Writer Networking & Camp Nanowrimo

CampNanoAre you familiar with National Novel Writing Month aka NaNoWriMo? It is a November writing event where participants try to write a 50000 word novel in 30 days. Many participants have gone on to be published authors.

Camp NaNoWriMo is a July offshoot of the November NaNo.  While the general goal is still the 50000+ word novel, you can commit to less. For example, I’m doing a 17500 word novella instead.

It helps in doing NaNo to have NaNo goals. Some people have as a goal they want to finish a novel for the first time. Others are trying out writing in a different genre.

A less noted goal is that of writer networking. It really helps for writers to learn to network with other writers. In Camp NaNo, the chief networking opportunity is that participants are grouped into cabins. You can find a group of people to form a cabin with on the Camp NaNo site. Or if you are in a FB writing group you could use that as the core for your cabin.

I ended up in a Catholic cabin. Mainly because I’m Catholic and find it distracting dealing with anti-Catholic bigots while I’m trying to write. YOU might find a group based on your religious faith (or your atheism), your politics, your genre, or your nationality. If you have Asperger Syndrome, you might start a cabin with only Aspies, but remember that Aspies lack social skills and so you might be better off in a cabin based on something else.

Especially for a person with Asperger Syndrome, it can be hard to learn the social skills you need to do writer networking. Here are a few rules. Learn them, live by them.

  1. Remember that networking is not all about YOU. Take an interest in other people’s writing project and their progress. Don’t talk about your own work all the time.
  2. Keep your messages on the Camp NaNoWriMo cabin message board short. Long messages may annoy other people.
  3. Think of yourself as a REAL writer. Because you ARE one, so long as you are firmly committed to doing the work required to produce work and increase your writing skills. Don’t tell other writers ‘I’m no good.’ They might believe you.
  4. Don’t be negative about the other writer’s work. Find something nice to say about it. Or at least beg off by saying you don’t read much science fiction erotica (or whatever the genre is.)  Remember, don’t critique the work of other writers unless they ask for it— perhaps by joining a critique group with you. And even in a critique group, mention positive things as well as negative.
  5. Don’t be the thought police. If someone says something you believe should not be said, you shouldn’t go after him for it. Even if what the person said was ‘racist’ or ‘sexist’ or ‘homophobic’ or conservative/’right wing.’ Appointing yourself to the thought police just cuts off communication with other people.
  6. Don’t swear. Or use sexual words/imagery. It just puts people off and makes you look vulgar and/or ignorant.
  7. Don’t stray off topic unless the other person does so first. And get back on topic quickly.
  8. In polite society, we don’t talk religion or politics on social occasions. If you are not in a cabin based on your faith/nonfaith or your politics, be polite.
  9. Have fun. Networking with other writers isn’t a chore. It’s a new way to have fun.
  10. If you have Asperger Syndrome, don’t talk about any of your Special Interests (obsessive interests.) If another person shares an interest, you may respond on the topic, but limit each post to a short one— three sentences or less. Remember, going on about a topic that the other person isn’t as interested in makes you a bore.

So, are you going to do Camp NaNo? Have you set up your account or your cabin yet? Let us know how it works for you!

Asperger’s Syndrome and the 2 Kinds of Social Rules

AspergerSyndromeIf you are a person with Asperger’s Syndrome (autism spectrum disorder) you have some problems with social situations. One of those problems is that you have a harder time learning the social rules that neurotypical people take for granted. But the social rules can be learned, once you overcome the odd idea that other folks have to change their ways to accommodate you.

One problem in learning the social rules is that there are two kinds of social rules, the real social rules and the rules that some person or group want you to accept as if they were new social rules.

The real social rules are the rules that even the rebels among the neurotypicals expect you to follow. For example, if you are at a funeral you don’t insult the dead person. You also don’t tell mourning family members that the dead person’s death, at this time, probably saved them a lot of money. Other real rules are the ones about conversation— when you are in a conversation with one or more other people, you don’t talk nonstop for a full hour. You have to give other people a chance to talk. And if you are at a social event, you don’t talk about shocking, gruesome or controversial things, especially when the other people are giving you signs that they don’t want to talk about it.

Faux social rules are really ways people have of telling other people, ‘do it my way’. For example, an atheist might demand that a religious person never talk about their faith unless they ask permission of every person within earshot; but they reserve the right to talk about their atheism loudly, even when they are in a church. Or a rule that you have to eat birthday cake at a birthday party even if you are diabetic or on a sugar free diet.

It’s very hard to learn which social rules are real if you are an Aspie! Especially since the real social rules are mostly not talked about unless someone violates them. And if YOU violate them, no one will talk about it to YOU, unless they are scolding you for it.

But one thing about real social rules— they exist to help us be kind to other people, and sensitive to their problems. They exist to help us learn to take turns and share, just like they tried to teach us when we were little kids.

Another problem with learning the real social rules is that some people who are charming or popular or influential break some social rules in some situations. For example a host of a political radio show might be joke about some person he disagrees with dying of cancer, even though the normal social rule is that you don’t say bad things about dead people, especially not the newly dead while people are still mourning.

The truth is: neurotypical people can get away with breaking real social rules because they have good social skills and can judge if their audience will accept. Aspies just can’t do that, and for us breaking the rules will just reinforce the idea that we are oddballs, unkind, not good people to be around.

So we Aspies need to spend time on learning social rules, even if it’s boring, even if other people will still think we are kind of weird whether we obey social rules or not. It will sometimes help make our lives a bit easier. And if we are aspiring/actual writers as well as Aspies, it will help us out with writing social interactions— a big worry for many Aspie writers.