This was a originally a series I offered on my Patreon in 2020. As I closed the Patreon, I decided to open up a limited version of the bootcamp to the public for free.
It’s not a secret that I love NaNoWriMo. I love the energy, the comradery, the daily goals giving me immutable structure for an entire month. It’s a whole lot, and not for everyone, but if you’ve ever harboured the desire to write a book, NaNo is the time to take the boat out onto the ocean. It’s stressful, sure, but it’s only a month–as opposed to the months/years that writing a book normally takes–and at the end, you will either have a) written a book or b) find out that writing a book is not for you, and you can take the boat out of the harbour and dry-dock it, leaving the marina slip free for something else.
The best part of NaNo is the freedom–nay, the responsibility–to write a garbage first draft. You simply do not have the luxury of writing one perfect line after another, or tweaking endlessly. There is no time. There is a graph of wordcounts to maintain.
Repeat after me: you cannot write a good first draft in a month.
YOU CANNOT WRITE A GOOD FIRST DRAFT IN A MONTH.
Whatever writer you are thinking of as a rebuttal, stow it–you are not that writer (and if you were why would you need a bootcamp, huh?!) And that’s good. Because knowing that you cannot write a “good” first draft in a month takes so much of the pressure off. I know too many people–GOOD WRITERS–who freak out at the idea of producing anything less than perfection in a draft and then tie their insides in knots over a blank page, when–repeat after me!–GARBAGE ON A PAGE IS BETTER THAN PERFECT IN YOUR HEAD.
Hmm. Maybe I should make a poster of that one.
You cannot edit what you don’t write, so WRITE IT THE FUCK DOWN, and worry about it when the draft is complete!
Now that you know my stance on NaNo, may I present:
THE TWO WEEK NANO BOOTCAMP
Each day is broken down into:
- a word count goal
- a big-picture question or piece of prep-work to help you assemble what you’ll need for a successful NaNo
- a writing prompt
- a poppycock prompt
- a place to record your wordcount or even better yet put a sticker when you’re finished for the day
To do 50,000 words in 30 days you need to do an average of 1667 words a day. That’s a lot. Especially every day, without breaks, and doubly-especially if this is your first time trying to write a novel. By starting writing every day now, and increasing the goal each day, you can warm-up.
Lots of successful NaNo’ers just jump in without a plan, writing by the seat of their pants. Lots go the other way and have a dedicated outline and plan of attack. And lots more swing between the middle, preparing a rough set of ideas that they can go off whenever the muse strikes. This bootcamp is for those people in the middle, the *cough* “plantsers”. The Prep-Work sections ask big questions to help you better understand what you will be writing about, generate new ideas, and finally help you set up your workstation to give you the best chance for success.
Since the spirit of NaNoWriMo is that you don’t start working on the novel in question until November 1st, how do you warm-up? With separate writing prompts, of course! Each one is a self-contained vignette or scene that can help you explore your characters and your world, and even generate new tidbits to sneak into your novel later, as a treat.
“Victoria,” you say, “what the fuck does ‘poppycock’ mean? And these prompts are ridiculous. I can’t use these in my novel.”
That’s the point! They are RIDICULOUS and unusable on purpose. If writing prompts are the stretches, then poppycocks are improv games, designed to get you thinking creatively, loosey-goosey, and ready to say yes to whatever is thrown your way. You do not have time to edit during NaNo, and indeed, your inner editor needs to take a vacation until December. If you are worrying about the quality of what you’re writing, you’ll slow down and eventually stop. Throw quality concerns out the window! Write absolute crap! Editing is JANUARY’S PROBLEM. November is all about hitting that daily word-count and having fun, bay-bee!
The other thing that helps with NaNo success is to have lots of people to bitch and moan to about how hard writing is. We used to do that in bars and coffee shops, but now, of course, we do it online! There’s Twitter (you can always message me @vfeistner and I often do daily progress threads with lots of updates and/or Loki gifs) and there is my Discord server, where I have been accruing fiction writers into a little community where we help each other with story problems, swap submission news, and console each other after a rejection. Feel free to message me and ask for an invite!
I hope this bootcamp helps you give this NaNo your all. It’s been a rough couple of years–and I’m really proud of you for giving a novel a go! I will be rooting for you all month!
P.S. To remind you to just WRITE and not worrying about editing, you can print out my official permission to write garbage. In colour or black&white. Hang it somewhere you can see it, and whenever you start worrying about the quality of your first draft, remember:
YOU CANNOT WRITE A GOOD FIRST DRAFT IN A MONTH.
So just focus on having fun exploring your novel.