Camp ShanNoWriMo: “Packing List”

Alright, everyone! Listen up!

I’m your camp counsellor for Camp NaNoWriMo’s July Session.

Okay, okay. I kid. I’m not actually a Camp NaNo counsellor: just another camper coming back for her second consecutive summer. Last year, I was a featured pep talker, and you can find my pep talk by clicking here. It was such an incredible opportunity to be able to write for the official NaNo blog to give some advice to my fellow writers, and I’m back at it this year on my own blog this time!

For the next few weeks, the puns in this blog are going to become even worse, as we embark on a new mini-series: Camp ShanNoWriMo.

I’ll be giving weekly updates, writing advice, and sharing my triumphs and disasters from my own experience! If you’re shy to join a cabin or want a very low-maintenance NaNo support system, I’m your girl.

I’m a three-time Winner of NaNo (two Novembers and one July camp under my belt, plus triumphant losses in another November and July), and what I’ve learned from participating in NaNo over the years is that writing in July is very different than writing in November. November writing is all about cozy socks and pumpkin spice and snuggly blankets and staying in while leaves swirl by the window (and snow, if you’re like me and live in Canada where winter shows up with very little notice).

But July in the northern hemisphere is all heat and warmth and trying to stay cool. And not only that, but it feels like a totally different mindset in July. The rules are relaxed, the community is smaller and more chill, and it requires a different mental duffle bag to be packed going into things.

So here’s my personal “packing list” for my “trip” to Camp this summer.

  1. A Method.

Note how I didn’t say “a plan” because whether you’re a pantser or a planner, knowing how you write and the approach you’re taking to your project for the month is KEY to camp success! Personally, I’m a planner. I’ve got a really vague project board set up in my bedroom with some key plot points, character bios, and notes for things that I want to happen at some point in the story.

But after a disastrous November where I squealed in with a win in the last couple hours, hating every word I wrote for the last week of the month, I realized I had planned too much to the point that I had no freedom. So for my project for this month, I am letting fate grab me by the ponytail and drag me through the month. Which leads me to my next must-have…

2. My NaNo Prompt Jar.

I find that the summer camp, as I wrote in my pep talk last year, is the perfect time to take risks and try things you wouldn’t normally try in your writing. I made this prompt jar from a tutorial on Apron Warrior that I saw as I approached my first NaNoWriMo back in 2014. Basically my jar consists of a bunch of prompts and questions written on large popsicle sticks to challenge me and the characters. When I’m at a loss for plot, I grab a stick and see if I can make it work into the story!

This pushes my comfort zone constantly and it’s a perfect time to experiment and play in the relaxed summer months. Especially because I am going into NaNo with only two spunky MCs and a vague idea of what’s at stake, what is happening, and where they need to go to, it’s crucial for me to have something to keep the creativity churning.


3. Outdoor Essentials

It’s warmer up in the Northern Hemisphere (sorry all of you down below the equator), so that means it’s time to get out of the couch crease and maybe think about carting your writing equipment outdoors! I spent many summer days during last year’s Camp sitting on my front lawn or front porch with my laptop working away. My personal must-haves for writing outside are a bottle of water, a quilt to sit on, and a small pop-up mosquito tent so I’m not slapping bugs away every five minutes. (I realize that it looks silly to be sitting in a small mesh tent on my own front lawn with a laptop, but hey, writing makes us weird.)

4. Refreshments

It’s not a campsite or writing session without snacks, right? And while s’mores are festive, they’re pretty impractical for writing. My go-to favourite summer drinks (other than water of course) are Tim Hortons Iced Capps, Starbucks Iced Chai Lattes, and Starbucks Mango Black Tea Lemonades. For snacks, I usually turn to something light like popcorn, Triscuits, or the occasional ice cream treat to get me through.

5. Self-Encouragement

Although the cabins are full and the forums are still active, there are far less participants during Camp NaNoWriMo than there are during November’s session. Regardless, I always feel the need to have something set up to encourage and guide me throughout the month. So I created this little page in my Bullet Journal to cheer me on throughout the month as I fill it up. Think of it as encouragement from my past self.


Those are the main things I’m bringing along with me to Camp: along with a positive outlook, confidence in my storytelling, and 50,000 words worth of courage stuck in my back pocket. Whether you’re participating in Camp or tackling a writing project on your own schedule this summer, remember that writing is a vacation from your real life. So take the scenic route, jump into the lake, and never stop adventuring.

I’ll be updating soon on what exactly my writing project is for July and what I’ve experienced during my first days of Camp next week.

Happy writing!




5 thoughts on “Camp ShanNoWriMo: “Packing List”

  1. Carolann says:

    Thanks for sharing the love of the NaNo Jar! I’m so glad to hear it worked out for you! Also, I’m in love with your progress tracker! Beautiful! All around fantastic tips. Have a great time with NaNoWriMo in July!


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