How to Win at Camp NaNoWriMo, a Guide

1.) Start at midnight on the first of the month. As I am writing this, it's 9:52pm on June 30 and I am ready and raring to go for Camp NaNoWriMo. I plan on eating some soup and watching some Buffy in a bit here, and then getting some Coconut M&Ms and a bottle of water and heading to my bedroom to write, at midnight, until I pass at least 2,000 words. Which, if you note, is more words than you need in a day to finish a WriMo on time. As you will will also note throughout a month of writing with reckless abandon, the first rule of the game should be: Don't waste any time.

2.) Learn to love saying "No." It's the only way you are going to finish a novel in a month. Someone offers you a free trip to a Britney Spears concert? NO. How about an all expense paid trip to Aruba? Also, NO. Britney Spears will probably survive to tour again, and Aruba will probably not sink into the ocean before next summer. This is the month you are writing your novel. So no, you won't be doing much else. This is the second most important rule. Say no whenever you can.

3.) Get comfortable. You're going to spend a month writing, and you're going to do it sitting down. Probably. For god's sake, make sure you are comfortable. The last thing you want is to get an achy back in your first week of writing because you don't have the proper support for wherever you park your behind. Invest time, and if necessary, money, into making sure you can write somewhere you are comfortable. I mean it. This is important.

4.) No Plot? No Problem. It's midnight on the first? It's time to write? Just dive right in. It's NaNoWriMo's motto, and it turns out, it's totally true. So I am making that my key bit of personal advice. Don't plot, don't plan, don't outline. JUST. WRITE. I have finished five out of seven WriMo's (and yes, those two losses still bug me) and the two times I lost were the two times I plotted and outlined. Last November I began with three words in mind: Erotic. Vampire. Western. What turned out from those three words was amazing. I had more fun writing last November than I ever have in my life, and it's because I had no idea what I was doing. Remember, folks: Even if you don't know what you're doing, you can do it anyway.

5.) Don't look back. I feel like I have to keep pointing this out - you're writing a novel in a month. You have no time to look back at what you've written and edit or make changes to any of it. You have to soldier on, no matter how messed up you know your timeline is. The great thing is, since you are writing every day, or even at multiple times throughout the day, you won't forget where you left off. You can look at the last few sentences you wrote and know exactly where you're going. You've got this. Ever onward, fellow writers!

6.) Don't be afraid. You cannot think of failure when you are writing a novel in a month. Negative thoughts, like how much this first draft sucks (and it will) have to be banished from your mind. No, they cannot be allowed to enter in the first place. Fear will inevitably lead to failure. You need to buck up and tell yourself that you can do this, you are a writer. Now say it again. You are a writer.

7. )Don't get cocky, either. The words may be flowing like magic from your fingertips, pouring out of you as you marvel at how fast your fingers are clickety-clacking over and over across the keyboard. You have traveled miles over these keys, but it's not time to think ahead. Don't think about publishing when you are writing, because you aren't there yet. You can save those thoughts for later, but don't get ahead of yourself. There's no time to worry about publishing until you are finished, and you need to remind yourself that while reading about other successes is inspiring and encouraging, it's also just distracting you, and keeping you from writing.

8. )Love your characters. They are your new best friends. It's your job to get to know them, to explore their inner lives and their pasts and to carve out their futures. You need to love them, and celebrate in their joys and triumphs, but you need to kill them, too. You need to confuse them, hurt them, and see them in pain. It's the only way to get to know them better, and it's the only way they are going to come alive to anyone other than you. Remember, in the end, they won't be your imaginary friends anymore, they will belong to everyone.

9.) Live in their world, not yours. Whether you are in your bedroom, office, or local beanery, you aren't really there, are you? You are in the world that you have created for yourself and your little darlings, and good, that is just as it should be. Lose yourself in it. Make sure you know it as well as you know your childhood home, all of its little nooks and crannies and wide open spaces. You live there now, too, and you have to make sure you are comfortable enough there to be able to invite some friends over, when the time finally comes.

10. ) Don't stop 'til get enough. It doesn't matter if you're hungry, you won't starve to death. It doesn't matter if you have to pee either, because you're a big girl and you can hold it. It doesn't matter if it's almost one in the morning and you've been up since six a.m., you can push yourself through the exhaustion, because you are a writer and you can sleep when you're dead. When you're riding the wave of good writing, you don't stop, you don't give it up until you are satisfied. This can be different for everyone. You can write for a certain amount of time, you can write until you've reached a certain word count, whichever works for you. Me, I have an animal inside, and he scratches and scratches at my heart, pawing at me to get on with the writing, and I can't stop until he's done with the scratching and nagging until I've put him to sleep and can't feel him anymore. I can't explain my animal any better than that, he's a mystery to me as well, and he comes and goes from my heart, but that's why it's so important. Listen to yourself, to your body and your mind and your fingers click-clacketing away.

11.) Trust yourself. Believe in yourself. You can do this. And you will do it, because you have to. You have to write, because if you didn't you would die, or you would want to die, and either way it amounts to the same thing. That thing that makes you you, those are the words and the stories that live inside, and it's your job to get them out. You can do it. It might take weeks, or months or years to get your story out of you, but it will come. Have faith in nothing at all, nothing but yourself, and it will come. Praying won't help the story come, so do not look to God or religion. Friends and family will only hinder your progress, so don't go to them for advice, they will be suspicious of you because writers are curious beings. For now, when you are writing, you are on your own. You are in control of your world, your future, your very destiny as a giver of stories.

12.) Congratulate yourself. Constantly. No one has read your story yet, so the only cheerleader you have right now is you. Be good to yourself. Give yourself the proverbial pat on the back. When your muse turns in for the night or your animal stops gnawing on your heartstrings, take a deep breath and let it out. Breathe in, breathe out. Then look. Look at what you've done. You've a novel in a month. You have just used your imagination - something that all of us have, but only so few of us can harness and mold into characters we know as well as our sisters, into worlds we know as intimately as our own. It's magic, writing. You have just created something out of nothing. You have ripped out a part of yourself and commanded it to be tamed onto the page, and now it is a gift that you can give away, whenever you are ready to give it. I don't know about you, but that is my kind of miracle.

Good luck, fellow Campers!


  1. This is a great list! I've done Nanowrimo a few times, and this time I'm rebelling and doing non-fiction.


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