What I Did on Summer Vacation, or, the Nicholas Sparks Challenge, Revisited

I  posted previously about trying my hand at writing a cheesy romance novel, after being absolutely amazed, and not in a good way, by The Notebook. The fact that this coincided with Camp NaNoWriMo was a bonus. Off to camp!

I loved summer camp as a kid. Even the cabins.

Here’s what I learned on my summer vacation:

1. The only time to take it easy on yourself is when taking it easy is the goal. Under the premise that summer camp is for relaxing, I set my word count goal at half the typical NaNoWriMo word count, 25K instead of 50K. However, the goals “take it easy” and “write a draft of a novel in 30 days” kind of work against each other. The lower goal fooled me into thinking I could slack off. Even if you only aim to write half of what you normally do, you still have to write it. The “if you have more to do, you’ll do more” maxim is true. Next year, I’ll put the bar back where it belongs.
2. On the other hand, I also learned that even the littlest bit is something. There are days when my mind simply won’t focus. The cat in the hat on the mat is sometimes the best I can do, and that probably counts as plagiarism. A word count goal is a good thing to have, but it’s also true that even if I only write a page, that’s still a page that wasn’t written before.
3. I learned that it’s possible to write romance without being smarmy. I hope. One quality of romance books that I dislike is the gushy phrasing. I admire the more stripped-down styles of other writers, and I believe I am employing that with some success. We’ll see how it turns out.
4. Social media is death to the writing process. I don’t kill as much time on Facebook as some people I know, but I kill enough. Telling myself that surfing was not allowed until I’d reached my daily goal helped some, but if I was determined to goof off, then goofing off was going to happen. Some of my best writing days happened when my Internet connection dumped me, again, and I was tired of getting up to reset it, again. (I have also come to suspect that social media is not good for me generally, but that is pondering and a post for another day.)
5. Writing well is hard. I already knew that, but it never hurts to learn it again. It’s easy not to take the romance genre seriously, but that doesn’t mean it’s just sitting down and typing, whatever comes to mind, blah blah, and they all lived happily ever after, gimme my royalty check. I have read other romance novels that I didn’t like simply because they were romances, but I recognize that they were well-plotted and well-written. If it’s worth writing, it’s worth writing it well enough to make it readable, and it’s hard work to write anything well. And that’s with no expectation of any commercial success.
6. It doesn’t kill me not to win, but I still don’t like it much. This is the eighth NaNoWriMo event I’ve participated in, and it’s the first time I didn’t cross the finish line into Winner’s Corner. I did not get the hokey but anticipated “Congratulations!” video from NaNo staff. I did not get the cool web badge to display on my blog. I’m still pouting, a little.

7. It would be more fun to actually write in a tent. If I pull this off even half as well as Sparks did, this is where you’ll find me writing the next one:

Or just forget camping. I could live here.


Camp Curry, Yosemite, by Miguel Vieira, Creative Commons Attribution License
Glam tent, Alice Crain/Flickr-Creative Commons


Author: Deborah Lee

I like trees, dreaming, magic, books, paper, floating, dreaming, rhinos, rocks, stargazing, wine, dragonflies, trains, and silence to hear the world breathe.

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