didn’t want to get way, way ahead of her, I wrote two novels on the side. One I had planned before November, and might hypothetically be S’s Christmas present. The other one I came up with and planned in the middle of the month. It’s a sequel to some stories I’ve already written, so I didn’t have nearly as much prep work. Because I already knew most of the characters and locations I was writing about, it only took me four or five days to get it outlined.

Our big news, however, is that we will probably be moving in the near future. We love our current house, but it is 25-30 minutes away from where we work. That’s bad enough in good weather, but when it starts snowing, you can’t help but start to dread that long drive through the countryside. So we’ve found a house that’s much closer to where we work. It’s got some nice places for writing, and ample room for our library. Really, that’s all you can ask for.

Of course, between the moving and the holidays and everything else we’ve got going on this next month, our updates might be a bit spotty over the next month or so. We’ll try to check in from time to time, though. At the very least, when and if we do manage to get moved into our new house, S will have to report on her new writing room. (It was one of her conditions for the new house that she have her own, dedicated space for writing. She says the £500 is optional, but a room of her own is a must.)

J

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective WriMos

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Cartman just always gets me.

November 2017 marks my sixth NaNoWriMo, plus I’ve done so many Camp NaNoWriMo sessions in that time, I couldn’t even begin to guess how many I’ve participated in. And, of course, I wrote for several years before my first NaNo and I write year round, so in that decade and those hundreds of thousands of words, I’ve learned a lot about how I can be a successful writer. It took a lot of time, and the willingness to stop beating myself up for not doing what I thought I should be doing, but I think I’m finally settling into a writing routine that works for me. And it’s made a big difference.

So, what’s my routine and how does a writer start finding one? I think NaNo is actually a great place to start, and a new writer should probably start by doing NaNo by the rules—begin a brand new novel on November 1, try to write about 1,667 words a day, and finish up the month with a 50,000 word novel. Like so much in life, a writing routine can be easier to find if you learn the “rules” before you start breaking them (and becoming a NaNo “rebel”). And now that I’ve reached the point in my writing life that I’m willing to break the rules and find the routine that words for me, here are 7 habits I’ve formed that I think make me a more effective WriMo and writer in general.

1. I’ll write what I want snap
I’ve spent a lot of time not getting anything written, because I’m trying to force myself to write something I don’t actually want to be working on. I like to start something new for NaNo, but I’ve come to the conclusion that as long as I write 50K words in November, it’s OK if I’m continuing a project I’ve already started and being a rebel. The whole point of NaNo is to write, and I’ve spent a lot of time in past Novembers missing that point because I was struggling with a project that I thought I ought to be working on, rather than writing something I felt passionately about.

2. Days off
The simple fact is, I need days off. I can’t write 7 days a week for 4 weeks straight. Just can’t. I generally like one day a week off, and there are always a few days every month that I’m simply not up to writing. I’ve stopped giving myself grief over this, and embraced the rejuvenating nature of a little down time.

3. But stay near daily word count
But not too much down time. I took Thursday and Friday off this week, because they were two long days IRL, and I would have been forced to scrounge an hour here and an hour there either day. And it was fine that I just let myself take those days, but two days in a row is really the maximum. One, because that means to stay near the daily word count goal, I needed to write 3 days’ worth on Saturday, which is 5,000 words. That’s really the limit of what I can write in a day, and in reality, I managed 4,700 yesterday. Also, the longer I stay away from a WIP, the longer it takes me to catch back up mentally with the story and what I was doing, and getting up to speed can eat up a lot of time. So 2 days is really the limit.

4. Get out of the house
I love going to write ins. I honestly don’t see the point of NaNoWriMo without a local group to hang out and write with. I mean, I still write even in the months of the year I’m not writing with these folks, but I get so much joy from seeing my noveling buddies in person that write ins are my favorite part of November. And even outside of NaNo, I like doing a fair bit of café writing. It’s easier to find things other than writing to do at home, but I always feel guilty if I go somewhere specifically to write if I don’t then write. Also, Panera broccoli cheddar soup and baguettes are a good reasons to get out of bed in the morning.

5. Don’t waste time on a playlist
I’ve made some fancy writing playlists over the years to create very specific moods for my novels. And guess what? At the end of the day, I usually end up listening to Corelli, Bach, and Mendelssohn, as well as my Through Trial and Error I’ve Discovered These Songs Make Me Write Faster playlist. I know some people swear by specific playlists, and thinking about the songs can be useful for figuring out tone and character, but for me, some songs put me in a good headspace to write no matter what I’m writing, and it’s rare that I want something from outside my usuals.

6. Do spend time on character prep
So rather than spending time on a playlist, I find it more productive to know as much about my characters as possible. J and I have chatted about our character creation process, and where all that work really pays off is in November. Example: last night at a write in we were about to start a word sprint, and I was about to start writing a character for the first time. I could have panicked, and wondered what she looks like and what her voice is supposed to be, but instead I took 10 seconds to look those things up in our character file, and I was ready to go. No writing time wasted.

7. Remember, this is fun, dammit
Writing is supposed to be enjoyable, or what’s the point? J and I have said since we started writing that we are only going to do this as long as we’re having fun doing it. So I intend to have a good time.

Speaking of which, my novel calls, and doesn’t that sound lovely!

~S