Two times in the past I have participated in, and won, the NaNoWriMo challenge. NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) challenges writers around the world to write 50,000 words. It is a grueling, intense experience that yields high rewards as far as getting you motivated to write your book.
NaNoWriMo helped me jump start Wanderling in 2013, and helped me write Spirit Seeker Book 3 just last year. It’s an experience I highly recommend.
This April I have taken on a slightly different challenge, however. I have participated in Camp NaNoWriMo, a similar challenge as NaNoWriMo with one notable exception: you set your own writing goal for the month.
I’m all about pumping out the wordcount day by day, but Camp NaNo allows for more of an introduction to the writing lifestyle by allowing writers to set their own pace and support one another in a positive and encouraging environment.
Based on my experience this month in my first Camp NaNo, I offer the following survival strategies for writers wishing to attempt CampNaNo or NaNoWriMo in the future:
1. Know your limits
I notoriously bite off more than I can chew as far as word count goals. When I was prepping for April’s CampNaNo, I knew I would be out of town without time to write during the first several days of the month, and that I would be catching up at work for at least a week afterwards. Therefore I set my goal at what I thought was a modest 30,000 words. I’ve done well over 50,000 words in a month before, so I figured this would be cake.
Oh boy was I wrong! I also realized mid-month that something called spring happens in April, and I had quite a lot of outdoor work I wanted to do before planting my flower beds. This was a happy discovery initially, as I take great pleasure in working outdoors. But unfortunately, that put me further behind in my word count.
2. Find a great support group
CampNaNo has what they call “cabins” for the month’s experience. Cabins are great because it provides online support between writers. Having people to encourage you in your goals is essential in life and in writing. The accountability and positivity of my cabin has helped motivate me to achieve what I have this month.
You may choose during Camp NaNo to have a private cabin with only your friends whom you invite, or you may meet new people in a public cabin. I have no real preference here, though I find it difficult to make friends while writing a book. I’m already easily distracted, and my friends in my private cabin keep me on track.
3. Focus on habit building
When I inevitably become overwhelmed with my projects, I remember that I don’t have to catch up on my month-long word count goal. The purpose of these months for me is to get a jump start on my newest project and to get back into the habit of writing every day. If I miss a weekend because of a trip, or if I can’t write one day because I’m ill and can’t stare at the screen anymore, I give myself a break if that’s what the situation calls for. And I can’t let that discourage me on other days, when I am up and ready to write.
Take it day by day. And remember that every day you write something you are contributing to your goals.
4. STOP EDITING!
Seriously, people. Now is not the time to edit. Editing is anti-writing. Don’t look back on your work and tweak it. That’s what next month is for. Editing not only hurts your word count (if you delete 1/3 words while editing like I do) but it discourages you in your writing. You don’t need to look back on that super awesome scene you wrote at 3:30 a.m. yesterday only to discover that your masterpiece is wrought with dangling modifiers and typos.
You don’t need that kind of negativity in your life, particularly during Camp NaNo. Editing is a completely different part of the writing process, and it has no place in the first draft.
There you have it, my main reflections on this month. It’s been a rewarding Camp NaNo so far, as I hope it has been for everyone else. For the first time, I’m not sure if I will make my deadline, which is disappointing. However, I am pleased that I have nearly written 20,000 words so far that I didn’t have before April, and that I am making progress on my novel every day.
Stick together, fellow writers! We can end strong for CampNaNo 2016!