Camp NaNoWriMo 2018: Week 1 recap

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Although I’ve given myself permission to fail (better) at Camp NaNoWriMo, I’m actually doing pretty well! Here are my stats for the first 10 days of this 30-day writing challenge (not including today):

  • Total words written: 7,024
  • Words left to write: 17,976
  • Average words per day: 702
  • Days without writing: 2
  • Mental breakdowns: 0
  • Emotional outbursts: 0
  • Moments of utter despair: 1

Monday through Thursday I wrote at least 800 words each day. Friday I went to a coffee shop after work to write, but foolishly left the rough draft of my novel at home. My partner had homework to do, so I busied myself with submissions instead of writing. I’m trying to stick to a regular sleep schedule, so I went to bed when we got home instead of staying up too late.

Saturday the endometriosis pain returned, so I didn’t do anything except watch documentaries on Netflix. (To be fair one of those documentaries was a literal autopsy of a dead person, so it was definitely useful for my writing.) Sunday I was still in pain and had a serious case of brain fog, so I only wrote about 200 words. Yesterday I wrote about 1,500 words, so ultimately I’m not too far behind where I should be to hit my 25,000 word goal.

I’m finding that holding myself to 800 words a day does feel somewhat like a stretch, but it’s a doable stretch that leaves me feeling accomplished for the rest of the day. (And that’s not including other writing projects, like this blog and the Tuesday Night Monologue Project!) If things keep going well, I may try to up my daily word count to 1,000 words a day.

I’ve mostly been writing early in the morning from home, but I’ve also written from my coworking space, especially on days I need coffee (like yesterday).

So for now I carry on, and we’ll see how this next week goes!

Camp NaNoWriMo 2018: Fail better

If you want to be a writer, you have to be comfortable with failure. Failure isn’t bad, though. It (hopefully) means you’re learning and growing. But more importantly, failure means you’re trying.

I’ve been participating in National Novel Writing Month since 2007, and Camp NaNoWriMo since it began around 2010. The goal for NaNoWriMo is to write 50,000 words in 30 days. For Camp NaNo, you can set your own goal. Out of the 11 years I’ve done NaNo, I’ve only succeeded twice. That’s an 18 percent success rate, which is preeeeeetty bad. For Camp NaNo, my success rate is in the same ballpark, even with being able to set my own goal.

Camp Nanowrimo 2018 Banner

And yet every April, July, and November, I throw my hat in the ring, not caring too much if I “win.” My goal is rarely to complete a project; it’s usually something along the lines of “get my butt back in gear” or “for goddess’s sake get SOMETHING, ANYTHING written.” My goal, in other words, is to fail better.

In 2017, I heard from several literary agents who enjoyed my short story collection but wanted to know if I had a novel. This did not surprise me (the novel part; I’m always surprised when someone likes my writing), but it did light a fire under my ass to finish revising the novel I’ve been working on since grad school. I’ve been through many, many drafts and while I know this absolutely not be the final draft, I’m hoping it’s maybe the third-to-last draft.

Even though the novel itself is cooperating beautifully (probably because of all the previous drafts), I’ve been struggling to stay on track with my (self-imposed) revision goals. I wanted to revise 13,000 words a month, but I have yet to hit that target. Like, at all. I really don’t want to be writing this novel for the next ten years, so enter Camp NaNoWriMo.

By and large, I’m content with steady progress, even if it’s always slower than I wish (I want it to be done RIGHT NOW, DAMMIT). Unfortunately, my progress has been less than steady. It’s come in fits and starts, and there are huge blank swathes of time on my progress tracker (a Google Docs spreadsheet). Since I know I’m unlikely to hit 50,000 words this month, and because this isn’t a shitty first draft, I set my goal at 25,000 words revised for the month, which equals 800-850 words a day. It’s higher than my normal word count goal but still doable in less than an hour, and will count for 2 months of revision to help me “catch up” to where I want to be.

Who knows? If this Camp goes well, perhaps I’ll stick to the 800 words a day goal and finish revising earlier than expected! (Hah. Yeah right.) But even if I don’t hit 25,000 words, I’ve already got more than 3,000, and it’s only day four. I’m already ahead of my progress for March. And so I write on, and hope to fail better.

NaNoWriMo, obligation, and me

I’ve been hibernating for the past few months, thanks mostly due to a string of awful, seemingly never-ending migraines and the depression and hopelessness that always come along with them. But I am feeling better, and happy to get back to my normal routines and activities.

Maybe this will sound familiar:

It’s October. That means NaNoWriMo is around the corner. I don’t feel like killing myself to write a novel, but how can I call myself a writer if I can’t do it? All those other people can.

Let me rephrase that:

Does writing a 50,000-word novel in 30 days make me a “real” writer?

The answer is, “No.” Writing makes you a real writer. It doesn’t matter how or when or why you do that writing, as long as you do it (semi) consistently.

NaNoWriMo is an incredible event in many ways. The community support is fantastic, and I know for sure that thousands of people who may never have written otherwise have produced multiple novels.

Feeling guilty about not writing 50k in 30 days is definitely NOT in the spirit of the event, by the way. So if you feel bad because you consistently burn out around November 15 (I’m looking at you, self), STOP.

If you’re using NaNoWriMo to help you develop a daily writing practice, try something more achievable for your situation. There’s 750words.com as well as Debbi Ridpath Ohi’s customizable daily word count challenge.

If you already have a daily (or at least consistent) writing practice, why do you feel bad? You’re already putting in the time and the words year-round.

I’ve proven to myself time and again that word count goals just do not work for me. When I set time goals for myself, such as write for a half hour each day, I knock it out of the park. Sure, I have bad days and migraine days and days where the words just won’t come. But I show up pretty much every day, and that adds up.

Maybe you I feel obligated to participate in NaNoWriMo because “everyone” is doing it.

And there is real value in participating. When I was in undergrad, NaNoWriMo helped me prove to myself that I could not only write one novel, but multiple novels. And that’s huge.

Every November I make a half-hearted attempt at NaNoWriMo, and every year I feel guilty for not hitting 50k, or because I’m working on the same novel I was working on four years ago (albeit vastly evolved). I do get something out of the event: usually the burst of writing and energy I put into my project at the beginning of the month helps me figure out my character and plot.

But for actually writing the damn thing? I’m slow. I work in small chunks, and then ponder. Then I do some more work. Then I ponder some more. NaNoWriMo does not leave room for this process to run its course.

And that’s okay, because that’s not what NaNo is about. The NaNo way works for a lot of people and facilitates a ton of novels every year, and that is totally awesome.

But it’s probably time for me to admit that NaNoWriMo doesn’t work for me anymore, at least not in the way it’s really meant to. I just need someone to remind me of this come October 2016.

Have you ever participated in NaNoWriMo? Does it work for you?