Category: nanowrimo

Letters from Camp: Week Three


Camp NaNo can be thrilling, challenging, and revitalizing—sometimes all at once—but more than anything else, it’s fun. We’ve asked Campers to share their daily thoughts in a series, Letters from Camp. Read about what your fellow Campers are thinking:

April 18

Dear sleepy me,

The words you type while you’re dozing off don’t count. They do not exist. They have way more punctuation, exclamation and question marks than any other word in any other language.

Please don’t. If you’re tired, just stop, log off your laptop, set it aside and go to bed. Don’t try to cheat on Camp. That’s not fair. Also, you can ruin the rest of your paragraphs just because you’re stubborn enough to keep on “typing” as your eyes start to lose focus.

Now stop, get to bed and don’t touch the laptop until you get enough sleep.



April 19

Dear Sara,

You’re going to hate me by the time May rolls around.

I’m sorry for all the crap I’m putting you through, all the garbage that’s to come and all the pain in your past. You’re an amazing lady and I really want to tell your story, but if it’s all sunshine and lollipops then it just wouldn’t be YOUR story, now would it?  You don’t think you’re a hero. You don’t think you’re anything special, but that just isn’t true. You are the center of a world of characters and events, heroes and villains, victims and survivors. I’m going to put you through the mill, because I have to. Not because I want you to hurt or fail but because if you don’t fail sometimes you won’t learn. Succeeding on the first try only teaches you one way to do things. Failing, creates questioning; and questioning is the soul of learning. So I’m sorry you had such a rough early life. It sucks that the world keeps kicking you in the teeth.

I can’t even promise that your tormentors will get theirs in the end. All I can say is, I know you’ll stand tall and do yourself, and me, proud.


Your Author.

Dear potato,

I know I was peeling your skin off, but did you have to remove half my fingernail?!


A writer who will now not be able to finish Camp due to an injured finger

Dear Self,

It’s great that you’re suddenly interested in re-watching all the Lord of the Rings films and reading the books, but whatever happened to this writing thing you were supposed to be in April? Does that ring a bell at all?


The part of you that wants to write but simultaneously pops in the next movie

Dear McGee and Jayce,

You are an both adorable balls of fluff. Normally I would adore your snuggles but now is not the time. You can lay on my lap or next to me but my keyboard is not a place to nap. I know the iPad screen reacts to your paws…but please stop swatting the screen. You are wonderful kitties but right now I need to write.

Lots of love


April 20

Dear fingers,

I am ever grateful to you, my precious (though dying) fingers.  At the beginning of the month, you flew across my keyboard, managing to write 10k words in five hours.  You linked seamlessly with Brain *waves* and finished a story that will forever hold the most special place in the depths of my computer’s memory chip.  I am so very proud of you!  However, twenty days later, you are hanging on to life by a thread.  Your nails are cracked and worn from hitting the keys.  Your knuckles are red and swollen.  Your tips cry the sweat of your struggles.  You are desperately pushing on to the very end, even if the end may not be in sight.  But, I have good news for you.

Only 10 days left!

Yours forever,


April 21

Dear Story,

This month has been a series of ups and downs, behinds and aheads, but I think I finally worked you out. I’m still a bit behind but it isn’t about the word count (I tell myself as I type away furiously to continue my winning streak). In all seriousness, finishing you is most important  and it’s taken this month of Camp to finally get inspiration for an ending that isn’t as lackluster and predictable as the one I previously had in my head. This new idea is a different direction, and not what I planned on happening, but I am a pantser after all, so it isn’t the only thing I didn’t plan on happening. All isn’t going to go well for the characters which is a bummer for them, but I think it’s going to work out well for you. I’m excited, to have this more complete and interesting ending, one that you deserve.


We’ll post more Letters from Camp as April (and our projects!) come to a close. In the meantime, you can share your Letters from Camp on the official forum post.

Good luck, writers!

Got Writer’s Block?Fear not! Try the brand-new NaNoWriMo “Are…

Got Writer’s Block?

Fear not! Try the brand-new NaNoWriMo “Are You Stuck?” Flowchart! 

And don’t forget to update your Camp NaNoWriMo projects! Winning begins April 20th on, and continues through April 30th! 

Follow @nanowrimo and @nanowordsprints on Twitter for more inspiration, and tune in to the Virtual Write-Ins on Youtube!

Letters from Camp: Week Two


Camp NaNo can be thrilling, challenging, and revitalizing—sometimes all at once—but more than anything else, it’s fun. We’ve asked Campers to share their daily thoughts in a series, Letters from Camp. Read about what your fellow Campers are thinking: 

April 7

Dear Children,

First, I want to remind all five of you how much I love you. Second, it may feel like I’m always at Camp and have no time for you. But this is not true! Although I am making Camp a priority, I will still be there to kiss your boo-boos, to read you a story, and to tuck you in at night. I promise. Last thing: I’m sorry about the dirty kitchen. I know eating with paper plates and plastic forks is not what you’re used to, but it’s almost like you’re at Camp too! Don’t worry, things will go back to normal after the first of May. Until then, sending y’all hugs and kisses!


April 8

Dear Shane,

It is day eight at Camp NaNoWriMo and I’m already making new friends. We named our cabin The Tardis to inspire camp spirit!  We came up with the name because one of our cabin mates noticed that we were all fans of sci-fi. As for my personal progress on my writing project, I am off to a great start. I am editing my half of our book and it is coming along. At this rate, I will complete my personal goal before camp is over. Fingers crossed it all goes well!  Wish you could be at camp with me. I bet you’d like it. Maybe you’ll join me in July.

Your Best Friend, Lauren Hughes (TrinkaLs)

Dear Eric,

I’m rewriting your book—the one I wrote about you during regular NaNoWriMo. Yeah, I know, the first draft sucked. But I’d just like to say that it’s all your fault. As the main character and narrator of my novel, you’re supposed to work with me. Well, anyway, the past is in the past. This camp, you and I have been getting along pretty well, considering. I think you really developed as a character and person since November; I’ve learned so much about you! You’re whiny, awkward, insecure… tell me, why are you my main character again? Well, hopefully by the end of this month we can redeem you. At least that’s in the outline. See you tomorrow!


Your author,


April 9

Dear rosebush at the bottom of my front steps, 

Congratulations on your flowers, please don’t poke me. I am going to be saying hello to you much too early every morning, so I’m hoping that you’ll be my cheerleader for this novel. I give you full permission to snag my various inner critics out of my head. They don’t seem to fond of my beginning, and that makes it very hard to move on. Also, if you could remind me to stop procrastinating on the NaNo forums, that’d be great. And tell me to manage my time in the afternoons better so that I can do homework, chores, and extra writing instead of scrambling to get everything done at a reasonable hour. Also also, remind me to study for my tests when I pass you on the way in. That’s important. And you can include my writing, chores, and other homework in that reminder too. Basically be a talking calendar, but a bush.

You’re the best!


April 12

Dear MC,

I sincerely apologise for all of the challenges I’ve piled on your shoulders lately. You don’t deserve them. If anything, you deserve to have a mage come along with all the answers I refuse to give you. It’s tough. I know it seems unfair that I’ve cut you off from everyone you love, set your hometown on a mission to find you, added the whole Kingdom to join in the manhunt, and barely left a clue about what the next step should be. I’m the worst. I know this is why you aren’t speaking to me right now, but I promise I will help you work it out. If you help me write, we’ll get out of this together.

All my love,


Dear GD,

I know I said I was gonna be a pantser this year. I’m using some prompts to guide me through the stories I wanted to write and since I chose them randomly yours was one of the trickiest. I don’t know if I’m doing it well, but I’m doing my best. I thought I couldn’t do it without a plan, but I’m having a great time making the story up as I write. I hope you’re having fun too. I promise you that you’ll have as much fluff as the others had in their chapters. It’s a compilation of light hearted stories, so I won’t be as usual, don’t you worry. I need to write 2 more stories apart from yours, so please help me a little bit so I can finish your part and move on. However, don’t rush it so it doesn’t look forced. I don’t want that.

We’ll met again in a couple of minutes, let me have a breather first.



April 13

Dear Jacqueline,

Do you remember when I told you that maybe I should just stop writing because I’ll never be able to do anything more with it, because my writing would never be anything more than imperfect quality and it’ll never bring me the satisfaction that I always seek? Do you remember my fear that one day I’d stop having time for writing so I was trying to prepare myself for the heartache instead of just fighting to hold onto my words? Do you remember what you said to me on that day from so long ago? You said, “No, you should keep writing. You’re a great writer.” You’re the reason I kept writing. I owe you my life. Thank you. I miss you. I love you. I wish I could tell you all about Camp NaNoWriMo and my writing projects and my ups and my downs, and to just know who you are again. I used to pride myself in having your entire name memorized after not being around you for years but if there’s one thing that I know is a character is never just a name, they all have a story, a tale to be shared. What’s yours? I hope one day I’ll know again. I’ll always hope for that.



We’ll post more Letters from Camp as April (and our projects!) progresses. In the meantime, you can share your Letters from Camp on the official forum post.

Good luck, writers!

Finish Your Writing with the 5 W’s of Focus


Camp NaNoWriMo is upon us! You may be wondering: what do you do when you can’t focus on your writing? Today, writer DeAnna Hundley shares her set of 5 W’s of Focus to think about when pushing through the end of the month:

When it comes to creativity and writing, one of my best—and worst—traits is the fact that i cannot stay focused… at all.

It can be a great thing because, without focus, I never run out of new ideas.  Books, scripts, songs,

just waiting for the world to see them. You know how the singers of old used to put out two albums a year, because their record labels worked them like indentured servants? That’s what creativity feels like sometimes.

On the other hand, it can be a bad thing, because a) the ideas leave just as fast as they come, and b) I can never sit down long enough to actually get them on paper. Perhaps you can relate.

Luckily, I’ve developed a few helpful tips over the years that you may find useful—tips I like to call the 5 W’s of Focus! 

1. When Will You Write?

As with work, errands, and family, you need a schedule for writing that suits you. You know when you’re going to be tired. You know when the whole writing thing just isn’t going to work out. You know that you get distracted easily. You know when you want to go to that concert or wine tasting. If 3,000 words takes three hours, you may have to set aside more than that. Only you know the schedule of your life—now apply it to that book!

2. Who Are Your Characters?

Have you ever had a crush, and when you’re obsessing over them you remember the tiniest little tidbits of information about their lives? Writing can feel like that sometimes; you focus only when you’re attached.

Start with writing down the details of your characters’ lives. (If you haven’t written down your characters yet, stop reading this and grab some paper right now!) Whether you have them on your mind, or on your paper, recognize that you’re going to be spending the next few months with these people. You will remember little tidbits about them and it will make you want to round them out and expand upon them. 

3. What is Your Novel About?

Set aside your word count stress dreams and return to the thing that made you want to write. What is your novel about? Do you have a simple outline about what it’s going to be? Do you have an idea about how you’re going to write it? What is making you want to write this novel in particular? What about your novel makes it more important than almost everything else this month?

4. Where Will You Write?

Consider this: where are you writing? At home? At the mall? At a friend’s house? The beloved local coffee shop? Wherever it is, make sure that isn’t affecting your ability to write a great story. If I’m at home, I can focus. There is nothing wrong with noise, if you can handle it. I’ve tried, but the mall is a no-go for me. I love the mall, but only when I know I’ll bang out no more than 350 words. 

A coffee shop, on the other hand, only works for me if it’s almost empty. When I was younger, I would only “write” in coffee shops—because that’s what real writers do, right? Don’t subject yourself to an environment that attacks your senses negatively because it’s “The Write Thing” to do. You’re a writer, no matter the location. Some of my best writing has been done on my ugly couch, sans pants, with a terrible romantic comedy playing in the background and a glass of wine. 

5. Why Do You Write?

Why are you writing this book (or short story, poems, or screenplay). Are you writing to publish? Are you writing because you think it will change the world? Are you writing to practice? Gearing up for the bigger word goals? Are you doing it just to see if you can? 

Whatever your “why,” make sure you’re writing because you want to. You will not concentrate on anything you don’t want to do. That’s just human nature; if I see writing as an obligation and not enjoyment, then I’m going to give up.

It took me forever to write this because I kept getting distracted (go figure). I’m not in the job of telling people what to do, but I do hope my suggestions help the process. We’re all doing this because we have this irrational love for writing and an even more irrational love for procrastination. So for this Camp NaNoWriMo and all the NaNo’s after, here’s to a month of (hopefully) stressless writing!

DeAnna Hundley is a novelist, musician, and punk rocker currently located in Seattle, WA. She wrote her first book in 2017, set to be released in 2018. When she’s not writing, she is hitting up punk shows or watching Quentin Tarantino movies. Visit her on Instagram @ireneexmorgan. 

Top image licensed under Creative Commons from gordonplant on Flickr.

Letters From Camp: Week One


Camp NaNo can be thrilling, challenging, and revitalizing—sometimes all at once—but more than anything else, it’s fun. We’ve asked Campers to share their daily thoughts in a new series, Letters from Camp. Read about what your fellow Campers are thinking: 

April 1

Dear Eudokia,

My sweet Muse, where have you gone? You dropped this story idea to me in a dream one night in February and I burned for some time as I started planning it. Now that fire seems to be gone and you along with it.Its April 1st now. Is this your idea of a prank? If so, it’s not funny. Honestly, I am hurt. Are you mad at me? Was it because I got busy with work and life and stopped planning? Is it because I never finished the outline like I promised? You are holding both my story and my cast of characters hostage. If you are scared of Critic, I have sent her away to join the Nano Kennels! She can’t be mean to you for a whole month! Please come back! I miss you! How will I ever get our ideas out there without you?



Dear Jinny,

I’m finally doing ittelling your stories. You weren’t that good at telling them yourself, unfortunately, so I feel like all I have are the chapter titles and none of the dialogue. Still, it’s happening. I started writing two weeks ago, when I decided to come to camp, because I couldn’t wait, now that the door finally seems to be opening. My goal was 25,000 words, no matter how crappy, and “butt in the chair” at least 5 days out of 7. As of last night, I had made it to 22,000, and Camp hadn’t even started, so I’m feeling pretty good right now. Things are flowing, and the stories seem to be just writing themselves, almost… I can almost see you rolling your eyes as I write this. You would never have wanted to do something like this, solo artist that you always were, and you’d find my flights of fancy a waste of time. Hmm, you and my critic sound a lot alike, come to think of it.  

Thanks, Mom. See you on the page.

Love, Chris

April 2

Dear mystical, magical art of writing,

There’s nothing I love better than you, and yet, there’s nothing I struggle with more than you. I know I’ve been inconsiderate of you and prioritized other things over you (when, really, prioritizing you is the same as prioritizing myself). But this Camp NaNo is going to change the game. And you know why? Because I say it is. And this time, I feel it’s different. because my resolve is not a loud roar that I want the world to hear—but a quiet promise that I am repeating like a sacred chant all throughout the day… writing, you are a delight. A door to myself. A portal to other selves. A key to other worlds. A gateway to this one. And I feel so privileged, especially as April has started, that I was touched by your magic once upon a time. I’ve been imprinted and charmed forever and there is nothing more I want than to live in the awareness and experience of this knowledge everyday.

yours on the good days and yours on the ‘bad’ ones,


Dear Cinderella,

It is time that you learned that “happily ever after” isn’t always happy, or for ever after. There are innumerable twists and turns along the way. There are those who do not wish to see you happy and will do everything they can to steal your joy. It is your time to realize that those people may succeed, if only for a time. You will see that “happily ever after” is not something that can be granted by a glass slipper or even by a fairy godmother; happily ever after is something you must take hold of for yourself. So, take hold of it, and hold it tightly.

Press onward, dear Cinderella, towards ever after.


Dear Mom,

I know you always wanted to publish your stories, and never did. But I still read them and I am passing them on to your grandchildren, so don’t be sad, because Heaven should never be sad and you are not forgotten. Now it is my turn to try and get a publisher’s attention. But even if I don’t I’ll be happy if someone reads my stories and smiles.

I miss you. Love,


April 3

Dear Camp Nano,

Help! I am lost in the woods trying desperately to find my way to camp so I can get to work. I’ve gotten stuck in traffic jams, detoured, called back home to help a friend, forced to repack twice, had doctor’s appts, birthday parties and Easter egg hunts. Every time I think I am FINALLY on my way, something rears its head and throws me off course. Now it looks like I might not even be able to get back on the road headed to camp until next week. I’m so frustrated I could cry…I really don’t want to give up before I even begin, but I’m feeling pretty discouraged. Hope to see you real soon.

Love, cryptwarmer

April 4

Dear cabin,

I have never ever found a cabin so chatty and supportive like you are. Also, it’s the first time I’m feeling so comfortable to share my doubts and concerns on writing and other topics. I have never been this sociable and maybe sharing something in common has made me open up to you guys. I am really thankful. I hope that we can get to our respective goals by the end of this month. I also hope that others find a cabin that make them happy as mine does to me.



April 5

Dear Camp,

It’s my first time attending. I’m scared and nervous. There are so many people who know what is going on and I feel as if I am drowning in the ocean. But that’s okay, I’ll sort myself out soon. One story will shine its way to the forefront of the many I’ve tried to begin, and the looming assignments will pass. Then, when someone comes to save me from this icy grip and drag me back to the safety of land, the sun might just shine and words blossom across the page as I envision. Until that moment, I’ll keep my head above the tide and oxygen in my lungs, waiting for that story to break out and make a life all its own.


Drowning Patience.

51 Questions You’ve (Probably) Never Asked About Your Characters


At NaNo HQ, we’re big fans of long, detailed character questionnaires (like this one)! They’re invaluable when it comes to fleshing out our characters, exploring their secrets, and just killing time—but after hundreds of questions and dozens of quizzes, the questions all begin to look the same.

After careful research, rigorous testing, and three escaped typewriter monkeys, we’re proud to present the 51-Question NaNo Character Questionnaire 2.0, filled with questions you’ve probably never considered asking about your characters.

By the time you’ve finished this questionnaire, you’ll know more about your characters than you may know about yourself!

1. What does your character do when they think no one’s looking?

2. What’s the one thing your character would save in a fire (beyond the necessities)?

3. Who’s on speed dial?

4. Your character gets turned down for their dream job. What’s their second choice?

5. What would they tell their ten-year-old self?

6. Where would they want to go on a first date?

7. What’s the best advice they’ve ever received?

8. What’s the worst advice they’ve ever received?

9. What’s one physical detail they’d change about themselves?

10. When was the last time they were held? By who?

11. What’s their favorite thing about their favorite season?

12. Their wallet gets stolen. What do they do?

13. Prioritize: Love, money, power, knowledge?

14. What’s something nobody knows about them?

15. What’s in their fridge?

16. What (creature, object, substance) are they most disgusted by?

17. What’s their second worst habit?

18. What are the victory conditions for their life?

19. In the end, your character fails to save the day. Assuming they survive, what do they do?

20. Your character is charged with a crime they didn’t commit. What do they do?

21. Your character is charged with a crime they did commit. What was the crime?

22. What’s the 140-character version of your character’s life?

23. What important statistic would they want displayed above them?

24. What’s the first thing they would buy if they won the lottery?

25. What profession do they most respect?

26. What childhood injustice did they never get over?

27. How would they handle having a panic attack?

28. Your character is burdened with an inconvenient superpower. What is it?

29. If they died and could come back as any person, animal, or object, what would they be?

30. What’s the best meal they’ve ever had?

31. Where would they stand at a dinner party?

32. Who would they invite to the dinner party?

33. What makes a perfect day for your character?

34. If given the opportunity, would they want to know how and when they died?

35. What’s the one thing they’ve always wanted to do? Why haven’t they done it yet?

36. What do they tend to joke about?

37. What’s off limits?

38. Whose wedding would they cross the world to attend? Whose funeral?

39. What impossible choice did they make that turned out to be the right one? The wrong one?

40. Your character now has a hype man (or woman). What would they say to get everyone excited about your character?

41. What recurring dream does your character have?

42. What is the meaning of life to your character?

43. If your character wrote a NaNo novel, would they be a planner, pantser, or plantser?

44. What book does your character pretend to have read?

45. Someone takes undeserved credit for your character’s work. What do they do?

46. What controversial belief or view does your character hold? Why? Do they hide it?

47. Your character is at a theme park. Where do they go first?

48. What’s your character’s favorite name?

49. What’s the biggest compliment they’d give themselves?

50. How does your character feel about bugs?

51. If your character could hit a reset button on their life, would they?

You can find other prompts and pieces of inspiration at the NaNoWriMo Instagram, our Young Writers Program site, or the NaNoWriMo site! And don’t forget to start and update your project on the Camp NaNoWriMo website!

How Dabble Just Might Help You Write Literary Gold


Every year, we’re lucky to have great sponsors for our nonprofit events. Dabble, a Camp NaNoWriMo 2018 sponsor, is a writing platform designed to help you become a better novelist. Today, writer and educator Galadriel Mitchelmore shares her experience with dabbling in different writing platforms:

Dabble is “to try”. The dictionary definition implies a blasé application of effort. But the word “dabble” is often paired with “magic” and the “occult”—essentially, bringing out what is hidden. And isn’t that what writers do? Pull up characters, worlds, conflicts, stories—all mined from the mind. Writing is alchemy. It requires transmuting fragments of imagination, attenuating repeatedly until literary gold rises to the top.

Writing is hard. So, is there a way of not getting hopelessly lost in the process? Is there a crucible, of sorts, that the writer can tip all their story elements into? One place where ideas can be experimented with and the results clearly seen?

Paper Rafts Don’t Float, and Word is by No Means Final

In the beginning was Microsoft Word. But Word does not appreciate the writerly mind. For me, story planning and writing is messy. There are myriad ways to create a map of intentions, and I’ve made many in lots of different places—which is probably why it took me several years to complete my first novel. I’m not blaming Word for my incompetence as a developing novelist, but the program has its limits.  

I generated copious Word documents, saving different edits in several folders. When I wanted to return to a particular one, I could never find it.

Ditto that for my use of paper. I used reams of it: post-it notes, A4 plot grids, plain paper, lined paper, notebooks, index cards to hold on the spur ideas, web addresses, research sources, word counts, timelines, character files, story arcs.

Yes, I was being creative; my ideas were abundant, my research thorough. At the time, writing on paper was a comfort; it was helping me to organize my ideas. I thought I was getting on, getting ahead, succeeding.

But you know, paper makes for a poor life raft in a sea of paper. Sure, my ideas were organized—just organized all over the place. Somehow, everything required being neatly assimilated and tied up in Word. That’s what agents want—a coherent novel.

With much angst, I did it.

For the next novel, I needed to work quicker and smarter if I was going to get anywhere soon. I needed an outside pressure, so I joined NaNoWriMo.

I won. I had fifty thousand words of a new novel. As anyone will know with first draft material, any gold is buried in masses of dull prose and clunky sentences. Haunted by my previous novel and slightly sick at the thought of repeating old mistakes, I turned back to the NaNoWriMo pages for inspiration. That’s when I saw Dabble.

I was skeptical. How could a program make you better at writing novels?

Dabble’s subscription was very reasonable; it seemed ridiculous not to try it.

Dabble, and Dive Deep

Dabble’s website will tell you all you need to know. What I will say is, it’s revolutionized my writing process. I still use some paper, but it’s easier to keep notes together in Dabble. The cloud facility means I can work on any computer, anywhere. It’s made story-crafting so much easier. 

For me, controlling scenes is paramount. In Word, scenes and chapters are in one, continuous, scrollable document, and things can get messy. In Dabble, each scene is a discrete document. If I want to try out a variation of that scene, I add a new scene, and because it won’t impact what I’ve already written, I can choose later which one I prefer. The drag and drop facility means it’s easy to move scenes and chapters around. If I need to make changes to my first novel, it’s going to be easier with Dabble. As for the work in progress, well, I haven’t cried yet and I did plenty of that with the first.

No Need to Dabble Alone

Dabble is new and evolving, and the roadmap is exciting. The online community is warm and inviting, and users can request features they think would benefit creative writers. The “Chat with Support” function is brilliant. I’ve really appreciated being able to fire off a question when I’ve needed to, and get a quick to response to my queries and issues.

Dabble is an excellent tool that enables you to focus on writing excellently. Jump in and Dabble! You may make enough ripples of sparkling prose for someone to notice.


Galadriel Mitchelmore taught English at Secondary Level for almost ten years. She now works from home, teaching herself the craft of writing. She’s currently seeking representation for her YA Gothic Horror. When she’s not writing, she can be found tackling her garden or out walking with her husband, Andy, on Dartmoor.

What Kind of NaNoWriMo Camper Are You?

What Kind of NaNoWriMo Camper Are You?:

Do you take the relaxed approach to writing? Or are you a hardcore writer who blasts through your writing goals? Do you love to write outside, or do you need to have your creature comforts? Take our handy quiz to find out what kind of NaNo Camper you are!

4 Tips on How to Run a Successful Camp NaNo Cabin


Camp NaNoWriMo is just around the corner! If you’re participating in Camp, you may have been sorted into a Cabin! But what does that mean? And what makes a cabin successful? Today, YWP writer Lilly Hallock shares her tips for how to run a great cabin: 

It’s almost April! That means it’s time to roast marshmallows over the fire and write a great story. The problem is, no one goes camping on their own. That’s where Camp cabins come in.

Those who have been in a cabin in the past will quickly tell you about all the friends they made and the fun they had.

For those of you who don’t know, Camp NaNoWriMo cabins are a group of up to twenty writers who help support each other throughout the month (and beyond). You can be sorted into a cabin by genre, age group, word-count, or completely at random! You can also create or join a private abin and invite writers who are writing something more specific or writers that you already know. (If there is a cabin for LGBT+ teens writing a dystopian sci-fi adventure novel told from multiple points of view please let me know.)

Some campers might define a successful cabin as a place where everyone hits their word counts. Others may say that it is a place where Campers talk to each other to overall improve their writing skills. Most people will probably tell you that a successful cabin is a place where you have fun. So what are the key ingredients to having all three?

1. Push people to their limits.

I understand that not everyone is comfortable with sharing their writing or giving others advice, but what’s the point of a cabin if you never talk to each other? Gently push other Campers to share their work, or specifically ask the quieter Campers a question about writing. Get in the habit of giving more positive comments than negative, especially to those who are afraid to share something they’ve written. A little push goes a long way.

2. Get time zones and schedules right from the beginning.

The first thing I always ask my cabin mates is what time zone they live in. Keeping track of who lives where makes sure that everyone has a chance to participate in a word war or a character building session. Figure out what days work best for the most people and then go from there.

3. Activities are important.

Sure, people will pop in when they have a minute to chat about characters, but the real fun comes from planned activities. Figure out what time works best and prepare some fun activities to do. Make sure that prompts can be applied to a large range of genres and aren’t too difficult to weave into a scene. Weird character and world questions could also be used for some good preparation before or at the beginning of April.

4. Engage outside of the Cabin.

Postcard swaps, real-world contests, character pen-pal, and a Discord server can be great assets. I personally run a few contests, such as whoever writes the most in one day, or whoever can send me an excerpt from their novel that makes me laugh the hardest. Sometimes there can be a prize, like a gift card—but overall it’s just for fun!

In the end, the cabin is what you make it. But utilizing the tips and tricks here can make you come out of Camp NaNoWriMofeeling a lot more accomplished, even if you didn’t meet your word count.

Lilly Hallock is an amateur teen writer from Virginia, USA. She has been a part of the NaNoWriMo community since she was thirteen, and this upcoming Camp session will be her third Camp. This will be her second time running a LGBT+ teen cabin, and she cannot wait for April to begin. When she isn’t writing, she is attending high school or reading too many young adult fantasy novels.

Top image licensed under Creative Commons from Al_HikesAZ on Flickr.

New is Scary… But Scary Can Be Good


Camp NaNoWriMo is a time to try out new, different, and fun types of writing. Today, author Tilia Klebenov Jacobs shares what she learned from trying her hand at an entirely new kind of story:

After publishing two crime novels, I decided to write something my kids were allowed to read. 

They were in elementary school at the time, so I decided to pen a quick middle-grade fantasy, giving me a chance to trot out the carnivorous marshmallows I had invented in eighth grade, and to give my bad guys names like Princess Abattoir and Count Wilhelm Scream. My book would be short and fast-moving, with an emphasis on plot. How hard could it be?


Writing Casper and Jasper and the Terrible Tyrant was difficult and frustrating and took much longer than anticipated—and I’m glad I did it. This is not only because I am (reasonably) pleased with the result, but also because there is much to be gained by trying something new and unnerving. I found pros and cons, and rediscovered the simple truth that regardless of genre, good writing is good writing.

The Pros

Doing something new means you are challenging yourself artistically. 

Don’t worry about being viewed as a dilettante: many well-regarded authors excelled in a variety of styles. Edgar Allen Poe didn’t just write horror; he also wrote poetry, short stories, literary criticism, early science fiction, and is even credited with creating detective fiction. Madeleine L’Engle is best known for YA fiction, but she also wrote memoir, poetry, ruminations on her deeply felt faith, and a picture book starring the love of her life, Franklin the poodle. J.K. Rowling of Harry Potter fame has written a gritty crime series (under the pen name Robert Galbraith) set in modern-day England that contains not a scintilla of wizardry, other than perhaps the magic of her prose. 

Writing in a new genre may expand your audience. 

My religiously conservative mother-in-law has supported my literary career with gusto, buying multiple copies of my books and gifting them to friends and libraries; but she has been so distressed by the amount of cursing in my first two books that I can only imagine her turning the pages with tongs. I was pleased to assure her that my upcoming book is pocked by precisely one “gosh dang it” and one “shucky darn.” Sighs of relief were breathed all around.

The Cons

It’s hard.

In my crime fiction, I do my best to craft conflicted characters whose dialogue is both modern and believable. Neither of these skills was particularly helpful in my current endeavor. How odd, you say; surely characters are characters, and plot is plot. And you are correct. The difficulty lies in the diverging demands of the genres. 

My first book, Wrong Place, Wrong Time, is a hostage drama played out by people who all believe themselves justified. I like to think they are groping through a dense fog of moral uncertainty for much of the book.

Fantasy, by contrast, is characterized by a sharp division between good and evil. Motivations are often minor, and, as in fairy tales, characters tend to be psychologically and morally straightforward. The witch in “Hansel and Gretel” is hungry; stepmothers are jealous of youth and beauty; princes are besotted with same. We need nothing more. Since my fantasy novel was in that mold, I found myself constantly trimming my characters, stripping away anything extra in terms of psychology, motivation, and backstory. I came away from this process impressed by how little one actually needs.

The Overlap

In the end, good writing is good writing. 

As you grow and develop as a writer, the process is almost guaranteed to become easier for the simple reason that you develop a skill set. Soon you intuitively know what works and what doesn’t, even if your editor occasionally needs to refresh your memory with howls of anguish in the margins. Some principles for reliably good prose are:

  • To quote The Elements of Style, “A sentence should contain no unnecessary words, a paragraph no unnecessary sentences, for the same reason that a drawing should have no unnecessary lines and a machine no unnecessary parts.” ‘Nuff said.
  • Dialogue should reveal character and advance the plot. It must be consistent with the personalities of the speakers, and be varied enough that the reader can tell who is speaking without being told, at least most of the time.
  • Individual scenes should move the story forward. If a scene has no purpose, either give it one or cut it (for now) from your story.

Having now written three books, I can say that some come more easily than others. This one was not easy. But it was rewarding, and as it lurches through the publication process and I await its arrival in all its paginated goodness, I can say this: I really hope my kids like it.


Tilia Klebenov Jacobs is the author of Wrong Place, Wrong Time and Second Helpings at the Serve You Right Café as well as numerous short stories. Tilia is a reviewer for, and a judge in the Soul-Making Keats Literary Competition in San Francisco. She serves on the board of Mystery Writers of America. When she is not writing, Tilia teaches classes for prison inmates. Her next book, Casper and Jasper and the Terrible Tyrant, will be published in the spring of 2018. Visit her website at

Top illustration for Casper and Jasper and the Terrible Tyrant by Matt Tames. Visit his website, Facebook, or Instagram.