What Camp NaNoWriMo Has Taught Me

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I’m sure most of us have heard about NaNoWriMo but less are familiar with Camp NaNo. Though if you’ve clicked here, I’ll assume you know at least what it is. If not, you can read up here.

We are now finishing Camp NaNoWriMo in July. It’s the second camp I’ve done this year (April) and I’ll still be participating in November. It’s a lot of word counts that are adding up to my writing projects.

NaNoWriMo will always have a place in my heart since it was the kick in the butt I needed in 2018 to actually start writing novels but Camp NaNo is slowly becoming my favorite two months of the year. It might be a little too late to start now, but you can run your own Camp and set word goals in any month you choose.

Here are some of the great things I’ve learned doing Camp and having monthly word goals to hit.

Imperfection is beautiful

Any time you are trying to hit a word count, you do have to throw a little sanity out the window. The name of the game is speed over quality — besides, that’s what edits are for. Imperfection is telling your inner editor to take a hike for a while.

First drafts are never flawless but that’s what makes them beautiful. I love the saying that first drafts are you telling the story to yourself. No one ever has to see that rough draft except you. So make it fun, make it imperfect, and make it a little insane. You can’t edit a blank page so give yourself some words to work with.

Word counts are just word counts

I used to have a fear of word counts. I believed that a good story couldn’t really be told in 50,000 words… or even 30,000… or even… you get the picture. Everywhere I looked, people were talking about how their novels were getting upwards of 100K words and still weren’t finished.

There is no perfect word count. LOTR books are crazy high (between 130K and 190K). Chronicles of Narnia clocks in under 40K. All of them are great stories. There are even fabulous stories categorized as short stories under 25K. Don’t even get me started on flash fiction.

The point is — tell a story with however many words it takes to tell that story. If you can tell a romance story in 200K words, do it. If you need only 15K/10K/5K, do it.

Camp has taught me that you can name whatever project you want. My goal this month is 75K words over multiple projects. That goal has given me the chance to write, finish, and edit two short stories at 19K words and 6K words as well as add to the word count of another project.

Finish something — it feels amazing

I don’t believe that if I had started with Camp NaNo I would have actually finished a novel. I probably would have short-changed myself and given too easy of a goal. However, for those who have been writing for a while but can’t seem to finish a project, Camp might be the perfect solution.

It wasn’t until April when I first started dabbling with short stories. They were… rough. But the feeling of telling a story in such a short amount of time (and words) and actually finishing what I wanted to say was exhilirating. I got to go through the entire emotions that I had been feeling with novels (which I wrote, edited, and published over several months) in just a short amount of time.

Some short stories took a day while others took a week or two. But in that condensed time, I could feel the excitement of finishing a story. That’s why I set my Camp goal at 75K. I knew I had a few ideas that wouldn’t turn into high word count novels and using Camp to knock out a few short stories was great. Now I’m doing the same thing in July.

The writing community is there with you

I love having months where a chunk of the writing community all joins together for different but similar goals. We share encouragement and get to feel like we aren’t writing alone. There’s a huge support group ready to give you all the resources you need.

The writing community is the best group of people I know and even if we only interact online, it’s still wonderful support and a lot of fun.

Test different ideas

As I mentioned before, there were several ideas I knew wouldn’t be full-length novel worthy… and honestly I didn’t want them to be. The great thing about Camp NaNoWriMo is that you don’t have to write all of your words on one project (you don’t ‘legally’ have to during NaNo but the point is to start and finish a story).

The flexibility of Camp has allowed me to test out four different short stories while simultaneously working on a full-length novel. I even set my word count higher because I am including all my writing on my newsletter, Patreon, and here on Medium/blogging.

Camp is a great time to test out ideas that might not make it to 50K words or that might not really feel like full story concepts. You can also use the time to start writing a novel and test out the chapters with beta readers or followers. You never know what is worth pursuing or will have an audience. If you’re writing to market, this is a great time to test out a few different things and see what happens.

If you’re participating or have found a great community during NaNo, I’d love to hear about it! It brings me tremendous joy to see others finding the stories within them and I’d love to cheer for you!

You can read some of my short stories from Camp (pen name) as well as a new one that you can get updates on publishing dates by joining my tribe. You can also support my work on Patreon and get my first novel for free.


  1. Hetty Eliot

    I feel like I would be so nervous and paralyzed knowing people are nearby or in my vicinity who are typing away like crazy. I like that you have had the revelation that word count does not mean quality of story told.

    Liked by 1 person

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