Yep. July has come and gone. It’s now August.
I won Camp NaNoWriMo, meaning that I made it to over 50,000 words on a new novel project in the month of July alone. I wrote 50,918, actually. The story is not done, and I’m going to continue to write on the same novel until it is, but I finished the month victorious.
It’s an amazing feeling, and I am so glad that I did it. It has been quite an experience. I might even do it again, some day, though I don’t know when. November won’t be a good time for me, because I will have classes. Maybe next summer, depending on my class schedule.
Here’s a few more things to note, things that I think everyone who wants to try to do a NaNoWriMo should know.
First: Set a realistic goal. I set mine at the standard 50,000. One of my cabin-mates set his at 70,000. We both reached our goals. If I had tried to reach his goal, I would have fallen behind early in the month and never caught up. I would not have even made 50,000, I don’t think. If you don’t think you can make 50,000, you can, at least during the camp months (I don’t know if you can in November or not.), set your own goal lower than that. Set it where you think you can reach it, but still high enough to make you stretch and reach. 50,000 is more than I’ve ever done in a single month before, but now I know that I can do it, and that’s an amazing feeling. There’s no shame in making 30,000 or less, though, if that’s all your schedule allows, and it’s a stretch for you.
Second: Tell people that you’re doing it. This does two things. First, it gives you supporters, those who will cheer you on all month long. If they’re other writers, that can be even better, as they understand what you’re going through, and you can watch them along the way as well. Writing is a solitary pursuit, but trust me, being able to talk about it helps. A lot. It also gives you accountability. These same people who are encouraging you will ask you if you have met your word-count, and you will want to be able to say yes. Knowing that someone will be doing this is a great way to motivate yourself. I’ve gotten half my words done for tonight. Can I go to bed yet? Oh, my co-worker Fred will ask me in the morning how my writing is going, and I want to tell him I’m on track… I’ll keep writing.
Third: Write before the Camp. This breaks down into two types of writing. The first is designing the novel. Yes, you are not supposed to start actually writing it before the month starts. I’m talking about outlining and sketching. Have a general idea of where your novel is going, and who your characters are before you start, at least. If you’re a heavier outliner than that in general, outline more heavily. But I found that because I had an ending to work towards, and I knew who my characters were, I could put them in a scene and know what needed to happen to move towards the ending in that scene, and see what happened with them. For the most part, I liked the result. Also, you should have a writing habit before the month starts. If you don’t write at all, it’s going to be quite a shock when you jump in and have to start writing large numbers of words every day. I’ve been on the Magic Spreadsheet since January, and I’ve only missed a single day. I don’t think that I could have made it through the month if I had not already been in the habit of writing every day–I just had to increase my word-count for the days this month.
Fourth: Have a tool that allows you to focus on the writing. This month, I downloaded the trial version of Scrivener. And I love it. It’s not the only program, or maybe even the best one out there, but it allowed me to do everything I wanted, which mainly meant keeping track of the world-building and character notes that I came up with as I went along, and having my various stages of outlining visible along the side as I wrote, and it also kept my word-count goals right alongside where I was writing, which was motivational. Have your program for writing, and love it. If you don’t love it, find one that you do love. It keeps the distractions to a minimum when you don’t have to argue with your program, and leaves you more time and energy for what’s important: the writing.
The advice above is in addition to all of the regular advice, the main piece of which is that you should not edit as you go. This will kill your momentum and your confidence. Just keep writing.
My cabin-mate and friend, the amazing Ellie, wrote a post half-way through the month called “5 Things not to do During NaNoWriMo“. It’s got some really good advice, and you should check it out. Another one of my cabin-mates and friends, Derek, also wrote a post, “Camp NaNoWriMo“, which has his story. If he can make it through the month with all that he’s been doing, so can you. He also have some advice on how to make it through the month, which is worth reading.
I had fun this month, and I know I’m not the only one. I might not be doing this again in November, but I will be at some point in the future. If you’ve never done it before, I strongly encourage you to join in. It’s an amazing experience, and I’ve learned so much.