Survival Skills for Camp…NaNoWriMo

We are in the second week of Camp NaNoWriMo for July 2018. Homesick yet?

I’m not!

I am absolutely loving my noveling journey this month. I have written every day so far, and I am far exceeding my goal by more than I ever could have hoped for.

Here’s a quick list of tips to keep in mind to keep you in the game for July:

Remember why you’re doing this.

photo of man holding a book
Photo by bruce mars on

If you’re participating in any NaNoWriMo event, chances are, you are doing it to finally get some work done on your novel or related writing project. Don’t forget that! This month, if you start to get discouraged because you think you won’t make it to your goal, remember that last month, you didn’t do any writing, and the point isn’t to make it to your goal number, it’s to add words to your novel. Plain and simple. You’re doing this to be productive, not to turn in your results to your boss at the end of the month.

If you are a habitual writer, and you’re getting discouraged, this rule remains the same. Keep your eyes on the prize. The hard work will pay off, and you already know how it feels.

Any amount of writing is better than no writing.

person holding silver retractable pen in white ruled book
Photo by Ylanite Koppens on

You’re busy like many of us. You worked the morning shift today and then you had to pick up a second shift because someone called out sick. You still have to go to the gym, and you didn’t get dinner because you weren’t expecting to stay at work until close. You’ve been on your feet all day, you have a headache, and you just want to climb into bed and stay there.

Write for ten minutes before you let yourself climb into bed. Sure, all you’ll manage to crank out in that amount of time is a measly 150 words, but hey you just got an idea and you think you could write for another ten minutes before you get in bed. Now you’re in the zone, and you’ve just gotten your total for the day up to 500 and you can still keep going.

Or if the day really has worn on you, at least you have more words than you had yesterday, and when  you’re tired again tomorrow night, you’ll remember that it wasn’t an excuse to get nothing done yesterday, so you have to write again. Maintaining a daily writing habit during NaNoWriMo is paramount to your success. If you’re like me, you know that even though the professor lets you miss four classes the entire semester, the first time you let yourself stay home, the easier it is to talk yourself into staying home the rest of the semester. Do yourself the favor of not allowing yourself to rationalize your bad decisions. If you know in advance that your time for writing will be limited, make a plan to cover the extra words. If you do so before you would have had to write them, you are less likely to see that you are behind in words and get discouraged by what looks like a lack of progress (but remember that any progress is still progress)!

If you manage to write at least a little bit every day, then even if you don’t meet your goal in numbers, you can still feel proud that you made an effort every day of the challenge.

Use the customized word count to your advantage.

Camp NaNoWriMo differs from November’s regular NaNoWriMo event in that you are able to set your very own word count goal, and it doesn’t have to be anywhere near 50,000. Use this freedom to leverage as many words out of yourself as you can get. In April’s Camp NaNo, I made the error of setting my goal for 50,000 and leaving it there.

I felt good about a 50k word goal because I had just done it in November. Of course I could do it again! But I made several mistakes with my approach to NaNo in April, and when things started getting rough, what I didn’t do was adjust my goal to something more feasible.

This month, I set my word count goal for 35k. This is still a hefty number of words to accomplish in one month, and since I have won a 50k NaNo before,


I know that I can complete this goal. Considering how things went in April’s Camp NaNo, however, I knew that setting a goal for 50k could leave me feeling bad about myself to the point of giving up if I did not manage to write as much as I thought I was supposed to have written. I had lost sight of the goal of making as much progress as possible, and I focused too heavily on the 50k, ultimately meaning that I didn’t write anything for something like the last nine days of the challenge. Even if I only had managed to write 10% of what I should have written during that amount of time to stay on track, I still would have wound up with 1500 more words. Look what I missed out on because I let perfectionism bully me!

If I had adjusted my goal at that time, I could have seen my new goal as obtainable, and I could have made much more progress because of it.

On the other end of this spectrum, if you are blowing through your goals and find yourself with nothing to do, or think that your daily writing goal is not challenging enough, feel free to up your word count goal so that it becomes a motivator. Sometimes we make the mistake of not reaching far enough.

The trick is to be realistic. Your goal and everything about NaNoWriMo is meant as a tool to help you achieve success. The purpose of the challenge is not to stump you, it is to motivate you to write more! The second your goal becomes more of a limitation than a motivator, change it. 

Participate in an active cabin.

nanocabinCamp NaNoWriMo employs the cabin system in lieu of November NaNo’s regions. There are public cabins you can join, or you can begin your own or be invited to a private one! My experience with public cabins is pretty much non-existent. As a staff member on a role playing site, I like to create a cabin that invites members of the forum along to write with me.

In a cabin, you can see a list of all the members in a column together. Each person has their own project with their own word count goal. You never see each other’s writing (unless you agree to share it, but that would entirely optional). You have your own individual word counts and goals, while you also get to compare the success of the cabin as a group to the projected goals for the month. This ability helps to provide some accountability for yourself to the group so that you are not the reason the bar is not reaching the line every day. If that sounds like a deterrent, ignore it! Focus on yourself, or consider not joining a cabin, but remember that there are other benefits to being in an active cabin as well.

Just seeing that others are regularly updating their word count goals can be the motivation you need to keep going, but if you’re like me, you might find yourself competitive with those who have similar word count goals. I know all of the people in my cabin from encounters online outside of NaNoWriMo, so our friendly sense of competition has come in handy for several of us, but even if you do not know the other members of your cabin well enough to talk trash and not offend anyone, you can privately pick someone else out who seems to be active and promise yourself that you will write more than that person. That’s actually how our unofficial competition began. With my goal of 35k, but knowing that I could hit 50k again if I really put in the effort, I created a stretch goal of writing more than a friend whose official goal is 50k, and the other people writing similar numbers joined in. It started as my own little secret, then I let on that that’s what I was doing. I’m not winning, but I am on track for 50k!



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