I have this bad habit of jumping into National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) experiences at the last minute. Last Halloween, I decided to do my first NaNoWriMo, which started November 1, without any real preparation and only an idea. Then, I went and did it again for this April’s Camp NaNoWriMo when some Twitter friends asked me to join their cabin (What Are Cabins?).
I was already working on a rewrite of my urban fantasy novel, Blood Mastery, so I figured I could just add another tracking form to my month and get some extra support in the meanwhile. It didn’t turn out to be that easy, and here I’ll discuss why.
Camp NaNoWriMo: Failures
1. I didn’t write as many words as I did in November.
Camp NaNoWriMo is not set up the same as November’s NaNoWriMo. To win regular NaNoWriMo, you must write at least 50,000 words within the 30-day month of November. With Camp NaNoWriMo, you set your own goal.
In the end, although I technically won, I had written only 20,184 words on Blood Mastery in April versus the 52,359 words I wrote on my other novel in November.
2. I had to lower my goal part way through the month.
I started out with a goal of 25,000 words. It quickly became clear that I wouldn’t be able to write that many, at least not on my novel. Before April 20, when people were allowed to start validating their writing for a “win,” I was allowed to change my goal in Camp NaNoWriMo, and that’s what I did, although I didn’t feel so hot about it.
3. I felt stretched completely thin.
I ended up feeling more scattered and stressed during Camp NaNoWriMo that I had during NaNoWriMo, even though my goal was lower. The reason was that during November’s NaNoWriMo, I was working on a single project, one novel. By the time April rolled around, I was working on several projects, each of which needed my attention.
In addition to my novel, I was writing and editing four weekly blog posts, a one-act play, and a nonfiction booklet for authors. Because I couldn’t put any of them off, my 20k words for Camp NaNoWriMo had to be done on top of all these other things.
4. I got slowed down by poor planning.
Although I had a rough outline for my book, by about the middle of the month, I realized that my rewrite wasn’t going to be long enough to qualify as a novel. I was quickly approaching the climax, and I was only about 25,000 words in.
I had a brainstorming session with my cabin mates, and I was able to come up with some ideas. I would add more conflict and subplots to my book. However, obsessive that I am, I went back to the beginning and edited the book right away before going any further. Of course, that slowed my writing speed down a lot.
5. I lost a complete day because of unforeseen events.
One of my children injured her foot at gymnastics, and we had to go to multiple appointments to make sure that it wasn’t broken. Life happens, and I don’t regret taking the time out to see to it, but it wasn’t any good for my Camp NaNoWriMo progress.
Camp NaNoWriMo: Successes
1. I wrote twice as many words for my novel in April as I had the month before.
I write basically every day, participating in the Twitter monthly writing challenge and allowing very few things to stop me.
The extra incentive that Camp NaNoWriMo provided helped me to write 20,184 words of my novel in April. Even with my small goal of 500 words a day, I had added only 10,432 words in March, even with the same extra projects. That’s almost double.
2. At the beginning of the month, my goal was flexible.
As I mentioned before, I reduced my goal part way through the month. That flexibility was an advantage, even though I didn’t feel good about using it. Camp NaNoWriMo lets you set your own goal, and before winning begins, you can adjust it up or down.
You can’t do that with regular NaNoWriMo: it’s 50,000 words no matter what. It’s more about proving to yourself that you can write a novel than meeting your own personal goals, although those two interests might intersect.
3. The support was phenomenal.
Our cabin, the little group of writers that was my community during Camp NaNoWriMo, came mostly from people I know on Twitter and the monthly writing challenge. However, in this new forum, we were able to share and support one another more deeply than we normally can with the limited 140 characters or less per post allowed on Twitter.
There were questions and conversations about general writing topics but also real, nitty-gritty problem solving and feedback that helped us all keep moving forward. The one-thread forum format was a little difficult to navigate, but we managed.
4. I wrote 10% of my goal on each of the last two days.
By about halfway through the month, I had pretty much given up any hope of winning Camp NaNoWriMo. My distractions—a.k.a. my other projects—were taking away too much of my attention. However, as the last week rolled around, I realized that I was now in a place to put them aside for at least a week and work only on the novel. It wasn’t as easy as it sounded since I was out of town on two of those days for a kid-related activity.
Despite all that, I ended up writing more than 2000 words on each of the last two days of Camp NaNoWriMo, just barely clearing my goal. One of those days, I dictated them, and on the other, I typed them in a hotel room with two of my children playing nearby.
In any case, I impressed myself a little. It’s not that I’ve never written 2000 words in a day, but it’s pretty rare for me. This full-time editor thing, homeschooling my kids, etc., keep me pretty busy.
I honestly don’t know if I will take part in Camp NaNoWriMo again or even in NaNoWriMo in November. I will just have to see where I am at that point with each of my projects.
Despite my lack of preparation, last November turned out to be the perfect time to start a new novel. I had just finished the first draft of Blood Mastery. I really needed to put it aside, and working on a new novel was the best distraction.
If I do either NaNoWriMo event in the future, I will not only start with a rough outline but also clear my schedule as much as possible. I’ll write and schedule extra blog posts the month before and move other writing projects around as necessary. The extra stress from those extra projects was just a little too much, and I wouldn’t want to repeat that experience.
I want to say thanks to the writers in my cabin for all the great support! And congratulations for accomplishing the impossible!
Did you do Camp NaNoWriMo this year? What was your experience like? Will you do it again?