Camp NaNoWriMo the First (2013): Lessons Learned

In just under thirty days I have written over sixty thousand words on two projects and started a third. This is a personal best for me but proves that if you put your mind to something anything is possible. I’m not saying it’s easy, much less something which can be left to the last minute but it’s still more than worthwhile.

So, rather than celebrating a victory which doesn’t mean much, I want to pass on somethings I’ve learned so if anyone wishes to join me on the second Camp of the year (in July), you can!

In theory NaNoWriMo is about producing 50k in thirty days which is no mean feat and would require you to write a minimum of 1667 words a day. Camp allows you to set a more realistic target so don’t feel pressured, some people used words as a form of measurements, others days or a similar block of time. It doesn’t matter whether you won as long as you reached a goal you were happy with.

Also there’s no point in feeling guilting if project A dies half way through, as mine did. Just follow your muse and don’t worry about writing novels, short stories, epic poems, haiku or novellas, just write!

But let’s talk about the words for a minute. They’re tricksy buggers and it takes a lot of faith in yourself to write a thousand of them, let alone fifty thousand. The higher your self-imposed word count, the harder getting these words out is going to be. Think pulling teeth or blood from a stone then times it by ten and do it again. You’d think once you ‘win’ NaNoWriMo once that you’d know the score and that the next event will be easy.

Excuse me while I cackle into insanity because this is about as far from the case as you can get.

Worse, it gets harder. Each Day One you sit at your desk and merrily type and from then the words take more effort. You could try being flowery, being more descriptive or just not look at your word count but it doesn’t help. I could draw a graph with a straight line on a perfect diagonal but you’d still get the point.

Do not expect it to be easy and don’t be afraid to fail. You’ve still achieved a hell of a lot, even if you look back at your file later and only a few hundred words are usable. Don’t be afraid to shut your novel in a metaphorical drawer. Right now you’ll either thing it’s the best thing since sliced bread or the biggest pile of dog crap found in history. Later, you’ll find it’s actually a happy medium between the two and while much won’t be usable, some of it will be.

Those words are like gold-dust and the second/third/fourth/fifth/twenty-first draft is always better. I know, for example, that what I wrote this month was crap but seeds have been sewed for later: I have plot points I’d never considered linking events I was only going to mention in passing and that is the true magic of being a writer, to think out of the box.

Plus this whole thing will give you a sense of the huge undertaking that writing can be. I mentioned before the average novel is around 115k. That’s over double the traditional NaNo length, think of how many complexities, how many extra characters, scenes and plot points you’d need to add. Then welcome to draft two.

For now, validate your file and remember the NaNo word counter is not gospel or infallible. I put what Scrivener told me was over 50k in for it to come out at 47k. Fortunately they have a random text generator this year to make things a tad easier and on Wednesday comes the winners’ goodies and, most importantly, the badges; displaying those is what makes my month.

If you didn’t take part but plan to in July then this is the right time. Start plotting your stories, start sketching out characters. Don’t walk blind into this as I have done but do the right prep in the run up. At the very least, remember, you can easily donate to the program or just send a parcel to one of the writers, it’s entirely up to you. Think of Camp as the dry run before November and remember, everyone has a book inside them!


Next up I’m going to be a review for WWZ the audiobook 😀 It’s mega-awesome. I also have some other ideas but as usual, give me a should if you have suggestions.

I was going to suggest perhaps with the number of writers, we could get a cabin together for the Camp NaNo in July, five of us who could write and who folk could follow.



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