October Boot Camp 2017: Now Recruiting

Did you spend your summer on the couch, binge watching Netflix, eating potato chips, not writing?

Well, get ready! October Boot Camp is almost here!

First things first, what is October Boot Camp?

October Boot Camp is a proven training method that helps writers get in peak shape for a word-count challenge like National Novel Writing Month. If you actively participate in October Boot Camp, you'll grow your writing practice to the point that you're cranking out 2,000 productive words per day.

How does October Boot Camp work?

If you sign up for a shiny new gym membership and on your first day, you try to deadlift 250 pounds, you’re not going to succeed. Instead, you’re probably going to strain your back and may even get a hernia.

Similarly, if you attempt to write a novel in a month without warming up first, you’re likely to strain your writing muscles and scare yourself out of attempting any such effort ever again.

Every day in October, I will add a new writing prompt to the page linked here. The word count for each prompt will increase over time, with 500-word prompts the first week; 1,000-word prompts the second; and so on, until you feel comfortable writing 2,000 words in one sitting.

Even if you don't succeed, that's 31 new writing prompts for you to play with.

But suppose you do succeed. How will you get from 500 to 2,000 words besides my dialing up the juice each week?

Enter Free Writing.

Free writing is my go-to best practice for October Boot Camp success (and NaNoWriMo success beyond that).

Put simply, free writing is a stream-of-consciousness technique in which the writer writes continuously, never putting down her pen or taking her fingers off the keyboard. In doing so, she blocks out all of those self-censoring thoughts — “This is awful,” “You call that a sentence?”, “I’ll never be a writer,” etc. — in favor of productivity and spontaneity.

This may sound mystical, and in some ways it is. In other ways, it’s as quotidian as brushing your teeth. The key here is: Don’t think. Just write.

If that sounds easier said than done, it’s because free writing takes practice. I have a few tips and tricks that can make your first free writing session as painless as possible.

Anchor yourself.

Anchor phrases and anchor actions can help to ground a free writing session. Using an anchor phrase (e.g., “The boy wore blue”) in your text will give you a trail of breadcrumbs to return to if your train of thought reaches a dead end. An anchor action, like characters robbing a bank or having dinner, can give you something external to focus on if you’re having trouble moving said characters past a fight or through a difficult decision.

Explore your emotions.

If the process is frustrating to you — a highly likely occurrence the first few times — tap into that. Instead of writing your book, give in and write about how you’re feeling. Why are you angry? What is frustrating you, right now, about your writing process? Getting it out on paper can be cathartic.


If you get stuck and don’t know what to write next, admit it. Type “I don’t know what to write, I don’t know what to write,” until you find that your brain unlocks and you suddenly, surprisingly do.

At the end of the day, free writing is as complicated as you make it. Don’t think. Just write. You can always edit out off-topic sentences later… once your first draft is complete.

How do I participate?

The list of prompts will go live on October 1 at 12:01 a.m. on this page and will be updated each day. Refresh at will.

(Or, you could sign up for the daily installment of the Hatch Books newsletter. That way you won’t have to remember to surf over to HES everyday for your new writing prompt.)

Jessica HatchComment