It’s the last week of March, which means the first session of Camp NaNoWriMo 2019 is only days away. If you’re not familiar with Camp NaNo, it’s essentially the classic November challenge’s younger, wilder sibling. Camp runs for two sessions every year, in April and July, and is billed as “a virtual writing retreat, designed for maximum flexibility and creativity.” Unlike regular NaNo, you get to choose your own goal for Camp. So you can keep it classic by shooting for writing a 50K word novel, or you can mix it up by trying out a new format—poetry, screenplay, graphic novel, short story, memoir, you name it. Any project, any writing goal is welcome and you can track your progress not just by words written, but pages, lines, hours, and even minutes. It’s a great way to jump-start your writing, especially if you’ve fallen off the wagon since November.
This year, I’m working on the second draft of my 2018 NaNo novel, which I’ve been slowly but surely plugging away at since February. Of course, as with any camping experience, you can’t just wander into the wilderness equipped with nothing but good intentions. So here are the tools and resources that I’ll be packing with me as I head off for Camp this month.
How Do You Write Podcast: If you’re anything like me, the best treasure you could ever come across is a peek into the lives of real, working writers to learn how they actually do the work. I’m fascinated by process and picking up tips that might help me tackle my own writing. So when I found Rachel Herron’s podcast, How Do You Write, it was like stumbling on a treasure map. Every week, Rachel interviews a different writer to learn how they write: what time of day is most productive for them, where do they write, do they write longhand or on the computer? At around twenty minutes per episode, they’re quick hitters that are great for jumpstarting my writing sessions. And with over 100 episodes in the backlog, I’m not going to run out of inspiration any time soon.
Focus App: I’ve said it before and I will probably say it a thousand more times: for me, starting is the hardest part of writing. The first ten minutes of any writing session are often excruciating as I get distracted by the littlest thing before the story pulls me in. I started using the Focus app during NaNoWriMo because I’d had some success with the Pomodoro method before and it’s perfectly structured for writing sprints. Whether I have half an hour or two hours to write, something about the timer ticking down on my watch helps me do exactly what it says on the label: Focus.
My Novel Bullet Journal: Like a lot of writers, I’m a little obsessed with notebooks. I have far too many of them and I’m constantly buying or being gifted more. But I do find it really helpful to keep separate notebooks for the different projects in my life, which is why my novel has its own bullet journal separate from the one that holds the rest of my day-to-day life. I use it to track my scene-by-scene progress, plan rewards for each milestone, and jot down thoughts for later in the writing process. I also keep all my character profiles and big picture outlines in there to jog my memory if I forget a certain detail while writing.
Scratch-paper Notebook: Speaking of notebooks, I have yet another one that I use in the writing process. My brain tends to flow better when I write by hand, so a lot of my drafting actually happens longhand. When it comes to revisions, if I’m stuck on a scene or feel like a character isn’t fully fleshed out, I jump to my notebook to free-write my way out. Because my pen doesn’t move as fast as my brain, or my keyboard, it forces me to slow down and really picture the important details. Then when I go to type it up, I can fill in things like dialogue tags that I passed over in my notebook.
My First Reader: I have pretty strong opinions about letting other people read first drafts. Basically, don’t. First drafts are for the writer so you can tell yourself the story. Which is why many of my past NaNo efforts have never been read by another soul: they never made it past the first draft stage. But by the second draft, it’s time to let the world in a little bit. Whether it’s to get feedback or just encouragement to keep going, having an alpha reader (as opposed to beta readers) on your second draft can be extremely helpful. In my case, it’s my best friend, Roo. She’s a generous reader, ready to heap on the praise to keep me writing. But she’s also the embodiment of the kind of audience I want for this book and her reactions as I pass her each chapter are a good barometer for what’s working with the story and what’s not.
Will you be participating in Camp Nano this year? What tools are you packing to help you succeed?