Today is the first day of Camp NaNoWriMo, so I thought it was time for us to talk about Camp NaNoWriMo prep.

Pencils lying on an unlined notebook with the text "Camp NaNoWriMo Prep"

Original photo by David Pennington 

Camp NaNoWriMo comes around twice a year, in April and July, and November is for the big show.

(I don’t know if anyone calls NaNoWriMo the big show. But I do. So, I think it’s probably how we should all classify it.)

The best part of Camp NaNoWriMo is that you get to work on whatever you want. So, you can draft, or you can outline. Some people choose to edit, and others work short stories or formatting a book.

Basically, it’s a time when the writing community can come together and just do some work together. I love how everyone is always sharing about their projects on social media, and it’s great to catch some live writing sprints on YouTube.

If you feel like it’s too late for you to choose a project, you’re wrong. Camp NaNoWriMo just started!

So what better way to kick this beast off than with some information about how to prepare for Camp NaNoWriMo?

Let’s do this.

Camp NaNoWriMo Prep

001: Know what you’re working on.

The most important piece of Camp NaNoWriMo prep is knowing what you’re going to focus on through the month.

It sounds silly, but most writers are juggling multiple projects. And they probably love each project equally. So, it’s a good idea to find one that you want to focus on.

Think about what you want to get done the most. That’s the project that will become your whole world during this month.

And remember, it doesn’t have to be drafting. You can use Camp NaNoWriMo to outline a new trilogy. Or you could edit a novel you previously wrote. You can also format a book for publication. Or create a marketing plan for your book that’s already finished.

Whatever you choose, the goal is to do something with your writing.

So pick what makes the most sense to you for this month, and then let that be your focus. This project is going to take precedence over a lot of other things as you try to hit your goal, so make sure it’s something that you actually want to work on.

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002: Set your goals.

Once you pick a project, you need to set a goal.

The goal of the Big Show NaNoWriMo is to hit 50,000 words. And you can do that for Camp NaNoWriMo if you want to. But you don’t have to.

Maybe your goal is finish a chapter-by-chapter outline for your novel. Or maybe you want to edit the first 30 chapters of your fantasy epic. Some people choose to track the hours they’ve worked on a project.

Whatever you choose, make sure it’s measurable.

For me, my goal is to write 4,000 words every weekday of the month. This sounds a little crazy, so let me explain.

I want to only write on week days so I can have weekends off. I want to write 2,000 words on my novel project, and I want to write 2,000 words on my short story collection every week day.

Now, I’m only sharing this here because it’s my goal. You don’t have to do this. If this feels like too much to you, I totally get it. It’s a lot. But we’re stuck in the middle of a global pandemic, so I’m going to use my time how I want to. Plus, it’s not like I have a ton of other work coming at me right now, and it just feels right to set this goal.

Also, I’ll be vlogging a lot during April, but most likely the videos will be up on weekday afternoons, so make sure to subscribe to my channel to see how things are going.

003: Create an outline or something akin to it.

I can’t stress enough how much outlines help with EVERYTHING.

Hell. Even this blog post started as an outline.

The thing with outlines is that they give you a general direction. It’s like a roadmap for the project. So when I’m writing, I always have an outline I’m working from.

I think you can do this with anything, though.

If you’re trying to edit a project, your outline could be something like a list of things you want to accomplish. If you’re outlining a novel as the Camp NaNoWriMo project, your outline may be something like all the plot points you know you need to hit so you can fill them in later.

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Now, please don’t think this has to be a formal outline. It doesn’t. You can just write it down on a sheet of paper, or stick some Post-Its up around your room. I created The 90-Day Novel Planner to help with outlining, so check that out if that’s something you’re interested in.

004: Block off work time.

Once you know what you want to do and you’ve created a map for how to get there, it’s time to make sure you’re giving yourself the time to do it.

I like to block off time or use to do lists. So, I know all my week days in April will have to do list items for my novel project and my short story collection.

It can be enticing to think that you’ll just work some time in here and there, and maybe you will. But most likely, if you don’t plan to focus on this project, it’s not going to get done.

Between all the things you have going on for your day job and life in general, it’s really easy for writing to fall by the wayside. So you have to make sure it’s the priority.

For more on how to make time for writing, check out this post.

Also, at a time like this when you’re probably freaking out about COVID-19, it may be time to just pick an enjoyable project, and use whatever time you have.

Don’t make your schedule impossible in the name of productivity. Take care of you first.

Something as simple as starting your day with writing is a good way to schedule your Camp NaNoWrimo.

005: Track your progress.

So, you’ve set a goal. And in order to see if you met that goal or not, you’re going to have to track what you’re doing.

That could be by word count, or in number of chapters edited. It could be in number of scenes outlined.

For me, I’ll be marking in a habit tracker the days that I hit my word count for each project. I just want to look back at the end and see how far I’ve come.

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So find some way to measure what you’re doing. Even though you’ll be able to see the progress you’re making, it’s going to feel way better to be able to quantify that progress.

006: Find community.

It can be hard to work really hard on a goal all by yourself. And it’s even harder when you’re surrounded by people who don’t know what it is you’re doing or don’t get it.

So, I recommend finding writers. Now is not the time for in-person meetings.

Which, if you’re a writer, you’re probably okay with that. Honestly, introverts are thriving right now.

So, find some live writing streams on YouTube. (I’ll be doing a few!) Find writing hashtags that you like and follow the people using them.

Check out the NaNoWriMo website and pick a home region. You’ll be able to chat with writers in that region. And if you want, you can create your own group of folks to chat with on the NaNoWriMo site!

007:  Keep your eyes on the prize.

You can easily feel like you’re lost in the weeds when it comes to writing. So the best Camp NaNoWriMo prep you can do is to remember why you’re writing.

Keeping what you want to accomplish in mind will help you focus and finish what you’re doing. And there are going to be days when you’d much rather quit and watch Netflix.

So think about how good it’s going to feel when you hit that goal.

Writing is one of those things that is never gonna be as fun as doing the easiest possible thing.

You’re going to have to make yourself bash out the words on the keyboard every single stinking day. And remembering why you want to do the thing you’re doing is the only thing that will keep you moving forward on this goal.

What Do You Recommend for Camp NaNoWriMo Prep?

How do you prepare for writing challenges? What’s your favorite thing to track as a writer? What will you be working on this April?

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