Camp NaNoWriMo is your online writers’ retreat, designed to help you set and reach your personal writing goals. Join us for your next writing adventure!
For those of you who have participated before, Camp NaNoWriMo looks a little different this year, as we’re hosting it on the new nanowrimo.org site. But the gist of it remains the same: set your own writing goals, join an online writing group, and give yourself a creative retreat this spring!
How can I participate in Camp NaNoWriMo?
To participate in Camp NaNoWriMo, just announce a project, then make sure to check “Associate with a NaNoWriMo event”, and select the current Camp NaNoWriMo event.
Once you’ve done that, you should be ready to start tracking your project! You’ll be able to start tracking your writing at 12:01 AM on April 1 in your time zone!
Once you’ve reached your writing goal, the site will automatically confirm your win, and you’ll receive a certificate celebrating your achievement, along with a bunch of other winner goodies!
💬 Join our #CampNaNoAdvice tweet chat on Friday, April 3, 1 PM PST (Your Time Zone)! Ask our Camp Counselors and published authors An Na, Dallas Woodburn, Devi S. Laskar, and Jennifer Ziegler your questions. They’ll also be delivering daily advice to your NaNoMessages here throughout April!
👋 Become part of a writing group!You can now join or create a 20-person writing group to post messages and chat with your fellow writers. (Looking for cabin mates? Find them on our forums!)
Last week, we sent out a survey asking how we could help make the coming weeks easier, more fun, and less stressful for you. Literally thousands of people responded and asked us to provide extra resources, activities, and opportunities for online connection.
That’s why we’re launching #StayHomeWriMo—an initiative to support and encourage you to stay well and find comfort in creativity in these trying times. Sure, the whole world might be keeping its physical distance from each other (please do), but that doesn’t mean we have to distance ourselves from our creative lives (please don’t).
NaNoWriMo’s staff has been working remotely over Slack, video conferencing, email, and G-chat to bring you a bevy of creative activities and self-care check-ins. #StayHomeWriMo is flexible so you can adapt it to fit your social distancing, schedule, and overall well-being, whether that’s writing fiction, journaling about this time in your life, being mindful of your emotional and physical health, or just making social connections at a safe distance. Each (week)day for the rest of March, we’ll post a checklist of prompts to help your mental, physical, social, and creative well-being.
Want to jump in early on a full creative project? You can start a project on the NaNoWriMo site now and customize the dates to your needs.
Home with school-aged kids and need help keeping them busy? Sign them up on ywp.nanowrimo.org for age-specific resources and a youth-friendly writing space!
Juggling pre-school aged kids and work and have zero down time for writing? Lean in on the mental, physical, and social check-ins and connect with other like-minded writers with no time to write in the comments of our social media, on our forums, and in your own spaces.
From beds to desks to dining tables, many of us have no choice but to write from home for the immediate future.Fear not! Kristi Stalder is here with us today to teach us how how to make the most of our writing environments — both at home and online.
With all of the social distancing and encouragement to stay home and limit our exposure to crowds, we may experience a slight wrench in our Camp NaNoWriMo plans. Fortunately, we live in a world with the ability to connect virtually and because of this, we are thriving as a community.
During Camp NaNoWriMo, many of us will be writing at home but we can make the best of it by creating a productive writing environment and still have connections with the writing community. While the perfect writing environment isn’t a guarantee that you’ll meet your word count, it certainly has an influence on your creative mindset. We can create a personalized workspace in the comfort of our homes, and have fun while mixing things up!
Online writing communities can help you achieve your goals.
One of my favorite things about NaNoWriMo are the people within the online writing communities. Sharing thoughts, motivation, and inspiration with likeminded writers is what makes me love what I do. It’s by far, the most encouraging and positively influential environment.
I’ve met writers in local workshops, NaNo write-ins, libraries, schools, and coffee shops, and they are still, to this day, great friends of mine. We all share a passion for writing, and this common thread of love knits us together no matter how scary the world becomes.
We all know that writing is HARD. But the writing community helps to push us through the challenges. They show up with us. They write with us. And they share success stories as well as failures, to help us to learn and grow as writers.
If you haven’t already, join a writing group online and you’ll see what I mean. Unwavering support, honest feedback, and meeting new friends are just a few great benefits.
A stimulating environment leads to productivity.
When I write in a café, I enjoy listening to the chatter and laughter of the patrons, and the acoustic melodies coming through the speakers are as smooth as my white-chocolate mocha. Not to mention the sensational aroma of coffee that puts me in a trance, and I am inspired to write for hours.
To replicate this atmosphere, try this to transport your mind:
If you’re inspired by scents, have a variety of candles burning while you write. I have a coffee scented “writing candle” and when it’s lit, I write and don’t stop. When I blow it out, my writing session is over and I can relax.
If you’re inspired by music, create a playlist of the relaxing café music (or any genre that awakens your muse), and play it in the background while you hammer out your word count.
This goes without saying, but I’ll say it anyway. Coffee, tea, or any other beverage that strikes your fancy is good for the writer’s soul. Pause, take a sip, and continue writing like water flowing over stones in a creek.
If scenery inspires you, rearrange your writing space to have plenty of natural light, and change the view to keep your mind fresh. My backyard bistro table now sits in the corner of my living room near a window, overlooking the snow-capped mountains. When the mood strikes and I want to write in the café, I’ll light a few candles, make a cup of coffee, press ‘play’ on the soundtrack, and I’m there.
While the world is on pause and we wait for the pandemic to fizzle out, we can use this time at home to focus, set writing goals, and forge onward.
Be well, good luck, and remember to wash your hands!
(No, seriously, go wash your hands.)
Kristi Stalder is an author, book coach, and creative entrepreneur. She lives in the little farm town of Tonasket, Washington with her kiddos and handsome husband, and she spends her free time working on her adventure fiction novel. She is the author of the senior resource guide, Navigating Assisted Living: The Transition into Senior Living, and children’s book, I Love You More, illustrated by Julie Edwards. For more information, visit www.KristiStalder.com and connect with her on social media!
Looking for a fun, new way to get to work on your worldbuilding? Today, as a part of a new series on roleplaying, Gretchen Turonek shares some tips on how to use roleplaying to strengthen your writing:
Until a few years ago, I was kind of intimidated by the idea of tabletop gaming as a hobby. It seemed like something I might be into, but for the longest time, I avoided it. That all changed when I was brought on to a Dungeons & Dragons campaign, and now I regret not having started sooner because it’s one of the best things I’ve ever done for my writing.
Tabletop role-playing games allow you to tell stories with a group of people. There’s no winning or losing except in the form of telling the best and most memorable story possible, and there are so many options for games across genres and complexity levels that there’s something for everyone. Here are five ways things that roleplaying could help bring to your novel:
1. Collect Story and Character Ideas
If you’ve created a character you really enjoy, try working their adventures into your writing. You could chronicle the campaign from their perspective, or you could really flesh out their backstory or other “off-screen” adventures. If you’re a game master that’s running a game, you could do something similar, or base your novel on the path your players didn’t take.
2. See What Kinds of Stories Inspire You
When you’re creating and playing a character, think about what drew you to the concept and the story hooks you want to explore. Do you want more about your character’s relationship with their family, their love interest, or the other members of the party? Are you invested in their resolve to finish the mission or the temptation to stray from their path? The stories you gravitate towards when you make your RPG characters are the ones that hold your attention and make you want to find out more: even if you don’t plan on writing a novel themed around your game, think about the stories you enjoy, because they’re probably the ones that will carry you toward your word count goal.
3. Create Through Collaboration
We writers have kind of a reputation for locking ourselves in our rooms and only emerging when we’ve made progress, the day job calls, or we’re out of caffeine. Getting away from your desk and interacting with other people—yes, even during NaNoWriMo—can sometimes be the best thing for your story. Even if you’re not thinking about your novel directly, being in a place with other people thinking creatively about the same story can be inspiring.
4. Encouraging Fearless Improvisation
NaNoWriMo is all about getting your words on the page in a limited amount of time without agonizing over whether they’re perfect. RPGs are very similar, but with an audience: there’s a (real or virtual) table of people waiting for your next decision, which is more often than not made on the spot and gets instant feedback and results. It sounds scary, especially because some decisions might not seem “right,” but as long as the story is moving forward and everyone is comfortable with what’s happened there really are no wrong choices.
5. A Healthy Change of Pace
At some point, you’re going to hit a wall in your writing. There’s something to be said for sitting in a chair and making it happen, but if you’re staring at a blank notebook or a blinking cursor and you can’t get any words out, a change of setting and medium might help. If the writer’s block happens to arrive on game night, you’ll be stepping away from your novel and into creating a different story, but you’ll probably come back to your novel refreshed.
Gretchen is a seven-time WriMo and Camper from Michigan. She’s a copywriter and fantasy writer who is in the process of revising a former NaNo novel that was, in fact, inspired by a Dungeons & Dragons campaign. She also has a few small game design projects in the works. It’s unusual for her not to be creating or consuming content in fictional worlds, but she does occasionally dabble in fiber arts and baking.
Many of you may be facing extended isolation or time at home in the coming weeks. Maybe writing through hard times is a source of comfort to you and you’re looking forward to escaping into the world of your imagination. Maybe you can’t imagine wanting to write at all right now. We’re here to support you no matter which one of those camps you fall into.
We’d like to ask what we can do to support you as we get ready to host Camp NaNoWriMo in April. One of the best things about NaNoWriMo — and especially Camp — is that it’s an incredible source of virtual companionship and company at a time when you may feel increasingly lonely. We’ll be doing everything we can to increase those opportunities for social distancing-friendly connection and support.
If you have a moment, please fill out our survey to let us know what you would find most helpful and useful in the coming weeks as we all get through this together.
Meanwhile, we’re still offering all of our usual resources, activities, and community platforms. Here’s a list of some you might want to check out:
Time to hit the books! History is full of novel-worthy moments, but how do you write about these events while remaining mindful and respectful of the people who lived through them? Here to start off a new blog series on using real-world events as writing inspiration is Young Writers Program participantMadalyn R:
Inspiration is hard. I’m realizing this yet again as I sit down at my computer to write this blog post. While it can be tempting to travel down a rabbit hole of Pinterest’s top picks for writing inspiration (which will probably eventually lead to a collection of 50 Hottest Characters in Shakespeare), opening a history textbook may be your best bet.
Bear with me, reader, I know it seems dull and dry, but when you push through the academic, sometimes snooze-worthy, language, you’ll discover a wealth of literary possibilities that may astonish you and inspire your next written work. Certain people or events, such as Leo Szilard or the Battle for Castle Itter, are overlooked and ignored, and writing a work of historically accurate fiction about them can be enlightening to the public.
More commonly known events and characters, like the destruction of the Berlin Wall or the life of Queen Victoria, can be brought to life and reimagined with new narrators and perspectives. However, there are three crucial things to remember when writing historical fiction, and they all focus on a key concept: respect.
1. Respect the character.
The first, perhaps most crucial, is to remember to respect the historical figures and people that you write about. Research is a key aspect and will greatly aid the process of honoring characters. General textbooks and almanacs are wonderful for finding inspiration, but once you find a person to write about, go deeper with primary sources, personal writings, etc. These will allow you to sculpt a well-rounded and accurate character. When writing about a person who actually existed, it is important to not change their personality, appearance, religion, gender, sexuality, or race in order to make them more relevant or likable. This is a grave error that is not considerate of the individual, and it should be avoided.
Other things, such as mentioning their hobbies, friends, and family, help to remind the reader of the humanity of the character, which is something that can on occasion be lost in historical fiction. Of course, there are many other aspects to properly writing historical characters, but these are a few pointers that will hopefully serve you well.
2. Respect the reader.
It is also important to remember to respect the reader. While everything in historical fiction can seem new and exciting with differing architecture, fashion, and customs, the reader can often become bored with excesses of prose that aren’t related to the plot, themes, or dialogue. I often find myself including pages of descriptions of halls, libraries, gardens, and other such things in my writing, but I have picked up a phrase from my mother, “don’t assume your reader is dumb.” While some descriptions can be beautiful and grounding, it is usually wise to assume that unless you’re writing about a very narrow or little-studied time period, that the reader is well informed on the basics of the culture of that time.
3. Respect the time period.
Finally, it is crucial to remember to respect the time period. It is important to remember that you are writing about a different time with different cultures, politics, and technology. Unless you’re writing sci-fi, fantasy, or satire, don’t write about a Confederate soldier uploading a meme to his Twitter account in the midst of battle. If your character climbs into a car, ensure that it is the right model and year and decide whether or not this character would have a chauffeur or even be able to afford a vehicle.
When you’re naming characters (which is one of my favorite parts of writing), research the origins of the name, as some have shifted in popularity, use, and even the gender to which they’re typically given.
And while it can be agonizing at times, remember to accurately portray the political climate of the time period. Racism and sexism, to name just a few, were and are grave and serious issues that aren’t enjoyable to talk about, but they were central to many time periods, so I’d encourage you to resolve to write about these beliefs in a way that is hopefully accurate, yet respectful to all parties.
I wish you good luck and endless inspiration, fellow writer!
Madalyn R. is a literature nerd who spends her days reading anything from Seuss to Joyce and writing poetry and flash fiction. She is working on completing her first novel, a gothic work set in the 1840s focused around the fragility of identity and memory. In her free time, you can find her attempting to play the ukulele and scribbling in journals. She hopes to pursue a career in academia as an English professor.
Whether we prefer busy coffee shops or the comfort of our beds, we all have a favorite place to write. Today we have Jamie Lynne Burgess here to kick off a new blog series on writing environments by sharing a cautionary tale about a time where she was perhaps a bit too over overzealous in the search for the perfect writing spot:
On my second night in the cabin, the ants came in droves. They were on the larger side, which is to say that I could see their mandibles, and I imagined their tiny jaws clipping at my skin while I slept. So I did not sleep, because I expected to wake up and find the ants crawling all over me. To find that they had built a nest inside my sleeping bag. To find that thousands of ants had united and were carrying me aloft to their lair.
I went to the cabin because I wished to live—erm, well—deliberately. This cabin was at the end of a rutted-out road and a three-quarter-mile hill. I lugged my typewriter to the top. To my chagrin (and my mother’s delight), my phone still worked there. But I turned it off because I didn’t need the distraction. I went to write.
After five weeks in the cabin, I can tell you this: living alone in the woods does not help you become a better writer.
Hierarchy of Needs
In the cottagecore fantasy, the cabin is the place where the worries and self-doubt about my writing dissolve and disappear. The words flow naturally onto the page. I hardly need to revise. I found this (of course) to be fallacy. While in the cabin, I was too concerned with mundane, basic needs to do something higher-level, like create art. The hierarchy of needs, developed by Maslow, describes the way humans must satisfy certain basic needs before they can move up the rungs toward self-actualization.
While in the cabin, there was no electricity or running water, so cooking took longer, and I needed to tend the wood stove for heat. While these little tasks can be pleasures of a life in the woods, too many unfamiliar factors make it difficult to create.
When the ants moved in, writing became a lost cause. My constant preoccupation with their activity was a distraction worse than Twitter. They might have been a minor threat, but the fact is I didn’t feel comfortable enough to be safe.
Love & Belonging
Though I daydreamed of the time I would be blissfully, utterly alone in Vermont, I found myself craving community. It’s no secret that accountability works for many writers—NaNoWriMo is a testament to that fact—and that a writing community offers great motivation.
By the time I have satisfied the needs leading to esteem, it seems I am better able to create. Esteem is about mastery and feelings of accomplishment. Your own inner critic may be one of your greatest blocks toward achieving “esteem.” Inner critics are generally not allowed in NaNoWriMo: this month, it’s write first, edit later.
With basic needs met, writers can begin to create from a completely different space, one that isn’t predicated on fear or urgency for inspiration. This is when you face the page with no other needs but to write. And that is an entirely different challenge.
If you cannot escape to the woods, or another writing-place of your dreams, consider the ways your current environment is meeting many of your needs already: at home, you know the place well and are comfortable here. You do not need to exert any extra mental energy to navigate an unfamiliar place. Your current environment could be just the place for you to write from a place of calm. This writing could be your best.
And if you are not convinced, and you still wish to go into the woods, I encourage you to think carefully about the ways that your needs will be met there. How will you nourish yourself? Keep yourself warm? Will you feel a sense of security and belonging? And if it so happens that your cabin is invaded by ants, maybe you (unlike me) can use it as inspiration to write the next Metamorphosis.
Jamie Lynne Burgess is a writer in residence at Elsewhere Studios in Paonia, Colorado, where she is working on a novel about climate change in the South Pacific. She has lived in many places, including the Marshall Islands, France, and New England, and place is at the center of her work. Jamie Lynne is also the author of the Awake Tinyletter. Visit jamielynneburgess.com to learn more.
Camp NaNoWriMo is your online writers’ retreat, designed to help you set and reach your personal writing goals. Join us this April for your next writing adventure!
For those of you who have joined us before, Camp NaNoWriMo looks a little different this year, as we’re hosting it on the new nanowrimo.org site. But the gist of it remains the same: set your own writing goals, join an online writing group, and give yourself a creative retreat this spring!
How can I participate in Camp NaNoWriMo?
To participate in Camp NaNoWriMo, just announce a project, then make sure to check “Associate with a NaNoWriMo event”, and select the current Camp NaNoWriMo event. You can announce your project starting in March for April’s Camp NaNoWriMo session, and in June for July’s Camp NaNoWriMo session.
Once you’ve done that, you should be ready to start tracking your project! You’ll be able to start tracking your writing on April 1 / July 1 on our website!.
Once you’ve reached your writing goal, the site will automatically confirm your win, and you’ll receive a certificate celebrating your achievement, along with a bunch of other winner goodies!
We’ve all been there, chasing down some magical plot bunny, that seems to be leading us to our narrative destiny. Then, somewhere along the way, that plot bunny seems to disappear into thin air and leave us stranded on the trail to who knows where. Today, NaNoWriMo Participant K.S. Trenten reminds us that when the going gets tough, the tough… start talking to themselves:
Uh oh. You started out with a good story, it was moving forward, only now you’re not sure what to write. You’re stuck.
How do you get moving again?
Sometimes a simple solution is to move around. Get up. Cross the room and pour yourself a cup of coffee. Go for a walk. See if stirring from the spot you’re sitting in doesn’t shake up your imagination a bit, jarring something loose you hadn’t thought of. An idea may tumble free in the process, giving you the impetus to get your story going again. Perhaps you should pick up your writing tools and relocate somewhere else. Physical movement often gets my mind moving as well.
Nor is that the only way to get going.
Take up your writing implements. Start venting. Not just writing, venting. Let all of your frustration about being stuck on the page out in your words. Confide all your hopes and dreams you had for this particular story to the page. Let the character know they’re not satisfying you, exactly how and why they’re being difficult. If some other story has distracted you, taunt them about all the reasons why you’re enjoying the other story more than them. Allow the characters to talk back. Let them get as uppity as they want, letting you know exactly why they’re not behaving the way you wish them to.
Seriously, I write weekly blogs which are my characters just mouthing off. A writer can learn some surprising things if you let them talk back.
Something else which may have gotten you stuck is that all your insecurities about your writing are coming back to haunt you. You cannot shut them up. Getting stuck has only made them louder.
Fine. Dedicate a page to a major snark-off with your insecurities. Write down every nasty thing you fear. Talk back to them. Come up with a retort for everything they say. Is there any truth in these insults, really? What can you do to change your writing if something about it really is bothering you?
Don’t get upset if you’re truly afraid, deep down, that you are stuck. Writing is no different than most anything else. With time and practice, you can become quite skilled. Do it often enough and you will improve. Look your fear right in the eye and ask why? What would you like to change to get better? How can you go about it? Are you shaky at descriptions? Use too many telling words or too much passive description? (I was guilty of both and still am.)
Don’t shrink from your faults. Face them. Contemplate ways to fix them.
Look at others writers you admire. What would you like to do, that they do? Anne Rice wrote exquisite descriptions I’d drool over in envy. I made the mistake, at first, of trying to write like her, to imitate her. I studied her work closely, tried to detect exactly why I found her descriptions exquisite. She used very simple words to create complex, compelling settings and characters. I started pruning some of the big, fancy words from my prose and tried to express things in more common words. Certain descriptive passages in my own stories improved. I even started getting compliments on them!
Life isn’t always smooth. Neither is writing. In both, you’ll hit rough patches. You can’t always avoid these patches, even though you may get better at dodging them with practice. The trick is to pick yourself up out of the patch. Keep going, even if you’re sore, shaky, and your pride feels a little banged up.
You’re not alone. We’ve all fallen into potholes, been hit over the head with obstacles, or smashed our stories against a block.
Get up. Give yourself a hug. Find a way to keep going, to find your way back to your plot or for your plot to find its way back to you. Abandon it entirely if you need to go in a different direction, but don’t give up.
You’re not over yet. Not if you decide you’re not.
K.S. Trenten lives in the South Bay Area of California in the United States with her husband, two cats, and a host of characters in her imagination, all shouting out for attention. Her published works include Seven Tricks;A Symposium in Space;Fairest (part of the Once Upon a Rainbow LGBTQIA+ fairytale anthology) and At Her Service (part of the Once Upon a Rainbow 2 anthology); and The Closet (part of Queer Sci Fi’s Impact, a collection of flash fictions). She also offers weekly samples of her work on Mondays and Saturdays at the Cauldron of Eternal Inspiration, Wednesdays at the Formerly Forbidden Cauldron, monthly blogs at cauldronkeeper.livejournal.com, rhodrymavelyne.dreamwidth.org, and is the author of Queer Sci Fi’s Sources of Inspiration column. She can be found on Twitter, tumblr, LinkedIn, and has a Facebook Author Page, which reflects the contents of both Cauldrons.