July is over – and therefore Camp NaNoWriMo is over for the year, at least the official ones. If you’re unfamiliar with this “Camp” aspect of National Novel Writing Month, it is the time when writers can create their own writing, editing, or revising goals instead of the “set” 50,000+ words that the official NaNoWriMo has for November.
If you missed Camp, you can still do your own novel-writing goals.
The first time I ever did a NaNoWriMo unofficially was when I was 18 (yikes – 20 years ago!). I had a novel I’d written one chapter per year on for three years but in January 1999, I decided I wanted to finish that book already! So, I sat down on January 2 or 3, and basically didn’t get up again until the whole 105,000+ words was written, less than a month later.
I have done this again for 10 consecutive years for the official NaNoWriMo, completing drafts on 9 of the 10. I’ve also occasionally done others, drafting my first self-published novel under a pseudonym, Nobody’s Girl, the second in the series, Drop Dead Daisy, and some others I have yet to revise and publish.
If you have a novel you NEED to write, but just don’t make the time for, I’d highly encourage you to participate in your own NaNoWriMo during the lock-downs or at least the official NaNoWriMo come this November.
Select the Book You Want to Write
If you have one idea, you’re all set. If you have multiple ideas for plots, sort through them and see which one stands out to you the most at this particular point in time. Does one topic resonate more than another? Does one character feed your soul? Does one setting feel more comfortable and familiar?
Choose wisely! You’ll be living with this book for a month every day!
Outline and Research As Much As Possible First
If you’re writing a historical novel, be sure to look up books on the era, websites that focus on that era, etc. Writing a sci-fi? Figure out those parameters to make the science work first. Writing a fantasy? Choose your character types ahead of time.
Do as much “advanced work” as possible before you sit down to write to help free up time to focus primarily on the writing itself.
If you’re an outliner, outline the plot points ahead of time so you have something easier to work from along the way.
The key is, though, to do these things before you sit down to write. For my projects, I give myself a month to research and outline, then a month to draft.
Create a Clean Creatively Stimulating Work Space
Ideally, set up a spot in your home where you can write your novel that is separate from your at-home work station or bedroom. You want to separate your creative spot from the realities or work and sleep as much as possible.
If you can’t separate because of space, family, or other reasons, be sure to at least change up the environmental elements when you’re ready to write. When I lived in a studio apartment, I had one desk and no table. To change things up, I cleared away all work related documents, folders, etc., and set myself up with some lovely little bits to make the space feel more comfortable and less work-oriented, like scented candles, tea lights in pretty holders, used a special tea cup instead of every day mugs, and changed up the lighting with Christmas lights instead of bright white lights.
When You Write, Use Place Holders
Don’t get hung up on small details you can’t remember or don’t know. If you can’t remember the difference between the first revolver and a pepper pot, just put a place holder instead for now and come back later during revisions.
For myself, I insert “(look up)” or “(research)” – which is an easy-to-search-for term later on when I go back to revise/edit.
Take a Run or Shower When Your Well Runs Dry
If you’re getting stuck on something while you’re writing, give yourself a break and go get outside and take a run or walk. If it’s too cold walk around the house, use the treadmill or exercise bike (don’t have one? Look on Freecycle, Craigslist, OfferUp, or similar sites to find one cheap or even free).
Or, if activity isn’t doing it for you, get a hot bath or shower and let your mind wander.
I find that I solve almost all of my creative blocks on the running trail or in the shower. Hands down the most effective way to break writer’s block for me.
Unplug While You Write
Finally, unplug from the internet while you write. You’ll easily fall down the rabbit hole of “research” otherwise and look up at the clock two hours later to realize you’ve written 1000 words today instead of the planned 4000.