Category: CAMP NANOWRIMO

Camp Pep: You Are an Artist

Camp NaNoWriMo is nothing without you, our incredible participants. Today, Camp NaNoWriMo participant Ashley Jean Granillo offers you some advice for this week of Camp:

Dear Writer,

Your story is worth telling, even if the writing hasn’t caught up to the ingenious idea that you’ve been working out on in your mind as you shower away the filth of your day job.

If you’ve forgotten: writing is a process. Currently, you’re probably in the drafting stage. And drafts, especially first drafts, aren’t perfect. They are messy––riddled with grammatical errors and sentences that appear to be in the language of your choosing but sound foreign. This is exactly where your writing is supposed to be. Yes, you are supposed to be writing cliches and flat lines of dialogue because you are only in the beginning stages of unveiling your story’s true potential. Think of yourself as an artist, sketching out the shapes of a landscape. The detail and color will come with patience.

As a college composition professor and author, I’ve seen and experienced failure, and it’s usually as a result of the self-doubt that occurs during the drafting stage. Too often my students, and occasionally my own brain, tell me that the inconsistencies and poorly structured sentences deem us unfit to continue writing––that we are a disgrace to the art of composition. Remember that artist: just because they sketched a mitten in place of hand doesn’t mean they can’t draw fingers. They’re waiting for the right moment.

“You must to be willing to be imperfect to be a writer. As an artist, you must accept that the first line you draw won’t be your straightest.”

Love from the Barricade, my debut novel, was written during NaNoWriMo, and its first draft would give you secondhand embarrassment. It had ten identical characters, and a main character who didn’t know what she wanted, and neither did I at the time. But that first draft, however horrible it was, served as a reminder that: having the draft of a novel is a lot better than having an idea for a novel. You can revise a draft, but you cannot revise an idea, because it does not physically exist for you to rework. I couldn’t discover Aijae without sifting through her confusion. You must to be willing to be imperfect to be a writer. As an artist, you must accept that the first line you draw won’t be your straightest. Luckily, there are tools to help you reshape the work, but later.

You’re a writer and an artist even though your novel is not finished. What separates you from so many other people is that they have ideas for stories, but they fail to do what we do everyday, what you do everyday: write.

Writing is not a competition, albeit this challenge may make it appear that way. Art is practice. You are only here because you have one goal, and that’s to complete what you haven’t had the courage or time to do in the past. You aren’t here to outdo someone else, or make your partners, friends, and family members proud. Let them cheer you on, but don’t allow yourself to think that if your word count slips away that you’re letting them down. By being here, getting in those 500, sometimes only even 100 words a day, you are doing the right thing for yourself. You are taking part of something much greater than you could ever imagine. Revel in the journey of discovery.

I had a student who came in every class with the same defeated look, and the same exhausted sentence, “I completed the essay, professor. But it isn’t any good.”  My response wasn’t that they’d better get their sh*t together before I failed their work for its disorganization and comma splices. Instead, I told them this:

I am proud of you. You’re just about to surprise yourself with how incredible your story can actually be.

Take care,
Ashley Jean


Ashley Jean Granillo is an English instructor at College of the Canyons. She has her BA and MA in Creative Writing from California State University Northridge. For a time, she was a freelance music journalist, which serves as the inspiration for her debut novel. Her first novel (a NaNoWriMo Winner 2015), Love from the Barricade, debuts in September from Black Rose Writing. Currently, she is on a mini tour along the west coast, following the music of her favorite band.

Top image licensed under Creative Commons from César Astudillo on Flickr.

“There is no ‘right’ way to write. Do whatever feels best for…

“There is no ‘right’ way to write. Do whatever feels best for you. Try working on whatever section you’re most excited about at the moment—I’ve found that it leads to my best writing.”

Gloria Chao is an MIT grad turned dentist turned writer. She currently lives in Chicago with her ever-supportive husband, for whom she became a nine-hole golfer (sometimes seven). She was once a black belt in kung-fu and a competitive dancer, but that side of her was drilled and suctioned out. American Panda is her debut novel, and Misaligned is forthcoming fall 2019. Visit her tea-and-book-filled world at gloriachao.wordpress.com and find her on Twitter and Instagram @gloriacchao.

Your Camp Care Package is brought to you by Camp NaNoWriMo. Sign up to receive more Camp Care Packages at campnanowrimo.org.

Text added over original image by Patrick Fore on Unsplash.

“Some writing days are better than others, and the most important thing is to remember why you write:…”

“Some writing days are better than others, and the most important thing is to remember why you write: because you love it, because you have stories to tell, because your readers need your stories. One of my favorite quotes is from Walt Disney: ‘If you can dream it, you can do it.’”

Gloria Chao is an MIT grad turned dentist turned writer. She currently lives in Chicago with her ever-supportive husband, for whom she became a nine-hole golfer (sometimes seven). She was once a black belt in kung-fu and a competitive dancer, but that side of her was drilled and suctioned out. American Panda is her debut novel, and Misaligned is forthcoming fall 2019. Visit her tea-and-book-filled world at gloriachao.wordpress.com and find her on Twitter and Instagram @gloriacchao.

Your Camp Care Package is brought to you by Camp NaNoWriMo. Sign up to receive more Camp Care Packages at campnanowrimo.org.

“There are going to be times when you feel uninspired, when the…

“There are going to be times when you feel uninspired, when the very last thing you want to do is to sit down and write. Moments like these, I remind myself that sometimes the work itself can create excitement.”

Kirstin Chen’s new novel, Bury What We Cannot Take, has been named a Most Anticipated Upcoming Book by Electric Literature, The Millions, The Rumpus, Harper’s Bazaar, and InStyle, among others. She is also the author of Soy Sauce for Beginners. She was the fall 2017 NTU-NAC National Writer in Residence in Singapore, and has received awards from the Steinbeck Fellows Program, Sewanee, Hedgebrook, and the Napa Valley Writers’ Conference. Born and raised in Singapore, she currently resides in San Francisco.

Your Camp Care Package is brought to you by Camp NaNoWriMo. Sign up to receive more Camp Care Packages at campnanowrimo.org.

Text added over original image by Jess Watters on Unsplash.

3 Tips to Manage Mental Chaos While You’re Writing

Camp NaNoWriMo has begun, and you may be feeling the pressure to complete your project. One of the most important things to keep in mind when you’re writing is making sure that your work doesn’t adversely affect your mental health. Today, author and participant Cass Morris shares a few tips to help manage mental chaos:

”Chin up princess, or the crown slips.” That meme, right there? That explains a lot about who I am. 

I’ve got what some people call “high-functioning” anxiety, the kind that makes you a constantly over-wound spring but determined not to let anyone know that you’re screaming internally. I am a Slytherin, driven to achieve and to do so publicly—because if other people don’t know about it, does it even count? And if I’m not doing my best, if I’m not meeting all my goals and checking everything off my list, aren’t I just a lazy failure? Aren’t I letting myself down, and thus letting down literally everyone I’ve ever met?

Well, of course not. But the demon in my head doesn’t know that.

If any of that is sounding familiar, my sympathies. I know how rough it is. Here are a few things I keep in mind to help manage the mental chaos:

1. Block off time for things that are not writing. 

This is hard especially when you’re on a deadline or trying to meet a daily NaNo goal, but it’s a crucial thing to learn. Anxiety and stress quite literally fray your nerves, neurologically speaking. Your brain needs breaks, but if you’re like me, it’s tough to give your brain that permission. 

Lately, I’ve been using my bullet journal’s habit tracker to make sure I do things like read for pleasure, tend to my spirituality, and not fall asleep with my phone clutched in my hand. Checking things off on the habit tracker feels like achievement, which assuages the sense of “but if you’re not constantly working, you’re an unproductive loser”. I’m trying to redefine my broken brain’s perception of what productivity is—sometimes it has to be those things which feed your soul and keep you sane. That’s not an indulgence. It’s keeping yourself in top working order by giving your nerves a chance to rest and heal.

2. Celebrate the small victories. 

If anxiety is something that makes you super goal-oriented, learn to find some smaller benchmarks in addition to the biggies. Your end goal might be finishing your NaNo project, getting published, hitting the bestseller list—but quite apart from the aspects of those things which are outside of your immediate control, those goals are also always going to be delayed gratification. That can make the day-to-day grind a frustrating endeavor. 

Give you brain a nice dopamine hit by finding things to celebrate more often: hitting a sprint goal, writing a smashing paragraph, learning a new word. Finding things to take pride and joy in on a more regular basis has really helped me to remember that the major goals do not have to eat my entire life or define my sense of self.

3. If you need more help, get it. 

Whatever form that help takes—medications, therapy, changes to your life. I wish I had done so much, much earlier. Instead, I struggled for fifteen years, unable to figure out why every so often, my life just seemed to spiral apart beyond my ability to cope with circumstances. Finally seeing a psychiatrist and getting prescriptions to help with anxiety, depression, and insomnia helped immeasurably. They didn’t change who I am—but they dialed the trouble down to a level I could actually manage. That, in turn, made it much easier to actually write. Needing help does not make you weak. Seeking it out is not an indulgence. Accepting it will not dull your creativity.

This anxiety is always going to be a part of me, and in some ways, I’m okay with that. I like being driven to achieve. But I’m also really glad that I’m learning ways to keep it from counterproductively destroying my ability to function. It’s an ongoing process, to be sure! But then, so am I. And there’s nothing wrong with that.


Cass Morris lives and works in central Virginia and the Outer Banks of North Carolina. She completed her Master of Letters at Mary Baldwin University in 2010, and she earned her undergraduate degree, a BA in English with a minor in history, from the College of William and Mary in 2007. She reads voraciously, wears corsets voluntarily, and will beat you at MarioKart. From Unseen Fire (DAW Books, Apr 2018) is her debut novel, currently available in hardcover, ebook, and audiobook. Visit her on her website, Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and Patreon.

Top image by Ashton Mullins on Unsplash, with added text.

“When I’m feeling lost or overwhelmed, I go back, again and again, to this wonderful quote from E.L…”

“When I’m feeling lost or overwhelmed, I go back, again and again, to this wonderful quote from E.L Doctorow: ‘Writing is like driving at night in the fog. You can only see as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.’ And it really is true. You don’t have to have everything figured out up front; you just have to know enough to take one step forward, and then another.”

Kirstin Chen’s new novel, Bury What We Cannot Take, has been named a Most Anticipated Upcoming Book by Electric Literature, The Millions, The Rumpus, Harper’s Bazaar, and InStyle, among others. She is also the author of Soy Sauce for Beginners. She was the fall 2017 NTU-NAC National Writer in Residence in Singapore, and has received awards from the Steinbeck Fellows Program, Sewanee, Hedgebrook, and the Napa Valley Writers’ Conference. Born and raised in Singapore, she currently resides in San Francisco.

Your Camp Care Package is brought to you by Camp NaNoWriMo. Sign up to receive more Camp Care Packages at campnanowrimo.org.

NaNoWriMo New Character GeneratorWant to add a little extra…

NaNoWriMo New Character Generator

Want to add a little extra oomph into your story? Or need someone to help get your main character out of a bind? Use your name and birthday to find out what new character you should introduce into your current work in progress!

And don’t forget to update your Camp NaNoWriMo projects—it’s not to late to start!

Follow @nanowrimo and @nanowordsprints on Twitter for more inspiration, and tune in to the Virtual Write-Ins on Youtube.

—Claire Kann hails from the glorious Bay Area where the weather…

Claire Kann hails from the glorious Bay Area where the weather is regrettably not nearly as temperate as it used to be. Let’s Talk About Love is her debut YA contemporary novel, published in 2018 with Swoon Reads/Macmillan. A sucker for instant gratification, she also posts new stories regularly to Wattpad, including the two Watty Award-winning stories: The Scavenger Hunt and #Fatgirl Magic.

Your Camp Care Package is brought to you by Camp NaNoWriMo. Sign up to receive more Camp Care Packages at campnanowrimo.org.

Text added over original image by Gabriel Jimenez on Unsplash.

How to Put Your Writer’s Block on Mute

Camp NaNoWriMo has officially begun! A lot of writers feel like they struggle against writer’s block, so how do you overcome that when it overwhelms you? Today, participant Stefanie McAuley shares a tip for getting past those moments of doubt:

I sit at my desk, eyes glazed over. Why can’t my mind go this blank when I attempt to meditate? On my screen it’s just there staring back at me. Blink. Blink. Blink. Blink. How can something so small and controllable be so taunting? And yet, right now I can’t think of a single thing more jeering than the flashing cursor of writer’s block.

“You’ve got this…?” I whisper to myself in what’s intended as a pep-talk but comes out like a question. Inhale. Exhale.

Of course, this usually happens to writers when a deadline is looming—for school, or a paid piece, or a goal set by an over-achieving mind. We must, so we can’t. We freeze under the pressure.

I’m sure you, too, have an arsenal of tricks to get your brain to stop buffering and start flowing. Crowd favorites include a quick walk around the block, wire framing your story arch and filling in the spaces, and my usual choice: the scream-into-a-pillow. While they can be cathartic I’ve found these methods are still too cognitive. Nothing stifles a piece more than muscling your way through the creative process. Even if I manage to hit the deadline, I’m rarely happy with the outcome. What’s worse, I’ve had a really rough day of writing—isn’t this supposed to be fun?—and I’m left deflated, uninspired, and disappointed in my final work.

I needed a better strategy. My poor throw pillows.

“Find an outlet that triggers your creativity and allows you to drop your inhibitions. The time will not be wasted, it’s a simple reset into your creative mindset.”

It wasn’t until one day I was driving home from a dance class that it struck me: creativity breeds creativity. After an hour of being lost in the movement and music, my neurons were firing. Stagnant pieces of my storyline were developing into clear, humorous bridges. I blew through my apartment door, barely taking off my shoes, to frantically write everything down before it escaped me.

Yes. Writing is really fun.

Since then, I have a new lease on my writing life. The eleventh-hour used to freak me out—I had no time to waste! Now, I lean into burning time on non-writing. I crank up a killer playlist with a similar tone to the piece I’m writing, and slide my coffee table out of the way. When I’m stuck, I feel like a jammed record player and the end of the last sentence I’ve typed just repeats over, and over, and over, like it’s trying to knock the next one out. That’s not an option when the music is blaring and I’m letting the lyrics flow through me. There’s just me, my body, and the 90s pop diva du jour.

One side-effect of a catchy song is having those lyrics stuck in your head. Make room for your own word flow by setting back to work with some white noise on in your headphones. This proves an effective way to ward off an earworm.

Whatever you do, stop putting the pressure on yourself. While Whitney into a hairbrush mic isn’t for everyone, find an outlet that triggers your creativity and allows you to drop your inhibitions. The time will not be wasted, it’s a simple reset into your creative mindset.

Have fun with it—isn’t that what it’s all about?


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As a writer and marketing specialist, global brands call on Stefanie McAuley for thoughtful strategic-planning and effective creative writing. Not one to sit still, Stef has lived on three continents and traveled to fifty countries. Inspired by her travels and life lessons, she started sharing stories on her blog, Broad World. And, her time living in Ghana inspired the work of her first novel—coming soon! Check out her blog, Instagram, & Twitter.

Top image licensed under Creative Commons from Jeremy Keith on Flickr.

“I’m a late-in-life writer. I grew up voraciously reading any book I could get my hands on but never…”

“I’m a late-in-life writer. I grew up voraciously reading any book I could get my hands on but never thought writing was something I wanted to do. Sometimes, it can be discouraging to hear your peers have been creating stories since the second they learned how to write, or that they’ve posted 250k+ word fanfics with ease. Compared to them, you might feel like you’re not good enough, that you haven’t put in enough background work yet, which isn’t true at all. Just because they got a head start, doesn’t mean you don’t belong too. There’s space for all of us.”

Claire Kann hails from the glorious Bay Area where the weather is regrettably not nearly as temperate as it used to be. Let’s Talk About Love is her debut YA contemporary novel, published in 2018 with Swoon Reads/Macmillan. A sucker for instant gratification, she also posts new stories regularly to Wattpad, including the two Watty Award-winning stories: The Scavenger Hunt and #Fatgirl Magic.

Your Camp Care Package is brought to you by Camp NaNoWriMo. Sign up to receive more Camp Care Packages at campnanowrimo.org.