As all of you may know from following me closely on Twitter and Tumblr, I participated in Camp NaNoWriMo for this year (2020) during April. For those of you that don’t know, I’ve participated in Camp NaNoWriMo since 2018 (you can find my profile here!). I even won Camp NaNoWriMo once, back in April 2018. Now, I can happily wrap up my journey for April 2020 and inform you that I’m now an official two-time winner! That’s right—I won Camp NaNoWriMo April 2020!
Now that I’ve had some time to just relax a bit and celebrate the win, I figured it would be nice to reflect on how that whole Camp NaNoWriMo journey went via a series of questions and answers. So, let’s start with the first thing to address, in case you don’t know what Camp NaNoWriMo is:
1. What is Camp NaNoWriMo?
In order to explain this, I also have to explain what NaNoWriMo by itself is. NaNoWriMo is short for “National Novel Writing Month.” National Novel Writing Month is an event, traditionally taking place in November, where you must try writing a whole novel in a month (or 50,000 words, which is the equivalent of the average length of a novel). Many people attempt to do this. I am one of those many people.
However, Camp NaNoWriMo is much more relaxed than NaNoWriMo. Camp NaNoWriMo, taking place in April and July every year, is much like NaNoWriMo where you try to write a certain number of words within the month (April and/or July, depending on when you participate), but you have more flexibility because you can more easily set your own goals. For example, if you can’t feasibly write 50,000 words in a month, you can lower that goal to 25,000 (which is what I did both times when I won Camp NaNo). If you can easily write 50,000 words, you can raise that goal to, say, 500,000 (If you’ve attempted this and actually accomplished it, congrats!). You can also change the goal from total words written to total hours written, etc. Because of how much more customizable Camp NaNoWriMo is, I typically participate during those times instead of the traditional Camp NaNoWriMo. You can check out the official website for more details on Camp NaNo and regular NaNo.
2. What were you writing for Camp NaNoWriMo, April 2020? What was your goal for it?
I used this past Camp NaNoWriMo to write the first draft of a novel called “Not The Chosen One!” It fits into the urban fantasy/humour/adventure genres, about a Chosen One who does not want to be the Chosen One! I used this Camp NaNoWriMo as an opportunity to write the bulk of the first draft.
My goal was to reach 25,000 words by April 30th, 2020.
3. When did you reach your Camp NaNoWriMo goal for April 2020?
I hit my 25,000-word goal on April 18th, 2020, reaching 25,485 words to be exact, that day.
…Yes, I’m aware it’s remarkably early. Then again, the same thing happened when I reached my 25,000-word goal back in April 2018. For the rest of the month, I just kept writing to see how much more I could reach by the end, but I finished writing the entire first draft of “Not The Chosen One” only two days later (April 20th)!
4. Since you surpassed your original goal so early on, what was your total word count for your Camp NaNoWriMo project, at the end of the month?
My total word count for the first draft of “Not The Chosen One” ended up being 33,242 words, which is pretty high above the 25,000 word goal I planned.
5. HOW in the world did you reach your Camp NaNoWriMo goal for April 2020!? TEACH ME YOUR WAYS!
Well, I wrote. A lot. That was definitely vital. Don’t worry, I’ll give a few pieces of advice/things I learned while writing for Camp NaNoWriMo that month, but I first want to acknowledge two things that might affect this advice. Firstly, there’s the fact that living in an uncertain time right now, given current events, did spur me to write a lot more than I usually do in a previously normal day. Because I had to practice social distancing (and currently still practice social distancing) due to COVID-19, I had a lot more time for just myself to write in general. I ended up spending the past month putting a lot of energy into writing as much as I could, mainly because it was something I could channel my energy and time into and I figured, why not?
The second thing I want to acknowledge is that all of the following applied to me in the context of writing a certain amount of words (25,000 in my case) for the first draft of a novel. If you made a different goal, like how much overall time you put into writing, how many poems you wrote in a day, etc, this might not apply as strongly to you, but I still hope you can learn something or apply some element of it to your future writing.
Moving on to the pieces of advice/things I learned, here they are:
1. Set aside time to take breaks, especially if you feel too distracted/unmotivated to write at the time.
I found this piece of advice to be incredibly vital. If I couldn’t write anything on the page at all at the time, I knew I should take a break and come back to writing later. As a break, I’d end up playing video games, reading books, going on walks/exercising, playing some music or even just daydreaming and/or getting a snack.
2. Write every day, even if it’s just a little.
I know this may contradict the above, but hear me out. A few words is better than none. Progress made is progress made, regardless of reaching that Camp NaNo goal. If you’re feeling unmotivated all day, at least take the time to write one sentence. Or one piece of dialogue. The little things add up over time, trust me.
3. Schedule times to write around everything else you have in your day, even if those times are short.
It’s amazing how much one can write in about fifteen to twenty minutes (or in my case, usually five-to-ten-minute sprints). I ended up writing up to at least seven-to-ten short writing sessions, consisting of approximately five-to-ten minutes each, every day. This was mainly because I had other things in my life to attend to that day, whether it be taking time to have meals/snacks, exercise, sleep, and so on. However, I found that I wrote a whole lot if I did that, rather than try to sit down for a full hour and do nothing but writing.
Of course, if you’re the type of person that can sit down for a full hour and do nothing but write, go do that. In the end, figure out what type of and/or length of timing suits you best when it comes to writing the most amount of words you can.
4. If you find you have a better drive/motivation to write at specific times, try to write consistently during those times.
This ties a little into the previous tip, but to explain, I’ll give an example. For me, I usually wrote the most first thing in the morning, after breakfast. This is mainly because I had just woken up and had my breakfast (plus a cup of coffee), so I was more than energized enough to write at least a little bit (though there would be cases where I ended up writing thousands of words within an hour or two). I also found that my afternoons were busier in general, thus distracting me from writing, and then I’d be too tired to just write for a full hour in the evening. Because of this, it was optimal for me to write in the mornings.
So, if you find the writing coming to you best at the evening, try to write in the evening. Morning? Then write in the morning. Afternoon? Well, you get the idea at this point. Just try to write consistently during the times where you feel most productive with writing. You may have to make adjustments based off your personal daily schedule, which is understandable, or the times you write the best/most words consistently at might change, but it’s worth trying.
5. Make a general outline of the entire novel before Camp NaNoWriMo starts.
When I say I made a ‘general outline,’ this means I did not write specific details, unless they’re specifically vital to the main plot. For example, I wrote ideas of what would happen in the beginning, middle, and end of the story, but I had no idea what details would happen in between those three areas. This gave me a bit of a “plantser” approach (a combination of pantser, where you don’t outline and just improvise as you go, and planter, who plans out everything beforehand) where I had a general idea of what would eventually happen, but I had enough flexibility to add in extra details at specific sections, or change a little bit of what happened later on in the novel while writing.
In terms of the type of outline (fun fact for non-writers: there are many techniques used when outlining novels and stories!) I used to make a general outline of my novel, I took inspiration from Steve Alcorn’s “Write Fiction Like A Pro” course, where Alcorn spent approximately three lessons’ worth of the course on outlining a novel by separating it into three acts (one focused on the beginning, the second focused on the middle bit, and the third act outlined the ending part). I do recommend taking the course—it covers more than just outlining a novel, I promise!—as it greatly helped me with outlining “Not The Chosen One” for Camp NaNo this time around, and it’s also an outline I’m applying for future novels/ideas for future novels. You can find the course here if you want to take a look.
Also, as a disclaimer: Please note that this was not sponsored by the course creator in any way. I’m just making this testimony out of my own free will because I think it can actually be helpful to you, the fellow writer/reader reading this right now. Also, this technique may not work for everyone, but it worked for me. I still recommend trying it out anyway.
6. Reward yourself for the steps you make along the way!
For example: Share the good news with fellow writers when you write more words or reach fifty percent of your goal, for example! There are a lot of supportive writing communities out there on the internet, especially as I’ve discovered on Twitter, so take advantage of the access you can have to those communities and take some time to chat with them. The likelihood is that there are probably a couple writers across the world also participating in Camp NaNoWriMo, and would be happy to share in the joy of writing with you.
Also, just give yourself a figurative (or literal) pat on the back. Go get something nice to eat. Have a dance party in your room. Do all three, if you’d like. Celebrate the fact that you’ve accomplished bits of your goal, at least, if not the whole thing. Progress is still progress, and that’s a good thing.
6. What are you going to do with your first draft of “Not The Chosen One,” now that you finished writing the whole first draft within the month?
Given that I recently finished the second draft of another novel called “Finding The End” on top of finishing the first draft of “Not The Chosen One” as of the time of this post, so I’ll split my time working on edits/redrafting for both novels, as well as start writing the first draft of a third novel. I also would like to focus on writing more short stories and poetry, in the meantime, since I haven’t put a lot of time into those lately, due to Camp NaNoWriMo. And, of course, I’ll continue writing and posting my regularly scheduled fanfics and book reviews!
7. Will you participate in Camp NaNoWriMo July 2020 and/or NaNoWriMo 2020, later this year?
That will depend on the circumstances of how events will go later on this year. I would love to at least participate in July 2020 again, especially if these current circumstances of staying at home continue into July, and if it also continues straight into November, I’ll likely participate in NaNoWriMo 2020 as well. However, I will give an official update later in the year on this site, if I officially decide to participate in one of or both events.
Even if current circumstances do get resolved by later in the year, I probably would love to at least participate in Camp NaNoWriMo in July, if not NaNoWriMo itself. It really just depends on how much I have going on writing-wise and so on by then.
Have you participated in Camp NaNoWriMo or NaNoWriMo before? What was the experience like for you, and would you do it again? Let me know in the comments!
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