Here I am at 9:30 PM on the last Sunday of March, having just decided at the very last minute to join Camp NaNoWriMo. (Why do I do this to myself?)
I’m confident it’s a good, if half-baked, decision. I recently started writing my novel, Escape Artist, again after a 9-month hiatus. Easing myself back into writing something creative has been one of the most fulfilling forms of self-care. What better way to keep up the momentum than joining Camp NaNoWriMo?
Whether you’re a plantser like me who’s also just decided to take the plunge, or you’ve been looking forward to camp since January, I’ve got some Camp NaNoWriMo prompts and tips to make this writing challenge a success. Let’s jump in!
Camp NaNoWriMo prompts and ideas
If you’re still not sure what to write, try some of these fresh Camp NaNoWriMo prompts (that I found on Pinterest and shamelessly borrowed from other writers who are way more clever and original than me).
Start that new novel idea
If you’re the type who really appreciates a challenge, try starting that new novel idea that’s been floating around in your head. Don’t have an idea, or just want something new? I gotchu. Or rather, Tumblr user mermaidmonarch has gotchu.
A fun Camp NaNoWriMo prompt for novel writers: Mermaids as astronomers
“I bet mermaids are really great astronomers. I mean, their eyes must be super sensitive to light if they can see underwater, and there’s no place with clearer skies than the open ocean.
What if they found navigational equipment from sunken explorers’ ships and turned the old telescopes and star charts into something more compatible with their habitat? Optics made of polished sea-glass, extraterrestrial communications systems based on the languages of different sea creatures, etc.
People on land talk about how they know as little about the oceans as outer space, but merfolk already have the sea figured out.
So of course, what are they going to explore next? I think the answer is just as clear as it is awesome.”
(If you write this story, please send it to me when it’s finished. I’ve wanted to read this since I saw this prompt!)
Create some short stories
Whether you decide to go for a themed collection or a hodgepodge of plots, writing short stories is a great way to flex your creative muscles.
A fun Camp NaNoWriMo prompt for short story writers: Urban wizards
Based on this post from Tumblr user ironinkpen:
“Yes but hear me out: urban wizards.
Wizards in big cities who wear skinny jeans and flannel. Who make pencils out of their wands so they can hide them in plain sight. Who get into back alley fights on brooms. Who charm guys harassing girls at bars into having blue skin for the next week. Who keep cats in their pet free apartments by transfiguring them whenever their landlord stops in. Who do street performances for money and wink at little kids when they pocket their wands. Who exchange secret smiles whenever they pass each other.
Yes, urban wizards! Somebody write it, please. I wanna read it.
Write something self-indulgent
As a kid, self-indulgent stories were all I wrote. Sadly, as I grew older, completed two writing degrees, and started freelancing, I always wrote for someone else. Never just for me.
If you’re stumped for Camp NaNoWriMo prompts and ideas, I encourage you to channel your inner child and write whatever the heck you want.
Self-insert fan-fiction. An ink sketch of that silly daydream you had the other day. A cheesy love poem. Write whatever’s in your heart — just for fun, just for you.
Not everything you do needs to be for publication. It’s easy to forget that when you’re an aspiring author. Camp NaNo is the perfect time to just write something that no one else will ever see.
Draft blog and social media content
If, like me, writing is your day job, your side hustle, and your hobby, you’re probably juggling a blog and social media accounts alongside your creative work.
Creating content for your blog and social media accounts might seem like an unconventional goal for Camp NaNoWriMo. But hey, why not? Just because the NaNoWriMo site doesn’t have a genre for it doesn’t mean you can’t do it. Heck, you don’t have to set up an account on the site at all if you don’t want to. There are no rules!
And if it makes you feel any better, I’ve set a goal for blog and social content for the month of April to coincide with camp. So if you choose to spend all or part of Camp NaNo writing blog and social media posts, know you’re not alone.
3 tips for making Camp NaNoWriMo a success
The last time I participated in Camp NaNoWriMo was 2019. While I’ve only attempted two NaNoWriMo events, I’m determined to make Camp 2021 a success. Here are 3 of my top tips for making the most of your month!
Write in Comic Sans
Or a similarly silly, “non-bookish” font.
This tip comes from Tumblr user arahir. (For someone who doesn’t have a Tumblr, I sure do read a lot of Tumblr posts about writing.)
I tried writing in Comic Sans, and it worked, to my surprise and slight horror.
Fonts like Comic Sans put less pressure on the writer to get things perfect in the first draft — something I really struggle with.
So change your font to Comic Sans and get writing! (If you’re editing, switch back to a “bookish” font if you want things to feel more official.)
Set an achievable goal
My Camp NaNoWriMo goal: Write 2,000 words. That’s it. And the only reason I set that goal was because I had to set a goal word count for my project on the Camp NaNoWriMo site.
It’s a ridiculously low, ridiculously achievable goal, considering I tend to write 1,000+ words per session.
I adapted this goal-setting technique from James Clear’s Atomic Habits. He encourages people to “make it easy” and take the path of least resistance when setting goals:
- Complete one rep of your workout.
- Meditate for one breath.
- Read one page.
If you can do just one rep, one breath, one page, you’re more likely to do one more rep, one more breath, one more page. And that’s how you achieve your goals.
I upped the ante slightly and set a goal that’s achievable in a day and a half at my current pace. Your goal can be as achievable as writing just one word for the whole month of Camp NaNoWriMo. Any more words are just a bonus.
Ditch the writing goals altogether (if you dare)
One thing I’ve learned from tracking my word counts is that sometimes, setting goals can get in the way.
If you’re comfortable with letting go of all expectations and opening yourself up to following your creative instinct wherever it takes you, I recommend trying it.
I’ve tried all sorts of goal-setting methods for writing:
- creating writing progress trackers in my bullet journal
- setting alarms to remind myself to write before starting work
- beating myself up in my morning pages for not meeting my goals
…and pretty much all of them failed in some way or another.
I write content and copy for a living, and I produce anywhere from 5,000 to 10,000 words a week for work. I battle burnout regularly.
Adding word count goals and expectations to that didn’t help my burnout, my confidence, or my progress.
So when I decided to start writing my novel again, I didn’t set any expectations. No daily word count goals, no expectations to write every day or even a certain number of days a week.
And guess what?
I’ve produced nearly 4,000 words in 10 days, after not writing for 9+ months.
Might seem slow to some, but to quote Kristen Kieffer, “All progress is good progress.”
Now that you’ve got a few tips and ideas, go forth and get writing! No matter what you’re working on or which goals you’ve set, I wish you luck and creative energy. And please don’t beat yourself up if you fall short. Just keep writing and forget about everything else. If ya need a writing buddy, you know where to find me!