Winning Camp NaNoWriMo in 7 Steps

Get ready for some serious camping puns as we tackle all the ways for you to win Camp NaNoWriMo this month!

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Campy puns aside, what’s great about Camp NaNoWriMo is that it’s a month dedicated to writing a project that’s not quite 50,000 words (or 50K+ for the ambitious types) yet it’s still worth writing.

Camp NaNoWriMo is a great time to write that screenplay, that children’s story, that memoir, that collection of short stories or the start to that epic novel. Camp NaNoWriMo is about choosing a writing project that doesn’t necessarily take on the form of a first draft to a novel.

Because I love writing for theatre, I plan to get a new play down on paper by the end of the month. Fingers crossed!

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Unlike participation trophies, every camper at Camp NaNoWriMo can win by reaching a writing goal set by the camper (that’s you).

Thirty days goes by fast. And it’s not like we’re escaping the craziness of our lives to write in a cabin in the woods. Most of us won’t take PTO or skip class to reach our writing goals this month.

Like any camper in the woods, you need to have the right writing tools and strategy so that you come out of Camp NaNoWriMo as a success. Here are my seven steps to winning Camp NaNoWriMo this month.

Pack a Map

Before your first day of camp, write down everything you know about your story—just not in story form.

Camp NaNoWriMo rules state that you can bring notes on your proposed story to camp as long as you haven’t started the actual writing part of your story.

So scribble down everything you know about your characters, sketch out maps of your settings and diagram your plot like mountain peaks.

I find having these notes in my pack helps on days that I have severe writer’s block. Do yourself a favor and do your thinking and strategizing now for days when your eyes hurt from squinting over your words and you’re tired of, well, thinking.

Fix Up a First Aid Kit

Speaking of writer’s block, why not make some space in your duffle for tools that’ll help you combat your writer’s block? Or are you still in denial that it’ll happen to you?

Some lean on dictionaries and thesauruses, others turn to story dice and timers. For me, I like using the Writing Challenge app because it provides timed writing prompts. While it sometimes gets me writing a story that’s not my Camp NaNoWriMo story, it gets me writing and thinking creatively so that I can pick up where I left off on my proposed writing project.

What do you do to overcome writer’s block? Have your go-tos on standby for when that perfect storm arrives or do some serious research now so that you can collect the right tools.

Get Campy

Time to pitch your tent, be it figuratively or literally.

The joy of writing at camp is that there was a designated place to write. Sometimes it was inside a cabin and sometimes it was out in nature. And whenever you reached that destination, you felt the urge to write kick in.

Why not create the same atmosphere for yourself during Camp NaNoWriMo?

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Select a specific space within your living space as your writing area—and only your writing area. That means no tweeting, email checking or even reading a book. A tent or a cabin built by logs isn’t required, but feel free to bring in some camp influences into your space if that spikes your creativity to write.

If it’s warm enough, find a place outside that inspires you to write. When I lived in Chicago, I wrote on the beaches of Lake Michigan (sometimes bundled under blankets) and as I walked to my writing spot, I felt the story ideas swirling in my mind.

Most importantly, make sure your writing space isn’t so distracting that you don’t write. The purpose of your writing area is to write, not admire the (campy) decorations.

Designate Daily Goals

During NaNoWriMo, you know that you have to write at least 1,667 words a day in order to complete a 50K novel manuscript. Since Camp NaNoWriMo means that you determine your word count goal to reach by the end of the month, you most likely aren’t aiming to have 50,000 words.

It’s simple math. Divide your word count goal by thirty and that’s the minimum amount of words you need to write each day.

Because our word count goals aren’t usually as ambitious as National Novel Writing Month’s 50K, we tend to put off writing. But Camp NaNoWriMo wasn’t created to procrastinate but to inspire you to put your story onto paper.

Make writing a daily habit during Camp NaNoWriMo. You’ll feel more motivated to keep going by reaching daily word count goals than by scrambling to reach your main goal by the 30th.

Write, Sprint, Write

Meet the NaNoWriMo sprint. If you’re not familiar, it’s a time-sensitive period during your writing session (be it 10 or 30 minutes) where you write as fast as you can to get all your ideas into words—and increase your word count in half the time.

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Why not add a sprint (or two) to your Camp NaNoWriMo writing session?

My writing sessions are an hour, so I write for 20 minutes, sprint for 20 minutes, then wrap up my writing session the last 20 minutes. I also have writing friends that divide their sprints in five-minute bursts throughout the writing session.

Divide your writing session into how sprints work best for you.

Go Virtual

Camp NaNoWriMo offers virtual write-ins so that you can write with other campers all from the comforts of your home. Streaming live from NaNoWriMo Headquarters, a team of interns moderate these weekly writing sessions by guiding you through sprints as well as suggesting writing prompts.

Seeking help beyond the writing sessions? Get on Twitter and join the tweet chat #CampNaNoAdvice. Once a month, published authors sign on as “counselors” and offer advice on writing, editing and publishing to Camp NaNoWriMo campers. Make sure to use the hashtag so that your tweet are part of the conversation.

Keep Your Eye on the Prize

While reaching your word count goal during Camp NaNoWriMo should be reward enough, it’s not. Sometimes some other form of self-congratulations is needed in order to keep going with your story.

It doesn’t have to be an expensive watch or elaborate vacation that drains your 401K. Choose a prize that’s both affordable and valuable to you.

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When I reach my word count goal, I reward myself with a dinner out at a new restaurant. A meal outside my living quarters is an affordable expense and it’s something that I rarely do for myself (more because I’m cheap rather than money-deprived). During the course of the month, I frequent the restaurant’s website, menu and reviews while daydreaming of sipping a cocktail and nibbling on an appetizer.

Yes, I really do this.

You should praise yourself for writing your story. Because the truth is, another month could’ve gone by and your writing project would still be living inside your head. Instead, you chose to make time to write it.

And that’s something worth celebrating.

Any missing steps to winning Camp NaNoWriMo? Share your strategy in the comments section below.

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