HELLOOOOO WRITER FRIENDS! Or readers who want to give writing a shot! Or just that random guy who stumbled upon my blog in the hopes of unlocking the secret to immortality — hi! For those of you that have been here before, or follow me on social media, you’ll know I love writing. I’m constantly chatting about what I’m working on and ideas I have for my next projects, and occasionally trying to take the perfect shot of my coffee for Instagram at a cafe and forgetting to write altogether… you know how it is!
But for the writers among us, you might know that April is Camp NaNoWriMo! How exciting! And by exciting, I mean getting five hours sleep, constantly snacking while attempting to drag words out of your brain, and wishing you could just run away to Bolivia to write in peace. Recently I’ve been a few questions on Twitter asking me how I have such a high word count goal for each day / week / month. The answer is… I don’t sleep. JUST KIDDING. I’m a big fan of naps. Sleep is important, y’all.
So I thought some people might find it useful if I were to make a little post about how you can write a novel in a month! IT’S POSSIBLE. So if you’re wanting to smash out 80k this April, or maybe just 5k, I’m here to impart alllll my wisdom to you (you might think some of it is trash — don’t worry, so do I. What do I know, I’m just a twenty year-old awkward potato who calls real life people characters). I BELIEVE IN YOU. GO WRITE THE NOVEL YOU’VE BEEN DAYDREAMING ABOUT. Yes, I’m talking to you. I like your hair.
What is Camp NaNoWriMo?
Camp NaNoWriMo is a virtual writers retreat that runs in April and July — as opposed to NaNoWriMo, which runs in November. It’s a space where people can meet other writers by joining cabins, post about their progress with the hashtag, and challenge yourself to squeeze a bit of writing into your busy life.
How can I join in?
You can sign up online through their website, or you can just participate on your own! I choose not to “officially” sign up (because I feel like I struggle to update my Goodreads as it is and I just can’t handle having another account) but I like to chat to people on Twitter and Instagram who are also participating!
Where can I find people who like writing as well?
Social media is good for SOMETHING! I know we all like to joke that Twitter is a trashfire, but it’s also a great place to chat to people about writing. Personally, I love hearing what people are working on! I also have a little writing group that meets in Melbourne once a month — plus we also do online writing sessions once a week on Twitter! You can find us on both Twitter and Instagram @TheYAPage.
Remember to have fun with it.
My NUMBER ONE tip for people who are wanting to start writing (or write more each day) is to have fun with it. It might seem like an unnecessary thing to point out, but writing should be FUN. I know we all love to complain about drafting and editing and whatnot, but seriously, I’m in this for a good time. If you don’t get enjoyment out of writing, maybe you’re approaching it wrong. If you’re going to be spending at least 100 hours on the first draft alone, you seriously need to have fun with it to not want to run away to a haunted forest and never return again.
But I’m not trying to understate how hard writing is at times. It’s a lot of work. Sometimes things don’t work out the way you envisioned them. BUT THAT’S OKAY. If you’re having fun with what you’re writing, you shouldn’t have to compare yourself to others. It doesn’t matter if your first draft takes a week or a year or even longer. If you enjoy the process, that’s the most important thing.
Get out of the house.
I seriously can’t write for more than an hour inside my house without wanting to tear my eyes out. And devour all the chocolate in the cupboard, but THAT’S ANOTHER PROBLEM. There are just so many distractions at home. Like, maybe I should take some bookstagram photos. Or put out the washing. Or reorganise my mug collection. AHHH. I flick between tasks at the best of times, so sitting down to write in a place full of distractions isn’t the best move for me. If I can escape for an hour or so to go to a cafe or a restaurant or even just the park, I always find I get more done than when I’m at home.
But this also works for when you’re stuck with what to write! You don’t just have to leave the house to write, taking walks is also another thing I find super helpful when I’m struggling with a scene. If you need to work through a problem in your manuscript, sometimes all it takes is getting away from your laptop for an hour and giving yourself space to think. DON’T LISTEN TO MUSIC OR A PODCAST DURING THIS TIME THOUGH. It’s very important to give your brain space. Just let it breathe for a bit.
Try “The Cafe Method”.
Okay, this is a bit of a weird one, but stick with me on this. When I want to write, but I’m struggling to get started, I’ll often use what I call “The Cafe Method”. Now, this one won’t work for everyone (I’m lucky to live in a place with multiple cafes in a fifteen minute walking distance radius from me), but if you do have the means to get to a cafe to write, I highly recommend it. I just take my laptop and charger — NO BOOKS, THIS IS VERY IMPORTANT — sit down, and order a coffee.
Now, I’m the type of person who wants to make my $4 last. I want to feel as though it’s money well-spent. So I tell myself I’m sitting in this cafe for two hours to drink my coffee. I can either be freaking bored for two hours and stare at a wall, or I can write. Reading isn’t an option. Turn off your damn phone. If there’s anything I’ve learned from “The Cafe Method”, it’s that writing is a whole lot more fun when there’s literally nothing else to do. You’re welcome.
Set achievable goals.
WORD COUNT GOALS. This is something that makes the best of us shudder. It’s so easy to compare yourself to everyone else around you online, but here’s something that’ll blow your mind: THEY’RE NOT YOU. I can bet you a million bucks they have the same job as you / go to school or university like you / live in the same neighbourhood / have the same personal commitments as you do. And I know it’s easier said than done to stop comparing yourself to others, but just try the best you can to keep your eyes on your own paper. Let everyone else do their thing while you focus on yours.
Maybe you’re not the type of person who can dedicate hours to writing each day. Maybe you only have fifteen minutes in the evening to get some words down. Maybe you only have the chance to write once a week. Whatever your situation is, make sure you set goals that are achievable for YOU, not the next person. And if you want to try and start writing every day, or every week, set yourself a small goal you think you can achieve first. Then build it up a little if you feel capable enough. The worst thing you can do is push yourself too hard to begin with, feel like a failure, and then just not try at all. ACHIEVABLE GOALS ARE EVERYTHING.
As well as setting yourself achievable goals, it’s important to reward yourself when you reach those goals. I find that it works best to break a larger goal into smaller ones, like telling yourself to write 500 words, then you can watch a YouTube video. Or read 20 pages. JUST DON’T REWARD YOURSELF BEFORE YOU WRITE. I can tell you from first-hand experience that pre-rewards don’t work, as much as I’d like them to. But be proud of your achievements! You’re doing great!
Don’t push yourself to write if you’re not feeling it.
There’s seriously nothing worse than staring at your laptop and just feeling DREAD. Trust me, we’ve all been there. There are days when I can’t bare to open up my Word document and start typing, and then there are also nights when my brain simply refuses to give me any more words. It’s like WHAT IS THE ALPHABET?! WHY DO I HAVE TO STRING THESE MEANINGLESS SHAPES TOGETHER TO FORM THINGS CALLED “WORDS”? *cue existential crisis*
And so during these times, I often find it’s better to just put your computer away, call it a day, and spend some time reading / watching a film / listening to a podcast. Your brain will thank you for it. Never turn writing into something you hate because you’re just not feeling it, friends!
Surround yourself with a supportive writer community.
One of the best things you can do as a writer is be around people who also write, whether that be in person or on social media. If you’re new to writing and looking to find a community, one of the places I can’t recommend enough is Twitter — specifically the #AmWriting hashtag. Just get chatting with someone! Personally, I would LOVE to hear how your writing is going.
Are you currently writing anything? Are you participating in Camp NaNoWriMo? What would be your ultimate writing tip? I’d love to know!