Edit: Be sure to check out How to Win Camp NaNoWriMo: Set Up For Success for more helpful tips on how to make this year’s camp a success!
Do you know what you’re doing for Camp NaNoWriMo this year? I’m anticipating eager nods from some, disinterested shrugs from others, and maybe a few blank stares from those who haven’t heard about Camp NaNoWriMo. Possibly a few terrified looks from those still traumatized by NaNoWriMo in November.
You can find more information on what Camp NaNoWriMo is on the about and FAQ pages of their site. Basically, Camp NaNoWriMo is a more casual version of NaNoWriMo. There are less rules (not that NaNoWriMo is particularly stringent in the first place) – this time around, you can choose your own target word count, and you’re ‘allowed’ to work on non-novel projects like short stories, Nonfiction, poetry, screen plays, anything your little writer heart desires. There are four Camp NaNoWriMo sessions, one in April, June, July, and August.
This year, I’m hoping to write at least the first book in a series that I’ve been thinking on for a while. In a perfect world, I’d write book #1 in the April session, have it edited by the end of July, Then write book #2 during the August session.
Well, we’ll see how that goes. My main issue is that while I have books two and three basically plotted out, I only know what happens in the beginning and the end of book one. I suppose I could just write book two, but my biggest problem with NaNoWriMo (and writing in general, really) is that while I write the story changes. What if I write book two, then when I write book one, I have some major revelation about the characters and plot that completely changes everything?
So just go back and re-write, right? Well, that would be fine, except when I re-write, the story also changes. Ho long can that cycle go on? In the hopes of preventing this, I want to A) write book one first, and B) pre-write like the freaking devil. Seriously, if one of my characters is allergic to cats, I want to know about it so they can sneeze appropriately in chapter 3.
So, what’s my plan for preparing for Camp NaNoWriMo?
First, spend some time exploring the Camp NaNoWriMo website. Read a few blog posts, and maybe choose a cool mug or t-shirt to buy yourself as a reward when you finish.
I also like to read the back comments of NaNoToons – I don’t think new comics will be posted for the Camps, but they’re pretty funny, and everything still applies.
Finally, follow The Writersaurus NaNoWriMo pinterest board – I’ll pin helpful links, infographics, inspiration, and funny writing memes.
Follow TheWritersaurus.com’s board NaNoWriMo! on Pinterest.
Plan Your Project
If you’re a pantser, I don’t have much advice for you – have fun while you can before Camp starts, I guess? Pantsers are prone to one problem – if you don’t know what will happen next in your story, you tend to let scenes drag on longer than they should, or else write totally pointless scenes. If you find yourself doing this, it’s time for the next plot point. Imagine the worst thing that could happen relative to the story, and write it.
If you’re a planner, I suggest focusing on the prewriting triangle: character, world, plot. These are the three aspects of your story that you need to work out as much as possible before actually starting your novel.
You should develop your characters first. What they want dictates what happens in your story.
If you’re the type who likes to look through resources, you can check out TWS character development board on Pinterest. There are a ton of resources and infographics there.
There are tons of ways to develop your characters. Some writers like to fill out questionnaires, some like to ‘interview’ their characters. You can find more resources for this just by doing a web search for ‘character questionnaire’ or ‘character profile.’
To me, there are a few things I need to know about my characters. These things are:
-What does my character want? Why does he want it?
-What do they fear? Why?
-What are their quirks? Why do they have these quirks?
-What do they love most? What would they do if it was taken away from them?
-What is the worst thing that could happen to them?
This list could go on and on, but I think the most important part of this list is the why – your characters need to have a reason, something that makes them do what they do. Otherwise, they’re just cardboard cutouts you’re moving around to fulfill your plot.
Another tip: before Camp starts, write out a scene or two from your main characters’ perspectives – this way you can get a feel for their voices before you start writing.
You might also check out my post Ask Your Characters: How to Create Character-driven Plot Points.
I just did an entire series on world building, so rather than reiterate what I’ve already said, I’ll just link you to those posts: 2 Essential World Building Questions, World Building Magic, World Builder’s Disease, and World Building Tips.
I will say this: your world should always be secondary to your characters and your story. People read because they become attached to characters, they may even be intrigued by an interesting plot, but almost no one will read your book because of the world.
So spend only a little time on your world, and focus more energy on your characters and plot. The great thing about a deadline to start writing like Camp NaNoWriMo is that it prevents world builder’s disease.
And here’s where I am in this whole triangle. The pickings on TWS’ plotting and outlining board are slim (though they will grow, I promise!).
My plan of attack, for now, is to follow my own advice from TWS’ post How to Build a Plot Skeleton, and figure out all the things my characters are most afraid of, mold them into major plot points, and work from there.
I know who my characters are. I know where the story starts, and where it needs to go. I just need to fill in the middle.
It can’t be that hard…can it?
Good luck with your Camp NaNoWriMo endeavors, or whatever you’re working on. How are you preparing, or are you a pantser? Do you have any suggestions about plot, character development, or world building? Let me know in the comments!