If you follow me on Instagram, then you’ll know that I’ve signed up for Camp NaNoWriMo next month!
For those who don’t know, NaNoWriMo – National Novel Writing Month – is a challenge where you need to write 50,000 words by the end of the month. The main event takes place throughout November, but two camps (smaller versions of this challenge) occur in April and July. The difference is that you get to choose what you write and how much – a short story collection, poetry, whichever you prefer.
For my Camp NaNoWriMo, I’ve decided to set 40,000 words as my target. The reason for this is because I’m using this event to finish my novel, of which I’m already over halfway through, so I don’t think I need 50,000 words to finish it (fingers crossed).
Obviously, completing NaNoWriMo is going to be tough if you don’t prepare. So I’m prepping as much as I can, based on the advice I’ve been given from other NaNoWriMo’ers and what I’ve read online. I thought I’d share what I’ve learnt so far to help anyone else starting out on their journey.
Set a realistic target
As aforementioned, Camp NaNoWriMo allows you to set your own writing target.
It’s tempting to set a small goal that you know you’ll reach. For some, it can also be tempting to set yourself a larger target that’s more challenging, as it seems more impressive and the reward will be greater.
The issue with doing either of these is that they’re not realistic goals. Smaller targets that you find easy do not push you enough, but challenges that are too far-fetched are going to make you feel worse about your work; you’ll feel that they’re unattainable, so you’re more likely to give up.
Set a target that you know you can reach, as long as you put in the effort. You’ll achieve more and meet your word count in no time!
Schedule your time
To complete NaNoWriMo, you need to prioritise writing above pretty much everything else (aside from socialising, and general self-care, of course). It’s recommended that you create a schedule for the month so you can assign individual word counts for each day, based around how much time you’ll have.
I’ve made a calendar using Google Sheets, on which I’ve noted my writing targets, as well as space to fill in my total daily word count. It’s a quick and easy way to track my progress, and it saves automatically so I can access it at any time.
Research as much as you can beforehand
Picture this: you’re typing frantically, your fingers struggling to keep up with the speed of your brain, but then you need to stop. You’ve reached a point in the chapter where more research is required; you can’t continue until you’ve double-checked transport methods from the 1300s, or there’s some war going on but you can’t remember the date of one of the battles.
Research can be incredibly time-consuming, depending on the topic. As I’m writing historical fiction, I’ve made it my goal this month to research as many topics as needed. Earlier this month, I plotted my remaining chapters in more detail. Then, I added another tab in my Google sheet for crucial facts I’ll need when writing next month. This way, I won’t get caught up in finding the info I need to keep writing.
This is especially handy if you don’t have a lot of time on your hands – there’ll be nothing holding you back from getting those words down.
As Stephen King said:
“If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot.”
The more we read, the better writers we become. Therefore, reading is one of the best ways you can prepare yourself for Camp NaNoWriMo.
Personally, my writing is 100x better when I’ve been reading a lot. The right words come to mind more swiftly and I spend less time imagining how long I need to bang my head against a wall to get my brain working.
Try and read a book that’s related to your writing project; it could be from the same genre, the same author, or it could have similar plot elements. Anything that will keep inspiring you throughout the month will be a huge help.
Check out NaNoWriMo’s site
The NaNoWriMo website is a web of resources for anyone participating at any point during the year. You’ll undoubtedly find something you need from the prepping ideas on their blog, and the forums and local groups.
NaNoWriMo is a community, something you’ll sense as soon as you start exploring their webpages. I personally love the various writing groups hosted by your local area rep. Obviously, we can’t all meet in person at the moment, but your rep will share resources to help you prepare, motivate you as you tackle your writing project, and keep you updated if need be.
You feel like you’re apart of something incredible when you join, meeting new people up and down the country, coming together to write.
Be kind to yourself
Last one, but certainly not the least.
Writing is hard; we all know that. No one will write a perfect chapter every single day next month – it’s impossible. What will happen is that some days we’ll write something we’re happy with, and then on other days, we’ll maybe write five words max, or 1000 words that we’ll want to delete.
I started writing in notebooks over my laptop when I realised that I spent more time editing on my computer than actually putting words down. It would take me half hour to write a paragraph because I kept deleting sentences, hoping I could come up with something better.
But NaNoWriMo isn’t like that. In fact, it doesn’t allow that to happen. This challenge is all about building a writing habit and getting as much down as possible, whether it’s perfect or not. And it won’t be, especially if, like me, you’re writing a first draft.
So don’t beat yourself up if you’re unimpressed with your work so far. Don’t worry if you’re struggling to come up with beautifully-crafted descriptions; just jot down some sentences, and you can work on them later. Nor does it matter if 10 words are all you can conjure one day. It happens.
Just relax, breathe, and remember why you’re doing this. I’ve made several motivational notes to stop me from criticising myself and take a break if I need to, which hopefully will help!
Remember, it doesn’t matter how many words you write in a day. You just need to hit your target by the end of the month.
We got this.