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Participant Pep Talk from Kristen Hall-Geisler

This spring delivered upheaval after upheaval, in the form of a pandemic followed by global protests to protect and respect Black lives and a month of LGBTQ+ Pride. Times have been tough, but also filled with inspiration. People who’ve written several novels and people who’ve never attempted the form before are fired up to tell new stories. Camp NaNoWriMo is going to be amazing this year. It’s always a challenge to maintain a writing practice, especially when schedules and routines might have flown out the window months ago. We’ve all heard “butt in chair,” meaning that the writing gets done when your butt is in the chair at your desk and the work is in front of you. But in case you need a little more guidance, here are three of my best tips for writers at any stage.

1. Find your daily time, but don’t be rigid.

Productivity blogs and life hack sites sing the praises of waking up at 5:00 a.m. and getting in thousands of words before the birds wake up. This may be ideal for you, but it’s not ideal for everyone.

The trick is to experiment, and Camp NaNoWriMo is great for this. Take a week of Camp to try writing first thing in the morning (even if your “first thing” is more like 8:00 a.m.). Try reading for a few hours first, and then writing for an hour or two before lunch. Try the night owl life and begin writing after dinner or after everyone else in the house is in bed. When do you feel most energetic? When do you slip into that elusive state called “flow”? That’s your time.

Now that you’ve found it, don’t cling too tightly to it. If you miss a day, it’s okay. If you have to write later than usual because you have a Zoom meeting during your prime writing time, go with it. Do what you can to hit your daily goals, even if you have to write at a less than perfect time.​​

2. Find your tools, but don’t be superstitious.

Some people write first drafts on paper with a fountain pen (I’m raising my hand). Some adore Scrivener and its many functions built specifically for writers. Some stick with good ol’ Word or Google Docs. There’s a tool for everyone and every stage of writing. ​

Again, Camp NaNoWriMo is a fun place to experiment. Write a chapter longhand and revise it by typing it up the next day. Dust off that vintage typewriter that’s been serving as décor for years. Type out a few paragraphs on your phone while on a walk. I’m currently coaching an author who has drafted a dozen short stories in the past six months using his notes app.

Once you’ve found the tools that help you create your magic, set them out so they’re in plain sight and waiting for you at your writing time. But don’t let the tools become more important than the writing! It’s great to have a favorite pen or app, but if that’s not available when inspiration strikes, use whatever is at hand. Capture the idea as completely as possible in whatever way you can and transfer it to your preferred medium whenever you can.

​3. Find your goals, but be forgiving.

​When you sign up for Camp NaNoWriMo, you get to choose the status of your project. My novel, for instance is in the planning stages. Yours might be ready for revisions. Then you pick your word count goal—how much do you want to get done in one month?

NaNoWriMo offers a benchmark with its 50,000-word goal. But since I’m still researching a historical period for this novel, I’m setting a much lower goal for Camp. If you’re revising, you have a word count already. Are you looking to shorten a bloated first draft? Or do you need to flesh out descriptions and world building? Those will influence your goals. Break those goals down to daily totals and start ticking off those boxes. It feels so good to see yourself making progress every single day alongside so many other Campers. Remember, you can also change your goal if you need to.

Spending a week at camp with virtual writing buddies is a great way to stay on track and feel accountable to your goal. But as we’ve all experienced this year, plans can go sideways very fast. Issues can arise that need the attention of you and your community immediately. And you may be dealing with physical or mental health issues more this summer than ever.

Sticking to your Camp NaNoWriMo goals can act as a north star for keeping yourself focused when everything around you is in flux. But if Camp feels more like a burden than a relief at any point this month, don’t berate yourself or feel ashamed. November’s NaNoWriMo is right around the corner. We’re always happy to see you.

photo of Anna C.

Kristen Hall-Geisler is a writer, editor, and publisher living in Oregon. She's honed her research and interviewing skills with the New York Times, How Stuff Works, Popular Science, and more. She is the author of the historical novel Skull and Sidecar, and she'll be publishing her translation of A Voyage Around My Room in September 2020. You can find her editing and coaching work at and her publishing company at And she's on NaNoWriMo as KristenHG.

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