5 Things I Learned from Camp NaNoWriMo

Well, folks, it was a wild ride, but I did it. I survived July Camp NaNoWriMo! In fact, I even met my goal!

For those of you who aren’t familiar with Camp NaNo, it’s an event hosted by National Novel Writing Month (a website where you can track your progress while you try to write a 50K-word novel during the month of November). Every April and July, you can join a “cabin,” or writing group, of up to 20 other writers and set your own goal of hours, minutes, words, or pages. This was my fourth time participating in Camp NaNoWriMo, my third time winning, and my fourth time hosting a cabin. Here are 5 things I’ve learned in all my camping experience.

1. Camp NaNoWriMoworks much better for me than regular NaNoWriMo.

Regular NaNoWriMo is great if you are a fast writer who needs an extra kick in the pants to finish a first draft and doesn’t care how bad the first draft is. I am not a fast writer, and I like it when my first drafts don’t completely stink. So I prefer to set my own goals.

This July, I was both editing, researching, planning, and writing. Tracking all of that with a word-count goal wouldn’t work at all. With Camp NaNoWriMo, I could set a goal of 2000 minutes (~33 hours). That goal turned out to be perfect, seeing as I barely met it on the last day.

Camp NaNoWriMo Project Stats

I didn’t have access to a computer for like 5 days, which is the long plateau in the middle of the graph.

2. It’s OK to walk away from your novel.

For the first half of camp, I was micro-editing a novella. That meant I had to read through it time after time, tweaking every turn of phrase that felt awkward. Soon I got so sick of my writing that I felt like I’d throw up if I read the opening paragraph one more time.

I don’t like working on more than one project at once, but in this case, I made an exception. I’d read my novella too many times and too recently to judge it objectively. So now the novella (project #1) is shelved until I can open the Word document without wanting to burn my laptop. For the rest of camp, I researched, plotted, and wrote about 10K words of project #2 (a sequel to project #1). The break from project #1 was much needed, and I felt better right away.

3. “The best laid plans of mice and men…”

I plotted and researched more for project #2 than anything I’ve ever written. But, inevitably, the story has gone off the rails. We’re still getting from plot point A to plot point B–it’s just happening in a different way. This session of Camp NaNo has taught me more than ever that no matter how hard I try, things won’t always go according to plan.

4. It’s so much fun when you have a good cabin.

As I said, this was my third time creating a cabin, and I was so excited to find like-minded writers to fill the bunks! We almost reached our cabin goal, which is amazing considering that every other cabin I’ve been in hasn’t even come close. I think I finally found a strategy that works to keep the cabin engaged: I asked a “Question of the Day” (such as, “Who is your antagonist?”) and people answered it if they wanted to.

Having bad luck with cabins? Try going to the Finding Cabin Mates forum on the NaNoWriMo main site. You can either create your own cabin (as I did) with specific guidelines on who you’d like to join, or join a cabin that you think sounds like your thing.

5. Set goals you can reach.

Like I said, I am not a fast writer, and that used to discourage me. When I saw my cabinmates getting upwards of 50K words in two weeks, I’d feel bad for struggling to get 25K in one month. But this session of camp made me realize that it’s OK to write at a pace that challenges me, even if my cabinmates might find it slow. I’ve been doing Camp NaNoWriMo long enough now that I’ve come to terms with my own writing speed, and I know what’s hard for me and what isn’t. Now I can cheer my cabinmates on when they get over 100,000 words in one month without comparing it to my word count.

What did you learn from Camp NaNoWriMo? Which do you prefer, regular NaNo or Camp? Let me know in comments!

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10 thoughts on “5 Things I Learned from Camp NaNoWriMo

  1. I have only done Camp NaNo once, and have done full NaNo two or three times now and I love it. It’s really hard of my personal life, but reaching 50 000 words is such an accomplishment for me, I never get sick of it. Whereas, the rest of year, I would like to spend editing, and trying not to create new content, so Camp throws me off, because I end up writing again.

    It’s also easier for me to dedicate one month a year to just going all out! 🙂

    Congrats on partaking. It’s such a lovely organisation.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Oooooo, I knew about regular NaNoWriMo but have always been too overwhlemed to try it, so hearing about this whole camp thing is super interesting! I’m going to check it out and use it as motivation to develop/start on the ideas I always put of writing!

    Liked by 1 person

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