Cameron Chapman


AH! NaNoWriMo Starts in 12 Hours and I have No Story Idea!

Maybe you’ve just heard about NaNoWriMo and you think it’s too late to join this year, since it starts in 12 hours. Or maybe you thought you had an idea and now you hate it and the thought of writing it makes you throw up just a little bit in your mouth.

Don’t let a little thing like not having a story idea prevent you from participating in NaNoWriMo. It’s just an excuse, not a real reason. So, just so that you can’t use it as an excuse, I’ve come up with a little guide to coming up with a story idea in the next 12 hours.

Side note: The first year I did NaNo, I didn’t start until November 3rd! And I still managed to get 90,000 words done during the month! So I don’t want to hear “it’s too late!”

1. Start With a Concept

This is kind of like a theme, but not quite. The concept for The Difference Between Flying and Falling was the idea that just because two people love each other with all their hearts doesn’t mean they won’t be shitty to each other and hurt each other. That gave me the basis for the rest of the story.

One way to come up with your concept is to start asking yourself “What if…?” questions. What if someone started leaving anonymous gifts on your front porch? What if dragons were real but only kids could see them? What if pigs could fly? What if someone hated ice cream?

2. Create a Mashup

This is kind of how I came up with the idea for my other NaNoWriMo project, Music for the End of the World. It’s a mashup of Firefly, Tank Girl, Mad Max, and The Road, with some steampunk elements thrown in for good measure. Think about some of your favorite stories, whether they’re books, TV shows, movies, or something else, and think of what might result if you combined them.

3. Retell an Old Story

Pick your favorite classic or fairy tale and retell it. Give it a modern twist, or set it in a different time period (Cinderella in the Great Depression, anyone?), change the gender of the main character, transform it into a different genre (sci-fi Pride & Prejudice, maybe?), or make any other changes you think could make it better/awesomer/wordier.

Related: Write fan fiction for a modern story. Just realize you won’t be able to publish it.

4. Visit the NaNoWriMo Adoption Society

The NaNoWriMo Adoption Society is the most wonderful part of the entire forums, as far as I’m concerned. There are adoption threads for everything you could possibly think of, including entire plots. This is where I got the titles for both of my projects this year.

5. Look at the News

This is particularly effective if you want to write a tragedy. Or something that’s completely unbelievable.

6. Give a Familiar Trope a New Spin

TV Tropes is a great place to get ideas. See what’s already been done and give it a new twist. Combine completely unrelated tropes and see what happens.

7. Check Out Your Friends’ Facebook Timelines for Juicy Ideas

Okay, this is potentially a great way to ruin some friendships if you don’t change a lot of details. But have you ever really looked at the drama that people broadcast on Facebook? From a writer’s perspective, it’s kinda awesome.

8. Brainstorm or Free Write for 15 Minutes

Write down absolutely everything that comes to mind, no matter how stupid or pointless it seems. See if any great ideas pop up.

Related: Go for a long walk or drive and let your mind wander. Go down roads you’ve never been on before.

9. Reverse an Expectation

Take a familiar character or situation, and look at it from the opposite perspective. Make an unlikely character your protagonist (or villain). Make something happen in an unlikely place. See where this takes you. Probably the most famous example of this kind of writing is Wicked (The Wizard of Oz told from the Wicked Witch of the West’s point of view).

Bonus: Create a Step Outline

Once you have your idea, you may want to create a very basic outline to help guide you throughout November. Here’s what to include:

Inciting Incident/Call to Action: This is what gets the story started.

End of Act I: A high-conflict story that falls about a quarter of the way through the story.

Midpoint: This should be another high-conflict scene.

End of Act II: A major, high-stakes test that propels the story toward the climax.

Climax: The last conflict scene, where the story’s outcome is decided.

This gives you points to aim for throughout the story. Just don’t be afraid to change it as you write, if you feel the need to.

A Playlist for NaNoWriMo

Music is a huge part of my creative process. It inspires me in so many ways, more so than any other creative medium. So for each novel or screenplay I write, I like to compile a playlist that I think matches the tone, feel, and story of whatever it is I’m writing, to listen to while I’m working. I listen to it at other times, too, to get the creativity flowing.

For NaNoWriMo this year, I have two projects, and so far I’ve only come up with a playlist for one (The Difference Between Flying and Falling). I’ll come up with one for the other novel I’m working on as I start writing it, as the tone for the two projects is very, very different. (more…)

Gearing up for NaNoWriMo 2012!

National Novel Writing Month 2012 (aka NaNoWriMo or just NaNo) starts in just over a week: November 1st! This will be my fifth year doing NaNo, and hopefully my fourth win. I’ve been slacking on my fiction writing this year, but am really getting back into things now. I’ve got the third book in The Steam and Steel Chronicles nearly done (I’ll be starting on revisions to the fourth likely after NaNo). And I’ve got two ideas I’ll be working on during NaNo.

I’m doing something a little different this year: I’m going to be a NaNo rebel! I’ll be starting the month working on a screenplay: The Difference Between Flying and Falling (hereafter known as TDBFAF). The title was actually taken from a NaNoWriMo “Adopt a Title” thread. TDBFAF is going to be about two people who deeply love each other. But just because they’re absolutely in love doesn’t mean that they have it easy, or that they don’t hurt each other. In fact, I think because they’re so in love, they maybe hurt each other more. It’s going to be a super-low-budget feature, with only a handful of characters and a couple of sets.

Now, since screenplays usually only run 13,000 – 19,000 words, I’m obviously going to need to do more than just one project to reach 50,000 words before December 1st. That’s why I’ll be working on a novel after TDBFAF is complete. The novel will be titled Music For the End of the World (another title I lifted from the same “Adopt a Title” thread, hereafter known as MFEW), and will be post-apocalyptic sci-fantasy. I’m pretty excited about this one. It’s an idea that just came to me as I was reading through the adoption threads on the NaNo forums. It’s kind of a mix between Firefly, Mad Max, Tank Girl, and The Road. (more…)

I ♥ Hugs

A hug is the shortest distance between friends. —Author Unknown

I will not play tug o’ war. I’d rather play hug o’ war. Where everyone hugs instead of tugs, Where everyone giggles and rolls on the rug, Where everyone kisses, and everyone grins, and everyone cuddles, and everyone wins. —Shel Silverstein

I love hugging. I wish I was an octopus, so I could hug ten people at a time. —Drew Barrymore

I’m a hugger. I LOVE hugs. Pretty much, if you don’t smell bad and you aren’t all sweaty and dirty (or, depending on who you are, even if you are sweaty and dirty…), I want a hug from you. (more…)

It’s been a few months…

Any of you who have followed this site for long will notice the new theme. It’s Adelle from BluChic. At some point I’m going to design a completely custom theme for this site, but I just have not had time. I’m more worried about other projects I have going, rather than spending time on the design for this blog. It’s not a design blog, so I’m not really concerned with how original it is. I just want it to be readable and pretty.

My writing has suffered this summer. I’ve been more focused on my social life, to be honest. I spent my time recharging and recuperating from the events of the past year or so, and am starting to get the itch to write again. I’ve got a screenplay in the works, which I’ll hopefully be finishing in the next month or so. I’m also copyediting a friend’s book at the moment. And as soon as that’s done, I’m going to do the final copyedits on the last two books of The Steam and Steel Chronicles and get those out, hopefully before the end of the year.

Right now I’m waiting to hear back from four film festivals regarding the short film I made last winter, This Is All You Left Me. I’ll hear from all of them by the end of this month. Fingers crossed I make it into at least one. (If anyone is interested, the four festivals are the Hamptons International Film Festival, St. Louis International Film Festival, New Hampshire Film Festival, and Portland Maine Film Festival; the first two are long shots, but the second two I think I have a reasonable shot at.)

I’m going to be changing the focus of this blog a bit. I’ll still post about writing, but I’m going to take a more personal slant going forward, as well as talk about other professional pursuits (including web design and development, filmmaking, and possibly another business I’m looking into). And hopefully I won’t wait another two and a half months before posting again.

An Idea I’m Releasing Into the World

This is a completely off-topic post, but something that I think a lot of people would appreciate.

Have you ever wanted to create a playlist for an event, like a party or whatever, and you spend hours putting songs into a playlist only to then have to figure out what order they should go in. That’s even more time-consuming than finding the music in the first place.

What if there was an app that would analyze the music in that playlist and then arrange it so that one song could easily flow into the next. It could be based on things like tempo but also on things like genre and artist. And of course, after it rearranges all your music, you could then manually change things around if you wanted, too.

Anyway, since I’m not an app developer and likely will never have time to put something like this together, I’m releasing the idea into the wild. If someone does take this idea and run with it, I’d love to hear about it (or even beta test it!), so please let me know! Or, if there’s an app like this out there and I just don’t know about it, let me know that, too!

The 10 Most Awesome Things in the World

I’m going to try to post more general posts rather than just focusing on writing (though since I live and breathe writing, even “general”  posts are probably going to talk about writing to an extent). Part of this is to attract more readers, and part of it is so I don’t burn out talking about nothing but writing.

In this post, I’m going to tell you what I think are the ten most awesome things in the world. This list is completely subjective. It’s only my opinion. So feel free to disagree or make your own list. (more…)

The Things We Say on the Internet

Disclaimer #1: This post is not inspired by anyone I know personally, just things I’ve observed on social media and my thoughts on it. Also, the intention of this post is not to claim or imply that I’ve never made an ass of myself on the web. I have. Repeatedly.

Disclaimer #2: This post is only loosely tied to writing…

I follow a handful of celebrities online (maybe a couple dozen on Facebook, a couple dozen on Twitter, and half a dozen on G+). Once in a great while, I’ll comment on their statuses or reply to their tweets, or even mention them in a tweet, but it doesn’t happen often. I’ve had a couple of “celebrities” reply to my tweets (and even had one thank me for mentioning him in an article I wrote for Mashable a million years ago). So I don’t view it as futile to try to interact with celebs on social media. If they didn’t want to interact with people, they wouldn’t be on social media.

What I’m about to talk about seems to be more prevalent on Facebook than anywhere else, but I’ve seen it on virtually every social network out there. It usually goes like this: a celeb posts something profound, deep, hilarious, or even a little boring, and there are a handful of comments that are semi-related to the topic (and often half of them are borderline-illiterate), and then, inevitably, begin the comments along the lines of “I want to have your baby!” or “You’re so hot!” or things that I will not repeat on this blog in case there are children or people with taste reading.

Now, I’m not gonna lie, there are times and certain celebs where I am thinking all the inappropriate things these people are saying. But I have this internal filter that prevents me from actually saying these things to a complete stranger. That’s what people tend to forget about all these celeb interactions: these people do not know you. They would not recognize you on the street, they would not take your phone call if you somehow got their phone number, and they would not invite you to their wedding or their kid’s birthday party. They do not know you. And as much as you like to think you know them because you follow their every tweet and status update, you don’t know them.

So why would you say something to these people that you wouldn’t say to anyone in real life? Would you walk up to a complete stranger on the street and say “I want to have your babies?” (Note: the correct answer is “no”, so if you said “yes” you might want to talk to someone about that.) Would you, sober, scream out in a crowded room that someone you’ve never met is hot? In front of their family and friends? Again, that should probably be a “no.”

It’s an epidemic on the internet. It’s like everyone loses that internal filter that tells them what they should and should not say the second they log on. Granted, some people don’t have that filter in real life, but the ratio is way off online.

This leads to other issues. It leads to trolling and people feeling like they can just say whatever they want when they’re online without consequences. Remember: there is a human being on the other end of whatever you’re saying. I don’t care if they’re famous, internet famous, or completely unknown, they’re a person! Sure, celebrities might be a little bit more used to people saying inappropriate things, but does that mean they like it? I’m guessing not for the majority of them. I’m guessing some of these things embarrass them. I bet they get uncomfortable when reading some things. And here’s the worst part: I bet they censor themselves because they know certain things they post will elicit a certain type of undesirable response. And that’s where everyone loses out, because we’re getting a less authentic interaction.

On that note, here are my three basic rules for interacting online. The goal here is not to stifle free speech or tell people what to do, it’s simply my own personal guidelines for how I interact with people, especially people I do not know in real life (who are more apt to get my special brand of humor), when online.

1. Remember that you’re dealing with people. Living, breathing human beings are on the other end of every comment you post.

2. Treat people the way you want to be treated. If something would make you feel uncomfortable if someone else said it to you, why would you say it to them?

3. Before posting anything online, ask yourself if you’d say the same thing to someone’s face. If you wouldn’t, why would you post it online for the entire world to see?

Following those three basic rules has kept me largely out of online embarrassment (there have been exceptions). I know that if I were to ever meet any of the celebrities or others I follow online, I wouldn’t have to be sitting there thinking, “I hope they don’t remember that thing I said that time.” Considering I want to be involved in the film industry, I hope there’s a good chance I’ll meet (or work with) some of these people in the future. So maybe that’s the difference: I view them as potential colleagues, while others view them as these unreachable figures that they will never, ever meet.

2012: The First Quarter

It’s hard to believe that we’ve already been through a full quarter of 2012. The past three months have been life-changing for me, and while it didn’t seem like it earlier in the winter, it’s been changing for the better.

Regular readers of this blog will know that I went through a major personal crisis at the end of 2011. While I don’t want to get into the particulars in such a public forum, the gist of it is that after eleven years of living together and more than five years being married, my husband and I split up. This has turned out to be one of the best things that has ever happened to me, and while it’s obviously not something I would have hoped for, I firmly believe that it was the right thing to have happened. (more…)

Of Conferences and Fellowships

Despite everything going on in my life at the moment, I decided I need to do some proactive things related to conferences and fellowships that will take place later this year. After all, deadlines are approaching quickly for two particular writing-related things, and while they won’t take place until the second-half of the year, I can’t wait until then to apply. (more…)