Camp NaNoWriMo

Since Camp starts a week today, I figured I would post about it, explain what it is for anyone not familiar with it and talk about my personal experiences with the events.

Camp NaNoWriMo, for the uninitiated, is the summer version of National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) in November. Consisting of two sessions every year since 2011, the aim is to write a 50,000 word novel in a month. Since it started, the sessions have moved often.

In 2011, the first ever Camp started. The sessions that year were July then August back to back. Some people, including myself, did both sessions. I decided to do the event because I had heard about it before whilst in high school and college (that’s UK college, 16-18) but had been too intimidated. After finishing my first year of my writing degree, I decided to give it a go, feeling more confident and wanting to test my skills and see how far I had come.

I finished July with 50,067. Not bad considering I missed a few days near the end of the month to attend a few local events, including the Great Yorkshire Show. However, I failed August due to various reasons. I felt a lack of planning as well as the turn around being a but too quick contributed greatly. I also had a voluntary job with my local libraries service and couldn’t quite juggle the demands of writing 50K words for the second month going on top of working.

OLL quickly decided that back to back events were probably not the right way to go about it, especially when people around the world in various time zones struggled with validating for July in some parts whilst a new session was starting in other areas of the world.

The following year, 2012, the sessions were June and August. This worked out better and it provided a break for the staff at OLL to sort out the website whilst participants around the world could validate without issues due to time zones, set up their novels and prepare for the next session much easier with a months break.

Again, I did both sessions. I finished June with a respectable total of 50,003 words, having continued the novel I had started in July. Another years study (and planning over the year) seemed to have helped. Whereas I managed to do 3 years worth of story time in 50,067, I only managed 3 months in a similar amount. I took this as a sign that I had improved as writer and I had learned more. Also, trying to avoid the Olympics and having cut down my hours at the library did help and encouraged me to get writing done.

I spent July reading No Plot? No Problem! by Chris Baty (Review here: https://sleepybookdragon.wordpress.com/2013/06/18/book-review-no-plot-no-problem-a-low-stress-high-velocity-guide-to-writing-a-novel-in-30-days-by-chris-baty/) and planning for August. I had been buoyed by my success in June and decided to go back to the story I had attempted for August the previous year and failed. Planning was essential as the story took place in Winchester, Virginia so, as a Brit who had never gone to the States, I had to talk to some of my friends who lived in Virginia to help me figure out various issues, including immigration.

The planning proved a little too thorough as I had to find 5,000 more words to hit 50,000 words before midnight on August 31st. Still, it was an enjoyable experience and gave me an insight into how I could do the various little bits of research required whilst still writing. I would say it was a learning experience which would help in the next academic year.

This year, 2013, OLL changed the sessions again to April and July. This was probably done to account for the fact that they had wound up Script Frenzy due to declining participation numbers. This is supported by the fact that this year, OLL have created a genre for scripts this year of all kind. short story collections as well as being able to officially rebel (working or editing a pre-existing project) and allows participants to create their own word count goals.

I was not initially going to do April since I was working on my dissertation for university which was due in a couple of days prior to the session starting and preparing and researching for the last two essays I needed to do which had high word counts to match the high level of research required. However, I felt I needed a little something else to do as just a private creative venture as a de-stress. So I set myself a 10,000 word target using the new word count feature, figuring that if I failed to hit it, I failed. I wasn’t exactly trying.

As luck would have it, I did manage, somehow, to do the 10K and get my university work done. It was fun and a nice little distraction for me, especially as I wasn’t trying.

The next session, starting on Monday, 1st July 2013, at 00:00:01 will be the sixth since it’s inception and only the second to include the new content. Whilst the changes are great fun and I can understand why there was a session in April, I feel there was too much of a gap between April and July and it has made some participants, like myself, a bit restless and fed up of waiting for a new session. This is possibly the only thing I would recommend to OLL to change for next year.

So there you have it. The history of both the Camp NaNoWriMo event and my own history.

I am looking forward to this next session, hoping to edit and double the size of my dissertation (which was a novella) and I am aiming to finish on July 25th, when Broken Homes by Ben Aaronovitch comes out. This also means that I may neglect this blog a little, unless I put my word counts up everyday as a way of motivating me. We’ll see but for now, I need to finish writing my new outline… I’ve been meaning to do it since end of May!

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Book Review: No Plot? No Problem! A Low Stress, High Velocity Guide to Writing a Novel in 30 Days by Chris Baty

Long title, I know. With the July session of Camp NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) just around the corner, I thought I would review this. Also, I need to post something on here this week and I was meaning to review this last week. Sorry!

No Plot? No Problem is your guide through the preparation, the process and the aftermath of doing NaNoWriMo (commonly known as NaNo), written by founder Chris Baty.

Including an introduction to the month and a history of how NaNo started, the book helps potential participants to work out what to write, planning and plotting, how to find time to write and getting the right equipment for the event before moving on to other issues connected to the event: telling (or not telling) friends, family and work colleagues about your endeavour, ensuring you complete the challenge plus eating and drinking right during the event.

The book also includes pep talks for each week of the event, which are recommended to be read at the start of each week along with the pep talks sent to your NaNo Mail on the website(s), a letter of congratulations, regardless of how well you have done, and a chapter on editing and getting published.

This book is well written, easy to read and very informative. Whilst US and November-focused, all the information applies to everyone and works just as well for Camp sessions (April and July this year). The writing is fun and exciting and Baty is very encouraging and engaging in the event. I really enjoyed this book and since buying it. I have used this book for several sections and have found it invaluable each time. The pep talks are especially helpful and have been great for picking me up when I felt down in the second and third weeks. I have also taken Baty’s advice for healthy snack food.

The only criticisms I have are two-fold. The introduction is slow and somewhat boring, making it difficult to read and the last chapter on editing and submitting to agents is short but since it is aimed at guiding people through the event and not the actual process of editing, rewriting and submissions to agents and publishers, it is forgivable and there are other books out there that can help on this (see my review on Road to Somewhere by Robert Graham).

This book is good fun, well written and excellent companion any month-long novelling venture (not just in NaNo sessions). I have turned to this book for help and advice when needed and would highly recommend it.

 

TV Review: CSI:Vegas Meets CSI:NY Part 2

Sorry, I know. I am breaking normal service again to talk about something I saw on TV but it wouldn’t be right not to review this when I have already reviewed Part 1. I did watch this last night and have slept and whatnot since so I apologise if this is short and/or wobble-y.

Moving from Las Vegas to New York, Detective Mac Taylor and DB continue their search for Christine, Mac’s girlfriend in the Big Apple, where things get more dangerous and more deadly, forcing Mac and DB to break regulation and go rogue.

So I have a preference for this episode and found it far more fun, entertaining and enjoyable than the first half. Maybe because there was more action and more danger in this plus the little trickery they undertook whilst going rogue. Maybe also because it was more focused on the actual search for Christine. All I know is that I preferred this episode over the first half.

I do have a question about this episode though and I don’t know if it’s because the NY episode is from like mid-season of season 9 or if it’s because I have missed episodes from the last season but… Where’s Stella? I like Stella. Where she go? (Please, no spoilers!)

But, in general, I do like this episode and I think I am going to re-watch both of these episodes and back to back if possible. Also, sorry about the picture. Struggled to find a picture from part 2 so just going to use the one posted.

TV Review: CSI:Vegas Meets CSI:NY Part 1

Okay, this blog is meant to be a book and film review site however my CSI Fangirl side of me wanted me to write a quick review of part of last nights CSI crossover. I promise to make this spoiler-free for those who might have recorded part 1 last night so they can watch the LV episode then the NY episode and I ask any readers who are in the USA to please NOT post anything that would be classed as spoiler as we, here in the UK, are about 1 season behind!

Detective Mac Taylor heads to Las Vegas to surprise his girlfriend, Christine who is in Vegas for a convention. After a quick pit stop into the LV lab, he heads over to Christine’s hotel with DB Russell to surprise her. However, they discover that Christine is not there and there are signs that Christine has been kidnapped. Meanwhile, the Vegas team investigate the death of a man stuffed into a wine barrel to pickle.

Now, the premise is great fun and works great however I felt that the episode seemed very lopsided. There seemed to be more time given over the wine murder plot and not to the LV/NY cross plot, which is what this episode is MEANT to be about! This is a bit of a disappointment as I thoroughly enjoyed the all the earlier crossover episodes between all three series (LV to Miami, Miami to NY and back and the CSI Trinity episodes). I was also slightly confused about who Christine was. We have not got Season 9 of CSI:NY yet over here in the UK so maybe that is explained in the next series or, if that started in the last series, I must have missed it as I have also missed some CSI in the last couple of years due to not being able to watch at university for various reasons.

The wine plot was fun though and provided some laughs and would have been excellent in another episode but seemed to suffocate the crossover plot which was the main attraction for this episode. I feel this was a great shame. Also, I have been on the Channel Five website and an article about this says something that annoys me a little:

“Although star Gary Sinise was involved in two stories that merged his series with CSI: Miami, he’d never before been on the set of the Vegas-based drama and, since Ted Danson only joined CSI last season, this is first opportunity to visit a related show”. (Channel Five Broadcasting (2013). CSI: Vegas Meets New York on Channel 5. [Online]. Available at http://www.channel5.com/shows/csi-new-york/articles/csi-vegas-meets-new-york-on-channel-5. [Accessed 21/5/2013])

Um, can I just remind channel 5 that, to my recollection, NY has NEVER been to LV. LV has gone to NY but not vice versa! This is the first time we have ever seen anyone from NY in Las Vegas! Yes, I might be being picky but as a big fan of the show, that annoyed me!

Anyway, the episode was fun and I would reccommend it to fans of the show because, as I have just ranted above, this is the first time any of the NY team has been to Vegas, but the episode was not maybe as goof as it could have been, Maybe, and hopefully, tonight’s episode, part 2, will be a heck of a lot better…and not confusing!

Book Review: The Crime Writers Guide to Police Practice and Procedure by Michael O’Bryne

Instead of a fiction novel, I’m going to review a How-To book but this one isn’t like the other ones. Instead, it is a book by an ex-police officer called Michael O’Bryne explaining the practice and procedure of a Police investigation for crime writers. Covering pretty much every aspect necessary (at least in basic), this book explains who attends a crime scene and what happens, the structure of the incident room and members of the investigation team and the procedure for arrests and the role of the lawyer. It also features information on the powers of stop and search and home searches and forensics,profiling (pros and cons), organised and other crimes that maybe featured in crime novels aside from murders (which is the main focus in the first few chapters as it’s the crime of choice for many writers) and international policing, use of force and technology. The book also has a quick guide to the Police’s relationships with other agencies and a miscellany covering discipline, senior officers, police culture and informants.

Everything is explained in very simple terms but it is not condescending and also covers the law in the UK and partially in the USA as correct at the time of being published (2009).  Though this book is aimed at crime writer’s, I found this book extremely informative as a writer with characters who are police officers in a Sci-Fi setting and a spy in an urban fantasy story. I did find this a bit of a struggle in places to read but that might have been an element of impatience and wanting to get onto a section I was actually interested in. In saying this, I feel you could just dip in and out of it at will when needing to check on something very quickly.

As a rule though, I feel it is a great resource to have to hand and also offers some extra internet links for further information and would be a great starting point for any crime writer just starting out or any writer who has a police officer character.

(P.S. Sorry if this review looks weird. Had to rewrite this review a bit and mess with its presentation)

 

Book Review: Whispers Under Ground by Ben Aaronovitch

The third book in the series and PC Peter Grant is neck-deep in death, murder and magic again.

This time though, he finds himself exploring the world beneath London, the Tube and Underground Railway system. Oh, and the minor thorny issue of the victim being the son of a high-ranking USA diplomat so having to deal with a FBI agent on his tail, the trade in pottery and counterfeits and discovering that the residents of London, magical and otherwise, are not the only ones who live in the city.

I know I have spoken about research before with Aaronovitch and in this, it was his exploration of London’s Camden Market and the pottery trade, the art colleges and art gallery installations (I don’t go to art galleries do this was of fascination to me), the London Underground, it’s tunnels and the procedures of investigating crime on the Underground and, further still, the sewer system. There is also the revelations at the end and the technology mentioned as being used.  (I won’t go into it too much as I do not wish to end up giving away spoilers for anyone who has not read this book yet).

For a non-Londoner like me (I’ve only been down once in my whole life), this book (along with the others in series) provide a fascinating insight into London life and it’s transport system and the world beneath it’s streets. I hope Aaronovitch continues on with the high level of research and writing, including the wit and humour PC Grant uses time and again and makes me laugh out loud time and again.