How to... · Writing

Camp NaNo Talk: Writing Productivity

Hi Guys,

So, any form of NaNo is a challenge; it is designed to really test your daily word goal and prioritising your writing. 50,000 words is meant to be a challenge. 1667 words a day is a challenge. So, how do you keep that momentum going?

Lets talk productivity!


Firstly, you need to work something out. Are you a plotter or a panster? Do you like to know exactly what is going to happen in your story or do you have no idea, sit at the computer and type until a story blossoms of it’s own accord? Either way, you need to know which works for you.

I am a plotter. Not just in my writing but in all elements of my life. I like to know what is going to happen next. So when I find a story idea that I want to develop into a story… I plot that baby out. For this NaNo I am using the 3 Act structure for plotting, however that is not the only method (I’ll be posting more about plotting over the next few days!), read a few books, research a few methods, find one that works for you and stick to it (for one book at least).

Something I have already started doing is carving out a daily slot for writing, getting myself in a routine of writing; so when it’s time to hit those big word goals I already have at least some time scheduled out. Pre-NaNo, I generally create an hour or two a day (see Post-NaNo for what I mean by daily…) and dedicate it purely to writing.

Now there are two inspiration based things I ensure are complete before NaNo, playlists and Pintrest boards, you really don’t want to be wasting those precious writing minutes during Camp browsing through Pintrest for inspiring images. Playlists are great- not going to lie, they really help me focus when it comes time to just write!

So you have your inspiration ready, time is carved out, and you have a plot (or at least an idea…) of your story. It’s time for NaNo to begin!


You are staring at a blank document, the words fail to appear and your precious writing time is slowly trickling down the drain. Don’t despair. My first trick I use are writing exercises, these are short warm up pieces that get words flowing in your brain and eases you back into the world. I have two exercises that I use regularly:

  1. Free Writing
    This is literally what it sounds like, you set your timer for 10 minutes and start getting words on the page. Eventually the words start forming sentences of their own and eventually you are used to writing for the day.
  2. Writing Prompts
    I have a collection of prompts that I have collected from all over the internet, blog posts, prompt collections (I have this prompt book that really helps with this exercise!)

Your next task for boosting your productivity is to get rid of those distractions. Chances are, you wont turn off your phone, but seriously, stop playing Candy Crush. Shove that thing on silent (or even aeroplane mode… hint) and focus on the words on the page. If you are stopping every few words to reply to texts or tweet about it, then you’re not going to hit the high word counts that you want.

My next suggestion may sound contradictory to the last, do some virtual write-ins. Whether they are twitter, Facebook, or YouTube based, sprinting (focusing for a set period of time to get as many words as possible down) with others increases your productivity like crazy. During the last NaNo I joined, rewatched, again and again, the WordNerds write ins because I was cranking out 2000 to 3000 words across two hours- something I had never done before! The NaNo team also host write-ins on Twitter and YouTube but I found that personally I preferred the familiarity of the WordNerd write-ins (just personal preference guys so definitely check both out!).

Another NaNo special that I found were the word marathons, they are all over the forums and are amazing. Especially if you cant stay on the internet, go copy down all of the tasks and challenge yourself to complete so many of them in one day. These marathons are generally themed, I complete majority of the Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings and Twilight Marathons for the last NaNo- they become addictive! Check out the forums (before they are wiped in October!) and save all the ones you want to do! I have redone some of the Harry Potter themed ones since last NaNo because they build word count really fast!


So, the end of the month has passed and you want to keep up the word count (okay, there will be a burn out period but if you want to write professionally you need to keep this going!)… so what can you do?

Firstly,  goals. I personally set myself seasonal goals, monthly goals, weekly goals, and finally daily goals. Sounds like a storm of goals but they each have their own need.

Seasonal goals are those big goals; finish first draft of [book name], revise and edit [book name], find so many advertising opportunities for book promotion.

Then you have monthly goals, these are written in the monthly spread of my planner (or on a separate document on my computer). These are generally smaller than the seasonal goals but a big steps towards meeting them. For instance if my seasonal goal is to complete a manuscript for a book, I would potentially split it into three tasks (one for each month); research and plotting, drafting, and editing.

Now we start getting to the aims you look at more regularly, your weekly aims are always in your mind. I like to set myself a weekly word goal of 10,000 to 15,000 words; by the end of the month it would end with a 40,000 to 60,000 word first draft. Your most likely not going to be producing first drafts every month- some of those months are going to be plotting or editing. So remember to reconsider your weekly goals, are you going to have a word goal or an edit goal? For example, this week I aim to edit 10 chapters.

Okay, so we all hear that you should write everyday, but that’s not always possible and frankly I end up beating myself up if I miss a day when I set strict daily targets. Daily goals are great for fast paced writing, such as NaNo, but for the other months you really need to be realistic. I generally go for the 5:2 rule, plan to write 5 days out of the 7, if I get to write on all 7, its a bonus! So using the edit example from above, I would aim for editing 2 chapters a day, with 2 extra days to either catch up if I don’t manage to meet my aims for the five days- or even push ahead (but seriously, who doesn’t like being ahead!).

So once NaNo is finished, evaluate how you performed. Did you get to the end of the draft? If not, prioritise that! Finish it! Even if you have to give yourself an extra month to get to the end of the plot. Once you have a finished draft then the *fun* begins. You have 2 choices:

  1. Edit the sh*t out of it and get it ready for publishing
  2. Start a shiny new project and let it linger for a few months while you do another first draft.

Either way, you have a complete first draft and you should be proud of whichever decision you make! But why write the book if you don’t want it published? At one point really consider what you want to do with it.


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