CampNaNoWriMo, NaNoWriMo, Writing

Why (& how) I’m attempting to tackle #CampNaNoWriMo with no time and no ideas

National Novel Writing Month (#NaNoWriMo for short) takes place every November, and the aim is to write 50,000 words throughout the month. 50,000 words is about the same length as The Great Gatsby, so arguably you’ve produced a novel in a month, hence the name. I’ve taken part a couple of times, and won back in 2011 with a fanfiction story, but haven’t had the chance the last few years. In April and July, a more relaxed version of NaNoWrimo takes place – Camp NaNoWriMo. You can set your own goal for Camp, and it can be a word count goal, a time goal or even a page count goal.

There are a whole host of reasons why I shouldn’t take part in #CampNaNoWriMo this July, but probably the three most important are:

  • I’m starting my brand new job as a teacher
  • As soon as school breaks up, I’m going on holiday
  • I have literally no ideas

Despite that, I’m going to give it a go anyway, and that’s pretty much all down to Matthew Syed’s brilliant book, Black Box Thinking. The book is all about re-evaluating how we look at failure, and seeing it as an opportunity for progress, and I absolutely loved it.  Without giving away too much, there was one particular story that stuck with me, about students who were told they’d be graded based on quality, and spent all their time coming up with the ‘perfect idea’…. and scored more poorly than students who’d been told they’d be graded on quantity and so submitted many many pieces of work and got lots of feedback.  This really struck home for me, because I absolutely think I’m the kind of person who could get to 50 still looking for that ‘perfect idea’ and not having started.  Yes, whatever I produce will probably suck, but the next time I might suck a little less, and the time after that, a little less again, and so on.

In terms of time, I think Robin Hobb, one of my favourite authors, sums it up best.

“The truth is, you will never have more free time than you do right now. Your life will always fill up with stuff you need to do. Even after you are successful and no longer have a day job, you will still need to get the car serviced, pull the weeds, pick up your friend at the airport, call the plumber and mop the floor, oh, and since you ‘don’t work’, can you watch your friend’s kids this afternoon? Life does not stop so that you can write a book.”

I’ve literally made those excuses to myself! ‘I’ll have more time once I’ve finished wedding planning’…I didn’t. ‘When I start teacher training I can write during the holidays’…every holiday has been filled with either uni assignments or lesson planning. So no, I don’t have much time right now, but I’ll never have more time either.

Okay, so now you know WHY I’m going to tackle it despite not having a clear idea or an abundance of free time, but that doesn’t quite explain how.  Well, I mean, I’m still figuring out how to be honest, but here’s my current plan:

  • I’m setting my goal based on time rather than words.
    • I’m aiming for 31 hours; I know I won’t get an hour done on most weekdays, but I’m hoping I can get half an hour done on many, and then catch up over the weekends.
  • I did the exercises in the first chapter of Ready, Set, Novel yesterday
    • They got me thinking about features I love and might want to write about, with the aim of writing a ‘What if…? question.  While I didn’t have any bright sparks of inspiration for the ‘What if…?’ it did get me into a creative sort of mindset.
    • The features I love have obviously been rattling around in the back of my brain because today a question popped into my head while I was driving. It needs a lot of work, and at the moment there’s nothing like resembling a plot, but it’s a start!
  • When July starts, I’m just going to begin writing
    • I’ve got a Pinterest board I’ll keep adding ideas to as and when they occur to me, in the hopes of developing my tiny spark of an idea into something bigger, but I’m going to start writing in the meantime (once July begins).  Maybe I’ll have something resembling a plot, or maybe I’ll just start with a random scene; but this is going to an attempting at pantsing for the first time, so we’ll see how it goes!
  • I’m going to stay accountable
    • I’ll be posting frequent updates on Twitter, as well as less frequent but more detailed updates here on the blog
    • I’m going to join a cabin with other writers to stay motivated
    • For the first time, I’ve actually told friends in real life I’m going to give it a go
    • I’ve got a bullet journal page ready and waiting to track progress
    • I’ve set up a plan on Pacemaker which spreads my 31 hours out based on which days I know I’ll get no writing done and days when I might have time to do extra


The attempt might be an epic failure, but just maybe, it might go well. And what have I got to lose?! If you’re joining in, how ready are you feeling?

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