My 2018 Camp Nano Experience
November is officially here and I am participating in NaNoWriMo for the first time. This is not to be confused with Camp Nano, which I did for the first time this summer. (And won!) In July, I set a personal goal of 30k words and nearly finished the first draft of my novel. This month, I’m joining thousands of other writers in the goal of writing 50k words and, ideally, finishing an entire draft of a new novel.
I will admit, I am a bit daunted at the enormous task before me. 50 thousand words in one month is a lot to write. 30k felt like a lot in July but I think I tricked my brain into seeing it as an achievable number since November’s 50k is the “normal” amount and I didn’t have to “write a whole book” for Camp Nano. The whole process was also easier to digest since I’d already started my book and had a detailed outline to follow, which meant that I never got stuck trying to remember where I was taking my story.
Overall, participating in Camp Nano was one of the best things I’ve ever done as a writer. Not only was it thrilling to log a third of my draft in a single month, but I learned what I was truly capable of when I put my mind to it. The sense of community that came from so many writers joining in with the same or similar goals was fantastic. There was so much encouragement and support offered among those participating and it made the journey a million times easier. Even if I never won another challenge, I think I would still continue to participate just because of the writing community.
Once I decided to do the full NaNoWriMo, I looked back on my experience in July to prepare as much as possible in advance. I’d never heard of NaNoWriMo before June of this year, so I had no idea what to expect when I started. I saw other writers talking about it and thought it would be fun to give it a try. Thankfully, I was well into my first draft and I was able to dive in with only a short notice. Now I’m convinced that preparation really is key to doing well during these challenges. Whether you’re a plotter, pantser, or in between, it helps to get at least part of your stuff ready before you dive in. (The more, the better.) For me, I’ve learned that I need a detailed outline, several days worth of snacks and beverages to start, and a clean house at minimum. In order to get in the zone, I need as much of my decision making done so I can focus my brain power on creative construction.
Avoiding distractions or interruptions also requires a little bit of forward thinking. Getting the people in your life on board with your word count quest can be a challenge on its own. For those who have supportive and understanding friends and family, you are blessed. It can be difficult to explain to others why you can’t do much during the month because you have to write. Not everyone understands that writing a book is a full time job. Sometimes you just have to say no when people call you up. It can be hard when you’re a people pleaser like I am, but you have to stay focused on your goal.
Noise cancelling headphones are at the top of my list of NaNoWriMo survival gear. No matter how hard you try, sometimes you just can’t block out what’s going on around you and something as simple as headphones can mean the difference between failure and success. My son has a habit of running in with a story to tell while I’m working and, if I don’t give him a visual signal that I’m not available, he’ll happily charge in to command my attention. Unless it’s urgent, I’ll point at the headphones and say, “I can’t hear while I’m working, remember?” Eventually, it sinks in and he’ll wait until I take a break to talk with me.
My next must have is some kind of beverage. I am definitely a coffee drinker when I’m writing, though I get no benefit from the caffeine. I started it because it seemed like most writers I know drink a ton of coffee and I thought it would help me get into the right mindset when I was starting out. Now, it’s such a part of my regular writing sessions that I’m automatically in the zone as soon as I take the first sip. If you have trouble consistently writing, I highly recommend picking a few things that you only eat/drink/do when you write. Eventually, you’ll associate those things with the creative mindset and they’ll help you get going faster.
When it comes to taking breaks, doing research, enjoying rewards, or any other part of the writing process, my #1 tip is to do everything deliberately. If you get stuck on a scene, don’t let your mind wander aimlessly to what’s happening on Twitter/Facebook/Instagram/etc. Instead, acknowledge that you need a change of scenery for your brain and then decide on a course of action to take. That action might be to browse social media but you’re less likely to get distracted for hours when you’ve set a goal before hand. Set a timer if you need to. Personally, I have such a terrible sense of time that I schedule everything with timers or a calendar app that gives me push notifications.
In the event that you have trouble motivating yourself to sit down in front of the computer (or other writing medium), one of the most effective solutions is to remind yourself WHY you want to write. The “why” is important. It takes a lot to write a book and it’s not for the faint of heart. For me, I knew that I was meant to be a writer when I was 6 years old, but I’ve had a lot of people imply or straight out tell me that it wasn’t a worthwhile goal and that I’d never get anywhere in life by writing books. I ignored my passion for nearly a decade because of some of those people. However, some things just can’t be shut out forever. My “why” is that stories are in my blood and my heart, and I’m not being true to myself if I don’t succeed. I let too many years go by without achieving my dream and I can’t afford to do that anymore.
Camp Nano was well worth the time I invested in it, and I hope that this November brings even better results. My outline for the second book in my trilogy is ready, I’ve planned rest days so I don’t get burned out, and I’m excited to begin exploring the next stage of my story. Some days are harder than others to write, but I know that I have what it takes to reach such a big goal because I’ve done it once already. The confidence that I now possess, at least in the drafting stage, is something for which I am immensely grateful to the creators of NaNoWriMo.
I’ll share my results in December and let you know how I did. I’m off to a great start so far, and I really hope that I can keep up my current pace. Until then, good luck to everyone participating in NaNoWriMo! May your coffee be strong and your fingers swift!