Lessons learned from Camp NaNoWriMo (feat. my awesome cabin mates)

Last month, three of my close writing friends and I participated in Camp NaNoWriMo.

Yes, it sort of sounds like a sneeze.

But it’s actually short for National Novel Writing Month and consists of a month-long challenge to write as much as you can. In November – the official month – it’s a whopping 50K words.

But the Camp version takes place in April and July with two main differences:

  1. You can set whatever goal you’d like – whether it’s a certain word count, number of pages edited, or even minutes spent working.
  2. Cabins are available to join with writing friends – old or new – so that you can cheer each other on, share pages, brainstorm ideas, etc.

It was an extremely fun and productive month, so my cabin mates and I are coming together today to share lessons learned from the experience.

Let’s kick things off!

Kelsey Atkinskelsey-atkins-author

Goal: 200 pages edited of her sequel, Chasing the Light

This was my first time with Camp NaNo, and overall, I enjoyed it. But I gave myself some pretty high expectations, and I think that’s ultimately where I went wrong. I was pleasantly surprised when I found out I could set a revision goal instead of a writing goal, and I set out to revise 200 pages in hopes that I would get my entire WIP revised. It didn’t take long for me to get stuck re-editing the same chapter over and over again. When I realized I wasn’t going to reach my goal, I decided to start counting every page I edited whether it was the first or fifth time. In the end, I made it to my page count goal, but I didn’t make it through my entire manuscript.

At first I felt as though I didn’t actually win Camp NaNo even though I did reach my goal, but then I remembered my feelings toward my WIP before camp started. To be honest, I was a little disappointed in it and worried it wasn’t good enough. Throughout camp – and the process of re-editing that one chapter I loathed with a passion – I fell in love with my story all over again. Even though I “left” camp feeling disappointed, I couldn’t have asked for a better outcome.

Joy E. Rancatorejoy-e-rancatore-official-author-headshot-lo-res

Goal: 40K words written of a new novella based on secondary characters from her novel

I did not win Camp NaNo. I did not reach the word count goal I set for myself. But … I did complete a first draft that I am pleased with and excited to add to and revise in a few months. I learned a few lessons, too, which is always a great thing, right? I learned that it’s not always enough to know the what before writing a book under time pressure, you really need to have the how nailed down beforehand as well.

Another lesson Camp taught me is writing a story using a character from another work helps your revision of the first story immensely. And, I learned that camping … and writing … is way more fun with friends! Thank you, Tauri, Kelsey and Devon, for being incredible cabinmates this month!

Devon Harry devon-harry-writer

Goal: 100K words written of her new fantasy draft

The number one thing I learned was that when I push myself, I can write. A lot. I’m shocked to say that I beat my enormous goal of 100,000 words, even with a few days to spare. Dedication and the elimination of distractions are the two things that kept me going. The second biggest thing I learned is that even though I wrote a lot of words, looking back on my finished draft, those words are pretty bad. When writing, quality beats quantity. Every time.

As for me, I set a goal to write 20K words in July. To my immense surprise, I hit that on Day 10. So for the hell of it – thinking I’d never make it – I doubled my goal to 40K. I hit that on Day 20. And throughout the month of July I ended up with a grand total of 50,146 words!

But the process taught me a lot, and I learned three major lessons during Camp which you can learn about in more detail over at Joy’s blog.

To summarize:

  •  Don’t write before you are ready. I first tried Camp NaNo in April and failed miserably. Because my story wasn’t fully cooked. Giving myself the extra time to get to know the story made a huge difference.


  • Never limit yourself. Before July, I thought my max daily word count was 1,250 and even that was a struggle. But when I was sitting down to write every day, I started to pick up speed – with a few days over 5K. So don’t automatically assume you can only do so much. You may surprise yourself.


  • Competition and camaraderie breed success. I got to work with the three wonderful ladies above and learned writing isn’t as solitary as I’d thought. Their progress fueled my own – partly due to my competitive nature – and fostered a safe place to share ideas and cheer each other on.


In the end, I would definitely encourage you to look into Camping with a few friends

next time. By surrounding yourself with people who have similar goals, their enthusiasm becomes your own, and you can draw on those friendships for inspiration, motivation and accountability.

Which is – after all – what Camp is all about.

How was your Camp NaNo experience? What lessons did you learn? Share below! 

6 thoughts on “Lessons learned from Camp NaNoWriMo (feat. my awesome cabin mates)

  1. Joy E. Rancatore says:

    Lovely post, my dear!! What a fun month and how awesome that we each learned new lessons for our writing journeys and walked away with a little something “extra” in our camping packs for next time! You ladies are the best!

    Liked by 1 person

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