Six Tips For Camp NaNoWriMo

Image of a camp ground, with several tents glowing with internal light set among trees and figures and a fire in the background.


It doesn’t matter if you’re an old hand at Camp NaNoWriMo or if you’ve never done it before, there are times it can be a daunting idea. So ahead of the first Camp of the year (and with huge thanks to Riza Curtis for the help) we’re sharing six tips to make your Camp a thrilling one … but thrilling on your terms and not the literary equivalents of giant spiders in your bedroll.

Plan in advance

What? Advocating plotting? Not exactly. If plotting works for you, then by all means plot away, you’ll certainly have a smoother month — but even if you’re a dedicated pantser there are many advantages to making a very basic bullet-pointed list. It doesn’t have to be a detailed scene-by-scene list, but creating a list of points you’d like to hit in your story makes it more likely you’ll hit them. At the very least you’ll have a better idea of where you want your story to go, and that can’t hurt, can it?

Join a cabin

You can always go it alone, but if you’re not the lonesome type then why not join a cabin? You can choose for the site to automatically assign you one based on your story profile, or you can join one with friends you know are all working towards a similar goal and who will inspire and encourage you in your story. You can even set up your own cabin if (like us) you’re a bit of a fan of keeping control of things. Have virtual camp-outs (write-outs?) and see how much further companionship might take you.

What if you’ve been automatically sorted into a cabin full of people who aren’t a good match?

You don’t have to stay in the cabin you’ve been sorted into. If you take a look in the Finding Cabin Mates forum, there are usually posts by people looking for suitable cabin-mates. Have a look around, see if someone is looking for writers like you, and ask for an invite. No one else posting that suits you? Create your own and post about it in the forums. You never know, perhaps someone else was looking for a similar thing but was too shy to ask.


Set a manageable goal

One of the best parts of Camp NaNo is that you set your goal. You’re not constrained by NaNoWriMo’s 50,000 words, so if you’ve always had the hankering to write a nifty 25k novella but balked at the idea of writing two of them in November, now’s the time to go for it. Have a busy month ahead and although you want to take you the challenge you’re not sure you can commit to as much as 25k? Set something lower and sneak in your writing in your breaks. The point of Camp NaNo is to get you writing, not to stress you out! Challenge yourself if you want and set a target just outside your comfort zone, but it doesn’t have to be — and shouldn’t be — a source of worry for you. 5,000, 10,000, anything is better than nothing.

“You can always edit a bad page. You cannot edit a blank page.” —Jodi Picoult

You can keep track of your progress with Camp NaNo’s word tracking tools, but an efficient offline method is to use Mattias Ahlvin of Tall Tech Tales‘ Monthly Writing Log — with the added bonus you can use it in the off-season months too.

What if your goal is suddenly looking impossible, you’re running out of time and disappointment or fear are putting you off writing?

Don’t worry: unlike NaNo, you can change your goal at any time so if 25k seemed like a great idea a week before Camp but suddenly looks a million miles away now, you can lower it — but don’t make it too easy for yourself either, or you’ll lose the drive to continue entirely.  Note that you can only change this up to the 20th as that’s when winning opens.

And remember: changing your goal is not cheating. Camp NaNo is all about challenging yourself, not making yourself miserable or running yourself into the ground in pursuit of a goal that looked great a few weeks ago. If you need to take it easy, take it easy.  Your mental and physical health should always come first.

It doesn’t just have to be fiction

Feeling burned out with novels or novellas? Want a different challenge? Unlike NaNoWriMo, you’re free to choose anything you want. Your Project Settings page has a drop-down category selector, and you can choose from Novel, Nonfiction, Poetry, Revision, Script, Short Stories or Other. Therefore, your target doesn’t have to just be words either: the drop-down box beside your goal has options for hours, minutes, lines and pages as well as words. You can choose to write 30 poems in the month, or 60 pages of a script, or even settle down for a good, solid 40 hours’ worth of editing a previous story. Unlike NaNoWriMo, it’s all up to you.

What if you started writing a novel, but now you want to edit something else instead?

You can change your category just like you can your goal. If you started out thinking you could write 10k on that shiny new project but editing an older project is more important, then go ahead. Your word count graph may go a little … strange, however, so watch out for that.
If you need to change it to take into account work you’ve already done…

You can edit your previous day’s word count

If you wrote for one or more days but forgot to add your word count, either because you had no internet connection or just because you were so busy writing you forgot (lucky you!), then you can adjust your previous day’s word count to reflect how much you really wrote each day — but you won’t receive any site badges for word count streaks. This is particularly useful if you’ve changed your category and want to reflect the amount of work you might have already done, such as switching from word count to pages.

You reached your target but you missed the validation deadline

Your internet died and didn’t come back until after midnight on the 1st of the next month? Something unexpected happened and you were away from home? Don’t worry, you haven’t put all that effort in for nothing. Camp NaNo has a very specific “No Camper Left Behind” thread where writers who’ve had a validation mishap can post to be manually verified instead. Remember: your request has to be posted in that thread to count and cannot be posted anywhere else so don’t make a new thread just to ask, it’ll be ignored.


Have we missed something?

Did we forget a point you think is vital, or do you have your own strategy for approaching Camp? Share in the comments!

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