The Study: Issue #34 - 5 Productivity Tips for Winning Camp NaNoWriMo

July will be here next week and so will a new month-long writing challenge. Crush it with these five tips.

5 Productivity Tips for Winning Camp NaNoWriMo

Photo by Alfons Morales on Unsplash

July is right around the corner and with it comes an event writers everywhere look forward to. It’s called Camp NaNoWriMo and unlike its more formal counterpart that happens every November, Camp NaNo is a little more flexible.

Rather than adhering to a strict 50,000 word novel for the month of July, writers can choose to work on any project of their choosing at any word count. Want to write a 25,000 word novella? Or five essays? Maybe you’d like to start that memoir. Whatever it is, the choice is yours.

However, you’ll still need to make your daily word count minimums if you choose to hit whatever your goal is, so here are five tips and tricks to keep you on track.

1. Have an Outline

If you go into your project cold, you’ll inevitably find yourself either written into a corner or blocked at the worst possible moment. Take out a notebook or open up a document on your computer and start plotting out your story’s beats.

Who are the main characters? What do they want? How will they get there? How do you envision the story ending?

It doesn’t matter if the outline is detailed or basic, and you may even change things as you write, but you need to have some semblance of a map to get you where you need to go.

2. Keep Moving Forward

If your project is a historical fiction piece, or a crime novel, or a sci-fi epic, it will be easy to get bogged down with the details. A quick search on Wikipedia can drag you down a rabbit hole of old '90s Nickelodeon cartoons and before you know it, you’ve wasted three hours reading up on the history of The Angry Beavers.

When you come to a point in your WIP where you know you’ll need to do a bit of research, make a note of it for later. For example, let’s say you need to find out when corsets were first worn for your historical novel. Rather that spend hours running Google searches, make a note in square brackets (i.e. “[Look up corset info]”) and come back to it later.

You could also use asterisks (“***NOTE GOES HERE***”) and perform a search in your document for everywhere you put three asterisks later.

And remember: DO NOT GO BACK AND EDIT. Save that for the end.

3. Know Where You’re Going Tomorrow

Ernest Hemingway famously said, “The best way is always to stop when you are going good and when you know what will happen next.”

In other words, once you’ve reached your minimum word count for the day, don’t write so much that you’re unsure of where you’re taking the story the following day. Take out an index card or a piece of paper and write three story beats you want to tackle tomorrow. This way, you won’t have to worry about getting blocked.

4. Turn Off the World

DING here comes another email. CHRRP a new text just arrived. THWAP Batman just punched out one of the Penguin’s henchmen.

Okay, maybe not that last one.

Nothing throws you out of a writing groove like an alert. When you start writing for the day, turn off your notifications. iOS, the Mac, and Android both have “Do Not Disturb” settings that block all notifications from appearing and sounds from chirping unless they come from an approved app/person.

There are also programs that block your access to the internet, like Freedom on the Mac and FocusMe on Windows, Mac, and Android. You can set them up to run for a specific amount of time (say, a 20 minute writing sprint?) before they let you back into Twitter or Facebook.

5. Join a Writing Group

Obviously, most of us are still in lockdown due to the pandemic. Still, joining and online writing group can provide the motivation and accountability you need to stay on task.

When you sign up to track your WIP’s progress on the Camp NaNoWriMo website, you’ll also gain access to their forums where you can join an open “cabin” and meet new writing buddies.

Encourage each other. Keep one another focused. You can do this.

And remember: have fun!

BONUS TIP: Let TextExpander Work for You

If you use TextExpander in your daily life (and you should), you can put it to great use during Camp NaNoWriMo, too! Subscribe to these public snippet groups for common typos and autocorrected words so you don’t have to go back and fix all those spelling errors when you make them.

Those of you writing a fantasy or sci-fi novel with unique, difficult to type names can make snippets for them so you only have to type a few characters to auto-populate the name instead. It’s easier and saves you time in the long run.

Click here to get 20% off your TextExpander subscription.


The self-conscious drama of morality in contemporary fiction” by Lauren Oyler | Bookforum Magazine

Update from the International Thriller Writers (ITW) Board of Directors On Their Resignation | Facebook

Macmillan Forms Trade Management Committee to Address 'Key Issues'” by John Maher | Publishers Weekly


A section devoted to current submission opportunities without submission fees.

Unsung Stories — short fantasy, sci-fi, horror, and weird fiction | Deadline: July 5

Blueline Magazine — poems, stories and essays about the Adirondacks and regions similar in geography and spirit, focusing on nature's shaping influence | Deadline: November 30

Edna Lewis 2020-2021 Culinary Scholarship — One scholarship grant of up to $5,000 will be awarded to a qualified applicant within the categories of Agriculture & Farming, Culinary Arts, and Food Writing. | Deadline: June 30

The Awakenings Review — poetry, short stories, dramatic scenes, essays, photographs, excerpts from larger works, and black-and-white cover art about personal experience with mental illness | Deadline: Rolling

The Absurdist — funny/strange flash fiction | Deadline: Rolling

Chestnut Review — FREE submissions for flash fiction, poetry, art | Deadline: June 30

Vastarien: A Literary Journal — Nonfiction, literary horror fiction, poetry, art | Deadline: June 30

CHILLFILTR — short fiction, personal essays, poetry, memoirs | Deadline: Rolling

House Blackwood Weird Short Fiction Anthology: “Tales from OmniPark” | Deadline: June 30

Red Planet Magazine — Fiction, poetry, non-fiction, visual arts | Deadline: Rolling

Borrowed Solace: Fall 2020 Issue (Theme: Mysticism) — fiction, poetry, creative non-fiction, art & photography | Deadline: July 31

About Place Journal — creative non-fiction, poetry, fiction, hybrid work, video and artwork | Open for Submissions: June 1 | Deadline: August 1

Northwest Review — Translation, poetry, fiction, non-fiction, essay, graphic narrative | Deadline: Unclear

Volney Road Review — poetry, short fiction, creative non-fiction | Deadline: August 1st

33 1/3 — Short books about music and COVID-19 | Deadline: July 1

Scrivener Tip of the Week — Find By Formatting

To find a piece of text in your WIP based on its formatting (highlighted text, links, revision color, etc…):

  1. Navigate to Edit > Find > Find by Formatting...

  2. Select a criteria from the dropdown menu.

  3. Enter your search term and click Next.


I’ve been really enjoying these background ASMR videos while writing, featuring fireplace crackles, light jazz, people talking, and rain sounds.

Highlighted: Book Highlighter app for iOS | iOS/iPadOS App Store — Stop forgetting what you read. Collect, organize, and revisit the essential parts of your books.

In Case You Missed It…

Check out last week’s newsletter, where I discussed my favorite tools for writing on the go.


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