How to Win Camp NaNoWriMo: Set up for Success

This is the second in a series on Camp NaNoWriMo. If you’re interested, please read the first installment, Preparing For Camp NaNoWriMo.

Camp NaNoWriMo, how to win

Camp NaNoWriMo, how to win

Just four days until the first NaNoWriMo camp starts! I’m still prepping, but I’ve made definite progress in my plot from last week.

Today we’re going to talk about how-to set yourself up to win Camp NaNoWriMo – before it even starts!

1.    Set a Realistic Word-count Goal

Unlike the main NaNoWriMo event in November, where the goal is set at 50,000 words, Camp NaNoWriMo gives you the option of setting your own word count goal of anywhere between 10,000 and 1,000,000 words.

Originally, I planned on writing a 60,000 word novel for each Camp, so that when it’s all said and done, I’d have the rough drafts of a trilogy.


In a regular month, that would be feasible, depending on my motivation level. But in April, I’ll be travelling to India for two weeks. As much as I’d like to think I can hammer out a few thousand words on the plane, I had to come to grips with the fact that I HATE writing on planes. The screaming children, that uncomfortable pressure in your temples, the too-close neighbor who may or may not be reading over your shoulder… Right. Once I came back down to earth (pun intended) I set myself a goal that I’m more likely to finish: 30,000 words.

Remember, it’s better to write more than to write less. Writing 40,000 words when your goal is 30,000 feels like an achievement – writing 40,000 if your goal is 60,000 feels like a failure. It’s all perspective. Why not set yourself up for something good?

2.    Declare Your Intent

Tell your friends, your parents, your co-workers, your pets. Post a Facebook status, send out a tweet, use one of the sweet Camp NaNoWriMo badges as your profile image or cover photo. You can even join a cabin on the Camp NaNoWriMo website.

Just don’t sit in a dark corner somewhere, thinking about doing Camp NaNoWriMo. Telling others makes you accountable to someone, and therefore more likely to actually finish. Your friends and family (hopefully) will also be more likely to leave you alone to write, once the time comes. At least they’ll understand why you’re so grouchy.

If you really want to commit (and can afford it), donate or buy Camp NaNoWriMo merch here. It goes to a great cause!

3.    Outline

Knowing what you’re going to write is one of the surest ways to prevent writer’s block. Think back to any time you were writing a story and then suddenly were unable to go any further – I’ll bet it was because you didn’t know what was going to happen next.

I’m a big proponent of plotting. Maybe pantsing works well for you. If that’s the case, then great. In my experience, though, taking the time to plot in advance saves exponentially more time later – time that would have been spent re-writing scenes that don’t make it into the final draft, re-writing to cover up plot holes, and hours of revision.

“Pantsing” also leads to writing pointless scenes with no plot. I remember one participant last year said they wrote 50,000 words in which their characters went to the beach. No plot, just picnics and beach volleyball.

This isn’t necessarily bad – you are getting a feel for your characters and their world. But it’s not novel. Which is what you wanted, right?

Don’t waste your time sending your characters to the beach (unless, you know, that’s a part of your plot). Outline today! If you’d like, K. Kitts has amassed quite the collection of free NaNoWriMo worksheets that will help you outline, plan, and develop characters. You can also check out my posts Plot Bones: How to Write a Story Skeleton and Ask Your Characters: How to Develop a Character-driven Plot.

4.    Pre-write

I know what you’re thinking – that’s cheating! If you don’t include it in your word count, it isn’t. Pre-writing a scene or two helps you get the tone and voice of your story, and may help you see who your characters more clearly. This will make your writing in April faster and easier. If you’re like me, whenever you start a new project, you spend a day or two staring at a blank word document, unsure of how to start. You want to get this out of the way early, before Camp starts. It’s a waste of time, and will only discourage you for the rest of the month.

Try this exercise: for each main character, write out an earlier life event as a story or scene. I usually focus on a life-changing incident, one that made them who they are today, something that hopefully (though not necessarily) relates to the story, but wouldn’t be included in full in the finished book.


Are you doing Camp NaNoWriMo this year? Do you know what you’re going to write, or are you “pantsing” it? What’s your game plan for winning? Let me know in the comments!

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H. Duke
H. Duke writes fantasy, horror, and more. Her works include the weird west / urban fantasy serial mashup, Jeremiah Jones Cowboy Sorcerer and the Christmas horror collection, Things on the Shelf: Three Tales of Christmas Terror, as well as the forthcoming Pagewalker series. She wrote the first season of Jeremiah Jones Cowboy Sorcerer while living in Arizona with her husband, Giru, and a shiny black dog named Jupiter. To see what she's up to now, visit her website.

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