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Camp Care Package #4: Add something fantastical!

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Author Michelle Ruiz Keil is your Camp Counselor this week. Find all Camp Care Packages in Breaking News throughout the month of April, or learn more about Camp NaNoWriMo!

1) Take inspiration from old stories: 

You’ve been writing your brains out. You’re close to the end! Now what????

No matter where you are in your story, getting stuck can be a gift instead of a curse.

First, re-read what you’ve got. Then, ask yourself what archetypal story it reminds you of. Even if your work-in-progress isn’t an overt retelling, there are no new stories. Don’t think too hard—just grab your Brother’s Grimm or that book of Aztec Myths and read until you find some nugget of gold that moves your story forward. 

2) Add something fantastical:

As speculative fiction becomes more mainstream, fantastic elements are infiltrating every genre—even nonfiction and memoir. The trick is to find what feels (almost) possible to you. 

Whether it’s as subtle as the smoke alarm going off every time the main character fights with their husband or as wild as a slumber party ritual that conjures a pair of ancient beings, finding places to use even slightly fantastical elements can add depth and complexity, allowing you to express deeper themes and tell a more nuanced story.

3) Things to do after "The End":

  • Celebrate! — Take a deep breath! Toast yourself! Eat cake! You did it!!!!

  • Remember it’s OK to be sad. — The post-book blahs are real! Be gentle with yourself.

  • Remember your body. — You know, that thing attached to your typing appendages. Walk. Sleep. Stretch. Do some yoga—there are a few great YouTube yoga routines just for writers. Here's my favorite one. 

  • Put your book away for a while. — I like to take at least two weeks away from a project before I start to revise. Some writers need longer. It’s great if you can almost forget what you wrote so you can dive back in with objectivity.

  • Read your book aloud. — Start revising by reading your book aloud. Read with feeling like it’s story time in the children’s room and you are everyone’s favorite librarian. When you stumble on a word or phrase, make a note—that’s a spot that needs work. 

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Michelle Ruiz Keil is a writer and tarot reader with an eye for the enchanted and a way with animals. Her critically acclaimed debut novel, All of Us With Wings, called “…a transcendent journey” by the New York Times and “…a fantastical ode the Golden City’s post-punk era” by Entertainment Weekly, was released from Soho Teen in 2019. 

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