With April right around the corner, it's time to start thinking about joining camp Nano and using it to help achieve one of your big writing goals. In the spirit of supporting any writer who is planning to undertake the challenge, we've complied a list of tips to help you prepare and win this year!
Make Your Planning Count
The benefit of participating in Camp Nano as opposed to waiting for the official contest in November is that there's less pressure involved and the goals tend to be more flexible. Whether you're trying to write a full novel in a month, work on revisions, edits, or draft your next project the end goal of camp Nano can be anything you need it to be. The goal of the camp is to help yourself stay accountable and finish your chosen goal. Despite being a more relaxed version of the main event, it still requires the same amount of diligence and planning in order to succeed.
Here's where you can start:
Pick a big picture goal (what you want to accomplish)
Work backwards from the due date to figure out how much you need to do each day
Set daily goals for yourself and create a routine
Anticipate any hiccups and prep to help yourself through them
Gather inspiration and supplies you'll need
Map out how you plan to keep yourself motivated and accountable during
Keep Your Mind On The Prize
When the going gets tough, mindset matters. Fighting against the urge to quit can be a difficult hurtle to get over, especially if you aren't used to writing every day at a rigorous pace. Anticipating feeling tired, bored, overwhelmed, unmotivated, and distracted can help. If you prepare solutions to these problems prior to starting, you increase the odds of getting past these hurtles as they come up. For example, to offset the vigorous pacing practicing using a daily word count prior to starting can help make the transition easier. To offset being tired, moving your bedtime or incorporating a nap into your daily routine can help. Making sure to collect your inspirational materials and to plan for self-care breaks during the camp process can also help alleviate boredom, feelings of overwhelm, and distraction.
Hold Yourself Accountable In Multiple Ways
One way to help you stay both motivated and disciplined is through accountability practice. While you may have picked one form (whether it's through the nano website, a writing friend, social media, writing group, etc.) you may have felt that using all the accountability tools in your belt was overkill. We say go crazy! The more ways you garner support to keep going, the better. While you may be able to shirk one form of accountability, the guilt of having to go back on multiple forms can have the opposite effect. Having a stronger support system can also keep you motivated and invigorated throughout the challenges of the month.
Re-prioritize Your Responsibilities
This is a big one. Life happens. We all have responsibilities outside of our writing whether it's a day job, chores, children, partners, family - you name it. The point is that there will always be something standing between you and your writing during camp Nano. This is where planning ahead becomes crucial. Only you know your unique schedule and what you need to shift to prioritize your writing. Whatever excuses you may have, ditch 'em. You'll be amazed at what you can accomplish when you set your mind to it.
Keep A Grounded Perspective
Disappointment happens when we set our sights on perfection rather than reality. If you typically only write five hundred words a week, then setting the bar to reaching the full fifty thousand in a month almost guarantees a self-esteem crash. Crazier things have happened and if you can pull a miracle one-eighty in all your habits then sure, it can happen. It's not impossible. But odds are you won't be changing that dramatically. Setting your word count to twenty thousand however is much more realistic and at the end of the month, an amazing accomplishment. Likewise, if you plan to participate in camp Nano and have the mindset that you're going to write the next great American novel, well my friend, you're also going to be rudely awakened. Binge writing never leads to perfection. That's what editing and polishing afterwards is for. If you approach this competition with unrealistic perceptions of your abilities or of the process in general, all you'll win is the bitter taste of dissatisfaction. But, if you keep your mind open to potential, set realistic goals, and pat yourself on the back for even the small wins you'll be in great shape by the end.
Keep Inspiration Handy
Music, pictures, quotes, decorations- the options are endless. But don't forget about the power of outside inspiration. Taking a walk, going for a scenic drive, watching the sunrise, visiting a cafe, seeing a friend, hugging your dog, watching a cute video can all bring inspiration or comfort when you need it most. We suggest making a list of your go-to inspiration. Having this list on hand during camp Nano can help ease the decision-making fatigue and streamline you from writing to stress relief instantly.
Sprints and Pomodoro Pay Off
Writing sprints are worth their weight in gold. Whether you opt to use hour-long sprints or the Pomodoro method, the end results speak for themselves. It effectively limits distractions by getting us to sit down and write, and by making it feel like we are writing for less time than we actually are. All of this makes an impact the further along into the month you get, when motivation dies off and all you want to do is procrastinate or quit. Starting the days you feel like doing anything other than write with a thirty minute sprint tricks your mind into thinking you're only going to write for a short amount of time. It's easier to sit down and do it if you think it'll go quick. The great thing about this method is that rarely do you only write for those thirty minutes. Typically it leads to longer periods and more words. Before you know it you've written a thousand words in an hour and a half and you've met your goal for the day.
Be strategic with your breaks during the month. One way you can do this is by planning to give yourself a break. Choosing to write more on days you feel energized and writing less on days when you don't helps. Giving yourself three days off throughout while accounting for the difference in the word counts of your other days is smart. It's all about balance and how effective you are at giving yourself what you need, when you need it. Being flexible can help you accomplish this.
Author Shannon Hale wrote, “I'm writing a first draft and reminding myself that I'm simply shoveling sand into a box so that later I can build castles.”. Keeping this in mind, if you're tackling Nano in the traditional rule-abiding way this is exactly what you're doing. You're shifting through the sand and exploring all the possibilities of your idea. You're gathering materials but you're not shaping your castle yet, you're merely making a grainy mound. Now is the time to keep your outline close by so you know where to go without getting stuck, but it's also the time to deviate. If your character makes the opposite choice of what you wanted them to, let them. See where it takes them. If you feel inclined to make a decision based on the natural progression, trust your instincts. Chances are you'll wind up with something you can use. Now is the time to get messy and see what good things lie beneath the surface without worrying about what the outer appearance looks like.
Lastly, and most importantly, stay positive! Writing is grueling, thankless work. One minute we feel like gods who created the perfect world and the next it's all dumpster fires and we fall to hell faster than Lucifer. At the end of the day it doesn't matter if you complete your goals or not. What matters is that you tried. If you started this and put more than two words down on the page- that's a win. If you wrote past where you got to last time- that's a win too. If you went all the way and won- that's also a win! Nano has no losers, just writers who are committed to evolving and making themselves better writers.