Camp NaNoWriMo Prep: 4 Steps to Crush Your Writing Goals

Give yourself the best chance of winning Camp NaNoWriMo

Photo by Dex Ezekiel on Unsplash

If you want to win the immense writing challenge that is Camp NaNoWriMo, you need a game plan.

Don’t worry, I’m not talking about planning out every word of your writing project in advance. These are simple strategies to build the framework for a creative, successful, and exhilarating month of writing.

Here are four steps I’ve used to beat NaNoWriMo challenges that can help you crush your writing goals this month. This is how to prepare for Camp NaNoWriMo — and how to make the most of the experience.

By the way, if you’re wondering what Camp NaNoWriMo actually is, I explain the concept in this article.

Step 1: Pick a project

The best strategy to get started with is to narrow your focus. Channel everything into a single writing project for those four weeks of Camp NaNoWriMo (for 2021, that’s April and July).

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying you have to work on one novel — your ‘one thing’ could be a collection of short stories, articles for your blog, whatever you feel like. It’s just best if it has a clear focus.

Still not convinced? Picture this:

It’s day one. You feel like writing a poem, so you do that. Day two, and you need to get your word count up, so you pen a short story. On day four you realise you’ve neglected your blog, so you quickly write and publish a post there. By day five, you feel like working on your novel-in-progress, so you add half a chapter to that before getting exhausted and quitting.

You’re never going to make it through the month that way.

Trust me, I tried. It didn’t end well.

On the other hand, if you have a clear project to return to every day, you’ll feel you’re making concrete progress. This may seem boring, but it’s a great writing consistency, discipline, and focus exercise.

After all, it’s only a month. You can go back to writing in a less laser-focused way afterwards!

Step 2: Determine a goal

This step’s simple — choose a writing goal you think will push you creatively while also being achievable.

Okay, that doesn’t sound simple. Let’s break it down.

The most common type of goal is a word count goal, where you aim to write a certain number of words in the month of Camp NaNoWriMo. This makes monitoring your progress and staying on track simple — you can divide it into daily word goals to ensure you’ll reach that big number.

For the main NaNoWriMo challenge in November, most writers aim to write 50,000 words. That’s an average of 1,667 words a day. Scary, right?

Camp NaNoWriMo is typically more flexible. I aimed for 30k words last year. Some (crazy) people aim for 100,000 or more. The only limit is you.

Ultimately, it’s down to you to make a judgment. Remember your goal should terrify you a little. It should be crazy enough that you want to prove yourself wrong by beating it.

Of course, it should also be reachable.

Yep, that’s a tricky balance to get right. If you’re not sure, a safe bet is to go for the 50k goal. Then, for next time, you’ll know what writing output you’re capable of.

Got your goal? Awesome.

Write it down. Put it where you’ll see it every day. Now you’re ready for the next part of your Camp NaNoWriMo prep.

Step 3: Create a game plan

It’s time to bring everything together. Let’s create a strategy you can cling to whenever the next month feels impossible.

Some questions to consider:

  • How many words will I need to write each day to reach my goal?
  • Where will I write?
  • When will I write?
  • What will I write with? What program (or maybe you’ll even use pen and paper)?

Once you’ve determined your answers, I’d recommend putting them into action. For example:

  • Create a dedicated writing space, or tidy an existing one
  • Print out a calendar to track your daily word count progress

Now you’re almost prepared for the challenge that is Camp NaNoWriMo. It requires discipline, but you’ve taken an important step towards winning.

Random, sporadic efforts are unlikely to get you any success. By coming up with a plan of action beforehand, you’re already making it easier for your future self to follow through.

Step 4: Outline, outline, outline

Did I mention you’ll need an outline?

In all seriousness, having (at the very least) a rough plan is a vital step if you’re taking Camp NaNoWriMo prep seriously.

It’s possible to succeed without one. But even if you’re usually a ‘pantser’ who doesn’t like to plan out their writing, let me tell you from experience: an outline makes staying on track so much easier.

You’re not wasting as much valuable time each day wondering what to write. Instead, you’re diving right in and adding to your word count.

So, how do you write an outline?

Here’s the thing: it depends on the project.

An effective Camp NaNoWriMo outline will keep you organised and on track without crushing your creativity.

If you’re working on a novel, this could look like a chapter-by-chapter overview of what you plan to write. You could even summarise every scene if you want to go more in-depth.

An effective Camp NaNoWriMo outline will keep you organised and on track without crushing your creativity.

Previously, I’ve used Camp NaNoWriMo to write short stories. I outlined those by allocating one story idea to each day of the month.

That way I didn’t have to worry about coming up with another story idea every single day — I could just refer to my outline to find inspiration and see what I could work on next.

This ‘ideas schedule’ method also works for writing articles or blog posts (although it could get more complicated if you need to schedule days to publish them).

The best outline for you will be different from everyone else’s. It might be incredibly detailed, or it might be a three-sentence summary of your entire novel.

Think of it as the compass that will guide your Camp NaNoWriMo adventure. Part of the fun is getting lost along the way, but you’ll still need to know which direction you’re supposed to be headed.

So, now you know the four steps of my Camp NaNoWriMo advice that can help you reach your writing goals this month. It’s time to put them into action. To recap:

  1. Pick a project
  2. Determine a goal
  3. Create a game plan
  4. Outline, outline, outline!

Hopefully you’re excited and ready to discover how to win Camp NaNoWriMo in the best way: by doing it yourself.

Good luck on your Camp NaNoWriMo adventure!

Award-winning writer. Expert procrastinator. I’m passionate about words, people, and the planet.

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