Lessons From Camp NaNoWriMo

2014-Winner-Vertical-BannerForgive the brevity of my post this week, but I recently completed Camp NaNoWriMo, and I’m still recovering. (As in giving my mind some time to rest!)  I’m excited to report I finished with 25,216 words written on my novel. (I had set my word count goal at 25K.)

Although the manuscript is not even close to completion, I feel I reached a milestone. My goal is for the first draft to be between 80,000 and 90,000 words. I suspect with edits the word count will decrease, and then increase.

Here are a few things I learned (and some things I knew that were reinforced) from the Camp NaNo experience:

  • First drafts really are terrible. I’m saying it nicely, but let’s say I totally agree with Anne Lamott.
  • Don’t worry that the first draft is horrible. Just write. Don’t edit. Write.
  • Writing a novel takes persistence and hard work. A writer must be intentional and set specific goals. I’ve found that setting a word count is better than setting a time. Example: I will write 1000 words per day rather than I will write two hours each day.
  • No man (or woman) is an island—we need the support and encouragement of others. A huge thanks to both my weekly critique group and to my online friends who encouraged me through this.
  • While being a panster (writing by the seat of your pants) works for some writers, it’s helpful to have at least a general outline.
  • Stories often take you on an unknown journey. I already know the final destination of this book, but I’m amazed and the twists and turns it is taking.
  • Keep writing. Don’t stop when you meet your goal, set a new one.
  • Plan ahead for your blog posts, otherwise you won’t blog. (Lesson well learned!)

I’m still working on the novel, but I plan to be back to my regular blogging schedule each Wednesday, plus First Friday Fiction.

What are some tips that have helped you as a writer? Please share in the comments.


10 thoughts on “Lessons From Camp NaNoWriMo

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  1. Congrats for completing Camp NaNoWriMo and thanks for sharing your lessons learned. These are helpful tips, two of which I need to work on–setting a word count rather than hours and planning ahead with blog posts. Blessings on your continued writing experiences.


    1. Thanks, Sherrey. I still need to plan ahead for blog posts. Found the word count thing works much better for me. My 500 Words taught me that! 🙂


  2. Congrats Joan! You are an inspiration to those of us who are good at starting but no so good at finishing. Keep up the good work and may God bless your faithful persistence. I will keep reading in hopes some of it might rub off on me too. 🙂


    1. Thanks, Angel. I plan to post my monthly progress here in order to help hold me accountable. I’m bad about finishing projects also. Some day I’ll share how long this novel has been in the making (from when I first got the idea.) Thanks for the encouragement!


  3. …And thank you for all those helpful tips. I found that writing a word target rather than setting a time really worked for me. You’ll like to know that’s what Hemingway did too;)


    1. Didn’t know Hemingway did that. Hey we’re in good company! The 500 Word Challenge helped me in that before that I had tried to write a certain number of minutes/hours. I could write slowly for an hour and not achieve much. With the word count, I find it much more attainable.


  4. Well done Joan great achievement, Nanowrimo taught me that I can finish something and now Im into editing its a whole different kind of finish, different but still a challenging process. I guess when you have a passion never give up, keep writing and one day you will look back and say WOW I wrote that? I plod along every day and do what I can to head to the finish line. Good luck with the story and I can’t wait to read it.


    1. Kath – In January when I began the 500 Word challenge, I wrote at random. But it taught me I could write every day. With Camp NaNo, I learned I can focus on one project and accomplish something. The editing can be fun, and I look forward to when that time comes. Thanks for the wishes and I look forward to when I will be able to share it.


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