You probably already know about National Novel Writing Month or NaNoWriMo. It’s all about writing a novel in a month. But twice a year, in April and July, there’s a version of NaNoWriMo called Camp NaNoWriMo. The basic idea behind the April Camp NaNo is that you spend the month of April working on a specific writing project, one that can be anything from 30,000 to 999,999 words, hours, lines, or pages for your project.
open-ended writing, including scripts, poems, and more! You can specify the category of your work on your Project Info page.
People write novels, memoirs, humor, scripts, poetry, outlines . . . pretty much anything. You set your own goals for your own project, and can track them via the NaNoWritMo Camp website.
Another thing that differentiates Camp from NaNoWriMo is that participants are assigned to a “cabin”: a group of up to 20 other writers who serve as a mini community to cheer you on (and commiserate). Think of cabins as an online writers’ group; you can even create your own private cabin for you and your Camp participating friends. Cabins include a small message board for cabin members only.
I’m thinking hard about giving Camp a try, since non-fiction is OK. It’ll be my first time at NaNoWriMo Camp, so feel free to offer suggestions. Any one else planning on camp next month? I know there’s a thread about Camp NaNoWriMo at the Absolute Write NaNoWriMo forum.
There’s a high probability that you already know what a Bullet Journal is, in which case you can skip ahead. If you think a bullet journal is for gun enthusiasts, read on.
What’s A Bullet Journal?
As originally designed, the Bullet Journal is a minimalist system relying on a notebook and numbered pages. You use short codes to tag kinds of data and tasks. You create your own pages to suit your personal needs and style. A bullet journal (BuJo for short) is an efficient way to track your time and goals, and other data that you use for short-range and long-range planning.
If you’re completely unfamiliar with the concept, a place to start is the original bullet journal video Bullet Journal – YouTube by Ryder Carroll. I’ve also linked to some useful pieces about how to create, customize and use a bullet journal in the Resources section below.
Bullet Journals for Writers: The Basics
Because a bullet journal is so very flexible, many writers use a BuJo just for managing their writing time and tasks. I find a bullet journal especially useful in terms of tracking multiple projects and deadlines.
The first thing to do when you start using a bullet journal is to number the pages. (Some notebooks have pre-numbered pages, like the Leuchtturm1917 notebook, but it takes mere minutes to do it by hand).
The second thing to do is reserve the first three or four pages of your notebook for your Index. The Index is a list of pages and what’s on them; it makes finding your information very quick.
Tobias Bucknell, SF/F author, has written a helpful post about his experience creating, using, and customizing a BuJo for use by a writer This is how I Bullet Journal | Tobias Buckell. Bucknell says that for him the Index was a key point in making a Bullet Journal personally useful:
But creating an index, that was interesting. Because now I suddenly, like a light bulb going off, realized I could create not only daily to-dos, but project to-dos, and flip back and forth. Even better, while I used a variety of to-dos via digital software, some projects of mine were getting so complex that I needed a way to glance at the 30,000 foot view quickly.
Bucknell’s post provides a wealth of information about customizing the basic concepts and practices behind bullet journals with lots of specific suggestions about how writers might want to use a bullet journal.
There are lots of writers of every sort using bullet journals; some of your peers are likely using bullet journals, and may very well have some specific tips. In the meantime, here are some suggestions about ways to use bullet journaling as a writer.
One of the primary techniques behind bullet journaling is what Ryder Carroll calls “rapid logging.” It means making brief notes about tasks, events and ideas, marked with identifying symbols to make it possible to tell what kind of a note you’ve made, and whether it’s a completed task or event or re-scheduled, at a glance. There’s an “official” Bullet Journal key; it looks like the image to the right. People customize the symbols they use all the time.
Collections are Powerful
A bullet journal Collection is a collection of data; that data can be lists or images or mind-maps or sketches, or trackers (more about trackers later). These are some possible Collections for a writer
Backstory and plot notes
Character notes (and sketches)
Setting notes (and sketches!)
Scene or Chapter breakdowns
Brainstorming—ask yourself questions about your WIP (why does Whitney go to the barn? What does Simon need? What does Simon want?)
Inspirational Quotes (See Tobias Bucknell’s post on starting with a motivational quotation)
A list of those words, you know, the ones you can’t spell without having to look them up.
List special character and place names, or special spellings of standard words, archaic words, idioms or invented words that you’ll want to submit to your editor so they won’t get changed.
Your personal style sheet; leading and trailing spaces before and after em-dashes, or not; spaces before and after ellipses, or not; preferred spellings of words that have options. Sure your editor and publisher may have different opinions, but if you standardize the way you do it, they’ll be much easier to change later, if it’s necessary.
Trackers are a visual method of tracking repeated events or habits. They’re often used for things like tracking sleep or miles walked, or water imbibed, or pages read, or words written. Technically, trackers are a subset of Collections in official Bullet Journal terms, but they’re endlessly flexible.
Trackers can be as simple as M T W Th F S S to represent a week.Draw a line through the letter to mark the days on which you met your daily goals.
Use a row of boxes with numbers for tracking monthly goals. Cross off or fill in the boxes on the days you met your goal.
If you want to track multiple daily habits for a month, create a simple graph; habits or tasks across the top of a two-page spread, and numbers for the days of the month down the side of the left-hand leaf. Use a filled- in square or dot or X to mark the task (or habit) you completed under the column across the top. (Here’s a tracker example from Heather Haft).
Migration in bullet journal terms refers to an event or task that wasn’t completed when you planned, so you migrate it to another day. In other words, you move it from Tuesday the 6th to Friday the 9th (or whenever). The official Bullet Journal Symbol for migrating something is >; lots of people use other symbols. Part of the point of migration is that you have to write the thing down again every time you migrate; if you find yourself doing this repeatedly, it’s an indication that you really don’t want to do the thing, or, that maybe, it doesn’t really need doing. As Ryder Carroll, the inventor of the Bullet Journal says:
You can reduce the amount of things you have to do by transferring things by hand. If a task isn’t worth the time to rewrite it, it’s probably not important. Spend time with things that are important and be mindful of how you spend your time.
Plan to Write
As writers, we all struggle with time management; with finding time to write. One way that a bullet journal habit can help with that is that you can plan not only the time but what you’re actually going to write.
By reducing the time we spend in non-writing activity in our writing time, we can actually get writing done. Those collections with questions, and character notes, and plot points can be springboards, specific starting points for your daily, nightly or weekly writing time.
Tip: A particularly useful technique in terms of tracking your narrative and writing progress, is to make a note when you end a session about where to start the next session
Bullet Journals are Analog
We’ve got Google Calendar, and iCal and all sorts of ways to sync data between our phones, our computers and our tablets. I’m still using them. But there are some advantages to writing by hand on paper.
Handwriting allows us to use the parts of our brain that we don’t when we keyboard; there’s a thing that happens when we’re doodling or brainstorming with a pen in our hand where we solve problems, whether of plot, narration or character motivation, or planning. Some of it is perhaps not conscious, but as we write, we formulate a solution.
There’s something to be said for having a single place to track our time and ideas, especially when we write on a digital screen. Think of the journal as a portable extra screen, one that doesn’t require switching windows or apps.
A Note On Aesthetics
Lots of people spend a great deal of effort on prettifying their bullet journal; if you’ve got the time and skill that’s great. There are some incredibly beautiful BuJo’s out there. Me, I have neither time nor talent. I started my bullet journal in stumbled-upon blank page notebook, using a mechanical pencil and my travel fountain pen.
Bullet Journal Resources
There’s the video that Ryder Carroll made, of course, but these are some particularly useful guides to getting started using and customizing a bullet journal to suit you.
Victoria of Something Delicious has more specific tips for writers using bullet journals in Bullet Journaling for Fiction Writers. (Scroll down past the introduction to bullet journaling to see specific tips for writers).
According to Bullet Journal inventor Ryder Carroll “All you need is a notebook and a pen . . . ” Consider using something you already have to start with (I did!). If you don’t have a blank page notebook (notebook paper isn’t really suitable) consider something like this Amazon Basics Classic Notebook, in either blank or “squared” (graph paper lines).
If you’re sure you’re game, consider using a notebook that has either a square grid (like graph paper) or a dot grid; they’re easier to use for charts, and they make it easier to write legibly.
If you already use a BuJo, let us know how you use it. What tips do you have for those just starting out? What do you suggest in terms of bullet journaling for writers?
You completed NaNoWriMo and you have at least 50k words of rough draft. You’ve put it aside since then.
Now it’s time to edit and revise.
NaNoEdMo is National Novel Editing Month. It starts March 1. The idea between NaNoEdMo is that you spend the month of March editing your draft. Instead of counting words edited, the goal is to spend 50 hours revising your novel. It’s free to join here, and joining provides community benefits, including an active forum and lots of support with other writers revising and editing right along with you. There’s lots of advice and help as well as commiseration.
You can even get a certificate for completing your 50 hours. The rules are pretty simple. Basically:
You have to log your editing hours at least once every 7 days in March until you reach fifty hours. That is once between 1st-7th March inclusive, once between 8th-14th March inclusive, once between 15th- 21st March inclusive, once between 22nd-28th March inclusive and once between 29th-31st March inclusive; making a total of 5 times and totaling fifty hours or more. You can log your hours as much as you like but you must have at least one log in each period until you reach fifty hours.
They define editing as:
Editing is defined as changing previously written material. Editing does not include writing a completely new novel. It does not include planning or researching. It does include anything from correcting the grammar and spelling to substantial rewriting of the novel.
That means that your novel doesn’t have to be one that you wrote for NaNoWriMo. It also means that you can continue your 50K novel; keep in mind that 50K is a pretty slim novel by modern standards, so fleshing it out as part of editing is a reasonable idea.
If you want some suggestions about how to edit your own work, many writers have found Self-Editing for Fiction Writers by Renni Browne and Dave King full of practical advice about how to edit, what to edit, and why you need to edit.
Not everyone wants to write 50K words of fiction in November, the basic requirement for NaNoWriMo. That works out to 1,667 words a day, every day, for thirty days. Not all of us are writers of fiction, or have the time and space to write that much every day (more or less).
National Non Fiction Writing Month (NaNonFiWriMo) also known as Write Non Fiction in November (WNFIN) is an alternative for people who don’t write fiction. You can register here if you want to have a community of your own while you write non-fiction in November.
AcWriMo or Academic Writing Month was founded by academic Charlotte Frost of PdD2Published in 2011 as a way to encourage academics and scholars to produce a 20K word (or more) academic monograph during November. Currently the rules stipulate that you set your own goal (hours, words, or another milestone) and join. It’s a great opportunity for thesis and dissertation writers, people who want to draft a journal article or academic writers with a book idea. There’s an active AcWriMo Facebook Group and a Twitter hashtag #AcWriMo.
NaNoBloPo is a challenge to write a blog post for every day in November. The challenge actually runs for all twelve months of the year, but November is the biggest month in terms of participation. There’s no length requirement, and that pictures count. While NaNoBloPo assigns a theme for each month, and also offers daily writing prompts, these are optional. You can write about anything you’d like. NaNoBloPo is now sponsored by BlogHer, and while there’s a Facebook Group, I’m not seeing anything recent; that said, there’s no reason you can’t do it yourself. You might find the WordPress.com daily post prompts helpful.
750 words a day runs all year, but they feature a special November challenge. The challenge is designed to motivate people to start a daily private journaling habit. The challenge starts at midnight on Nov 01, 2016 and ends at 11:59pm on Nov 30, 2016. Write (at least) 750 words every day for this month. The words can be anything, as long as they add up to 750 of them.
Are you engaging in an alternative writing challenge for November? Possibly a personal challenge? We’d love to hear about it the comments.
NaNoWrimo 2017 starts on November 1. If you’re new to NaNo or National Novel Writing Month, the goal is to write a novel (50,000 words) starting November 1 and finishing by 11:59 PM November 30. Completing 50,000 words makes you a winner. 50,000 words is quite an accomplishment.
Today I want to focus on three tools for planning. Pen and paper, Scrivener, and Evernote. They’re all three viable options, and they work well together.Pen and Paper
While it’s not kosher to start drafting your novel, you can certainly start making lists of scenes, notes about plot, setting, and characters, or ideas you want to work into the work thematically. Pen and paper can work really well for this because they’re portable. You can take one with you to jot down ideas where ever you are.
Some writers not only use notebooks to store their written ideas, they include images they’ve clipped from magazines or tourist brochures, maps, and other visual inspirations. You can use your everyday composition book, a slightly upscale version (for those fountain pen users) or you can use a scrapbook notebook, or the classic Moleskine notebook. Once NaNo begins, a notebook makes it easy to take notes about where you’re heading plot-wise even when you’re away from your keyboard. There are many writers who write their entire novel by hand; a second notebook for, well, notes, can be useful for them as well. One writer I know likes to use a multiple-color pen, color coding ideas for different characters or themes, or to annotate previous notes as a character develops.
Another advantage pen (or pencil) and paper offers is that you can have your notebook next to you as you keyboard, as a way to quickly jot down ideas without stopping to open a new file.
Evernote is an app designed for note taking and research. It’s available for pretty much any Web browser as an add on, and there are apps for Android, iOS, OS X/macOS and Windows. Evernote is designed to let you open up a note and start typing, or you can “clip” and save Web pages, images or .PDF files to your Evernote notebook. The apps and Web plugins for Evernote all sync, so you can have the same information available pretty much everywhere—even at a library or on your phone or tablet, as well as your computer.
You can even take photos with your phone (including photos of documents you’ve written) and upload them to Evernote.com. A basic Evernote account is free for two devices, which means you can use it on your laptop and on your phone, for instance. You can still logon to Everynote.com via pretty much any Web browser, too.
Scrivener from Literature and Latte is really a writer’s toolkit. It’s designed to let you plot, plan, outline, or brainstorm in the same environment in which you write. There’s even a cork board planner with digital index cards. You can store .pdfs, images, text files and web-clippings that you need for research and inspiration right in Scrivener. There are built in word-count and daily tracking tools, and tools to add notes to yourself as you write. A name generator, and lots of other ways to brainstorm, ways to track your research and ideas, and then get everything out of the way so you can just write.
Scrivener comes with a number of pre-built templates (and you can easily create your own). The Novels template includes worksheets to help with character sketches and settings, for instance. And now, with the release of Scrivener for iOS as well a for OS X/macOS and Windows, you can sync Scrivener files between different devices via DropBox.
If you do decide to try Scrivener, you might start looking at it now. There’s a built-in tutorial, lots of excellent videos (at least watch the ten minute Introduction to Scrivener). I can also heartily recommend Kirk McElhearn’s Take Control of Scrivener 2 book. It covers the latest versions of Scrivener 2 for macOS/OS X, Windows and iOS.
It’s what doing NaNoWriMo successfully is all about, taking advantage of the power of positive peer pressure.
Every year since 1999 a growing horde of strangers and friends get together in groups, online and face to face, all over the world. At the end of the month, many of them will claim the prize — the title of Author of a book more than 50,000 words long.
Years ago I was the first Municipal Liaison for the (Southern) Illinois – Elsewhere group. Yeah, “Elsewhere.” That was my second NaNo. I ML’d a couple more years and then passed it on to others who lived closer to the neighborhood. I’ve won every year I’ve attempted NaNo (7-8? times.) If you’re interested, you can read one of my NaNo Novels, Willie & Frank, here. Even better, you can get Dust to Dust, Book Two of the Poison and Wine Series, here. It was written over a NaNo. Some would suggest that that’s cheating, since it was written by two people. I would point out that the first draft, written during NaNo, topped 100K.
Sometimes NaNoing involved being cheered on by and cheering on others. Sometimes it was challenging myself against people online. Sometimes it was sitting, face to face, in a room full of people just as enchanted by the magic of words as I am. People who share our particular brand of crazy. I can tell you that about half of Willie & Frank came from dares or challenges that year’s local NaNo group gave me.
Rounding the numbers, last year 690,000 people announced their own start in the novel attempt. 310,000 of them reported crossing the 50,000 word mark. Less than half is about normal. My guess is, some of those who didn’t make it started the month more in love with the idea of being a writer than they were with words. (We’ve all met folks that.) My bet? Most of the rest, who didn’t finish, didn’t take advantage of the power of positive peer pressure.
You can find the nearest NaNo Groups to you, on the NaNo website. Not every group is right for every writer. If there are several, find the one that works for you. Some of them are more motivated by the word wars than the words themselves. Some are more interested in chatting and talking about the writing they are doing when they aren’t together than actually writing at the gatherings. Some are a smile, a wave and a “how many words have you got?” Then they are heads down over keyboards or paper and pen, back at the writing. — A quiet acknowledgement of the shared madness, if you will.
None of those are wrong, per se. But which one is right for you? Maybe you aren’t a face to face kind of person. I hope you will at least try it and find out first, but maybe your group is on Facebook? Or Twitter? Or the NaNo site?
If there’s not a group anywhere near you? Start your own. NaNo prefers that their Municipal Liaisons be past NaNo Winners. They also prefer that they apply for this unpaid, volunteer position by July. But they love to hear from motivated writers who want to volunteer.
For that matter, go rogue. Go wild. If you’re writing in the middle of nowhere, like I am these days, slap up some “contact me” cards at any area coffee shop, library, craft shops or anywhere used books are sold. Basically, the kinds of places you like. You’re a writer, makes sense other writers like those places, too, yeah? Make a few like minded contacts and shazam, you’re in a group of writers. Just remember, even if we all share the “writer crazy”– we still aren’t all the same. What works for me, may not work for you, and vice versa. Remember, NaNoWriMo is about writing, not editing. So, no critics allowed. Just muses and writers. Find the group that motivates your writing. The group you feel good about encouraging.
Then go write.
One bit of repeat here — NO EDITING. Save editing until next year. Literally, next year. November is for writing. Write with abandon. Write hard. Write.
And, when you cross the 50K mark? Come back here, to the comments, and crow about it! Shout it from a rooftop. Tell strangers. A lovely writer friend of mine put the period to the sentence where she crossed 50K and then stood on her chair, waved her arms like wings and sang like an angel. The whole room cheered and applauded. We were in a Barnes & Noble at the time. It was hysterical, it was beautiful, it was glorious. She deserved glorious. So will you. Because you will have earned it, and no one can ever take it away from you. Go. Write. I’ll meet you back here in November.
National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) starts November 1. The basic idea is to engage in BIC (Butt In Chair) and write fiction. The goal is to finish 50,000 words by midnight on November 30. By successfully completing 50,000 words by the deadline, you win, (you get a badge!), and have a draft of a novel. Or that’s the idea.
The goal is less one of writing a novel than it is of writing 50,000 words in a month, or roughly, 1,667 words a day.
Write a 50,000-word (or longer!) novel, between November 1 and November 30.
Start from scratch. None of your own previously written prose can be included in your NaNoWriMo draft (though outlines, character sketches, and research are all fine, as are citations from other people’s works).
Write a novel. We define a novel as a lengthy work of fiction. If you consider the book you’re writing a novel, we consider it a novel too!
Be the sole author of your novel. Apart from those citations mentioned two bullet-points up.
Write more than one word repeated 50,000 times.
Upload your novel for word-count validation to our site between November 25 and November 30.
I like very much the attitude behind NaNo WriMo that what’s important is that you’re writing, and writing regularly. It is, as some writers have said, permission to create a first draft without obsessing over style, with the idea that later you will revise at your leisure.
But bringing a half-finished manuscript into NaNoWriMo all but guarantees a miserable month. You’ll care about the characters and story too much to write with the gleeful, anything-goes approach that makes NaNoWriMo such a creative rush. Give yourself the gift of a clean slate, and you’ll tap into realms of imagination and intuition that are out-of-reach when working on pre-existing manuscripts.