I’ve been writing in one form or another for several years, but one thing I have never done is participate in NaNoWriMo. I came close November but chickened out at the idea of 50,000 words in 30 days. Then I discovered they also offer a NaNoWriMo Camp, which among other things, allows you to set your own writing goals. It starts in a few days (April 1st) so I thought it would be cool to document the journey.
How to Sign Up
When you go to campnanowrimo.org you will see several sections that you need to complete. The Account Settings section includes basics like name, email, and password. Remember to include a photo so others will recognize your posts immediately.
The Camper Info section allows you to tell others more about yourself. I would take time to plan and polish your bio section. Who knows, you might need that when you publish your story! Remember to include your website link if you have one. Some of these contacts may last longer than 30 days.
The Project Info section includes a synopsis, excerpt, and cover photo. If this is your first project you may or may not have all of this yet. But like your bio section, these things will be important when publishing later. This is where you grab your readers attention as quickly as possible.
The Cabin Settings is where you select your own support group. Depending on the information you provide, you can be grouped with up to 19 other writers within your genre or you can choose to group together with writers you may already know. Even though there may be thousands participating this is where you bond and make personal contacts.
How to Set Up
Depending if you are starting from scratch or working on an existing project, there are certain things you want to think about before day one. In my case, I started with Word originally but have been using Scrivener for the last several months. I had to make sure everything I was working on was in the right format. Decide now on your font, size of text, and how you plan to keep track of your word count.
If you have an existing starting point, read it several times before you start writing again. If you don’t already have a character sketch, now would be a good time to create one. Nothing is more embarrassing than having a blue-eyed character on one page and several chapters later you describe dark brown eyes.
How you organize your story can vary greatly. Some people write down a few character names and a basic synopsis in one paragraph, others will write a 30-page detailed outline including every plot point. Personally, I start somewhere in between. I use a Beat sheet that I create specifically for that story. I use the basic three-act structure that gives me a beginning, middle and end with several key points I want to cover. The whole thing boils down to one sheet that I use as a roadmap.
How to Get Going
Setting a time and place to write sounds good in theory, but don’t get so locked into a schedule, that it stresses you out. If you usually write in the morning but have a family emergency, try writing that night. It might surprise you what a different perspective can do.
The number one rule when writing is to write. I know that sounds obvious, but what I’m getting at is… there’s a time for writing and a time for editing. Do NOT do them at the same time. I’ve been known to spend an hour rewriting a single paragraph. The goal here is not to write a completely polished, ready to publish, award-winning novel. The goal is to complete the basic rough draft. The rest you can do later.
I strongly suggest letting others know you plan to participate in NaNoWriMo. Force yourself to commit, tell everybody you know. Those who are not writers can encourage you IF they know you are doing something. Those who are writers can give ideas on perspective, characters, and storylines. The bottom line is you write alone, but you don’t have to feel alone. This is supposed to be fun.
Even if you are thinking about writing a book, this will be good for you. Planning the story, writing a synopsis and expressing yourself can build your confidence dramatically. Interacting with other writers can be a great learning experience. I personally believe every person on the planet has a story to tell. You have everything to gain and nothing to lose. If you don’t have the time, then at least you know writing is not for you. If you make the time this might be the start of making your dreams come true.