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  • Kathryn Dodson

Camp NaNoWriMo

Updated: Jun 6, 2018


I'm trying something new this month. NaNoWriMo, National Novel Writing Month, takes place in November each year. I didn't participate last year because I thought it was only prompt based writing. This means that they give you the subject and you write exclusively on that subject.


I am not that kind of writer. I have so much to say that there's never enough time for the things I feel are important to get on the page. I definitely don't want to spend time writing about some subject I couldn't care less about.


It turns out that I had the wrong idea about NaNoWriMo, it's really just about setting and reaching your writing goals. Fortunately, I found Camp NaNoWriMo, which does much the same thing during the month of April. I signed up and was put in a "cabin" with other writers. The cabin is group of up to 20 writers. There is a place for cabin members to have an ongoing, online conversation.


I set my goal at 50,000 words, which was the recommended number, and also about what I needed to write if my novel was going to be 80,000 words long. The first week of April I was on spring break with my family and did not write much, but I started in earnest in week two. I generally don't write on the weekends because I want to spend that time with my family, so I divided the 50,000 words by the 16 weekdays left in the month, and calculated that I would need to write 3,125 words a day.


I started great, averaging 3,400 words per day my first week. This is Friday of my second week and the first three days of the week I averaged 3,214 words per day, but yesterday I only made it to 1,507 words per day. BECAUSE I FINISHED MY BOOK!


This is a real dilemma, first because I wanted to meet my writing goal, and second because my novel is not long enough at its current 63,204 words. According to the literature out there, contemporary fiction novels should be in the 80,000-100,000 word count range, although I've heard that anything over 70,000 is acceptable.


I'm not overly worried about this, because I've got an entire scene that I've written that I need to work into the novel, and although it is substantially finished, I still need to figure out the best way to tie up some loose ends (epilogue? one more chapter?). But the story definitely wrote itself to an end that I really enjoy. The process is interesting, because I've read that many authors completely plan out their novels in advance or even write the endings first. While I've had a good road map for the first two novels I've written, I never know what the ending will be until I get there.


In the end, I may not meet my Camp NaNoWriMo goals, but it definitely pushed me to get to the next step in my writing. Unlike my first novel, this one is going to undergo some major changes, including combining two characters into one. I'm excited to get started on this, although I'm giving myself half of yesterday and all of today off to get a little distance from the novel.


I have enjoyed being part of the "camp" even if I don't meet my goals and win any of the cool camp prizes they have planned. Writing can be a lonely venture but I am starting to find a community online. My two critique partners, found through the Women's Fiction Writer's Association, not only help me with my novel but share their writing experiences. Camp NaNoWriMo introduced me to a whole group of people committed to writing. It was fun and I'll definitely do it again.


UPDATE: Things were going great in Camp NaNoWriMo. I was writing every day and my word count was almost 40,000 with more than a week to go, AND THEN MY BOOK ENDED!!! So, I missed my goal of writing 50,000 words in a month, but I sure enjoyed typing the last two! THE END