For those who don’t know, Camp NaNoWriMo is an offshoot event of NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month), which occurs in April and July. During NaNoWriMo, a writer aims to write a 50,000 word novel in the 30 days of November, the goals in Camp NaNoWriMo are much more flexible. You can write a short story collection, poetry, script, etc, and set your own word limit to suit the project you’re working on. There’s an emphasis on the writing groups or ‘camps’, where you all club together and write at the same time.
I attempted Camp NaNoWriMo in July, with the goal of writing 50,000 words on a novel that I had previously written a synopsis for, but had never actually got around to writing. I did miss the first hurdle by not having friends who were interested in writing a big project with me, but I soldiered on regardless.
I didn’t know it, but I had unwittingly set myself up for failure. Yes, I had a solid synopsis to follow, but that was all I had. I did not set a writing schedule, or factor in the social things, illness or downtime in my plan. I had a good writing pace, writing between 800-1,000 words a day, but in order to meet my lofty word goal within the month, I had to write 1,600 words every day. I rarely, if ever, managed to reach that number.
I lost days due to burnout, especially after the dreaded 10th day, where I’ve heard a lot of writers struggle. Not to mention that I accidently lost two chapters, and my laptop screen cracked. I had to jerry-rig a monitor set up with an old TV, a mechanical keyboard and wireless mouse. I used that setup for my writing until October, while I was waiting to get my new laptop.
When I got to Day 20, it dawned on me that I had failed. I had failed, and it really frustrated me. I hit a roadblock with the novel when I realised it would need structural changes. The novel was a labour of love and I burned myself out. However, once I finished wallowing in self-pity, I knew that not all was lost. I did manage to write almost half of my novel. Even though I knew there was a lot still to fix, I had some great, vivid chapters that I am proud of.
I’ve learned how much I can write when I set my mind to it, and this experience has shown me how important a work-life balance is. I also need to be far more vigilant in saving and backing up my work. I do not want to lose my work again and have to rewrite chapters.
I will have the novel finished at some point. I’m not going to abandon it, because it is a story that I have wanted to tell since I was a teenager and has a special place in my heart. However, in the long run I’ll be focusing on smaller word counts, and gradually increasing them until I can reach and structure a novel-sized work. If I do decide to participate in Camp NaNoWriMo again, I will be a much more diligent planner!
Jen Hughes is a writer and poet from Ayrshire who has been passionate about writing since she could hold a pencil. She is in her final year of her English Literature and Film & TV Studies degree at University of Glasgow. She has been performing her work for four years and has been co-hosting open mic night, Words and Music, with Gayle Smith for two years. Her fiction and poetry have been published in various magazines and anthologies including Acumen, Poetry in the Time of Coronavirus (PITTOC) Volumes 1& 2, Adjacent Pineapple and more.
Her debut chapbook, “Keep on Spinning” has been published by Dreich Publishing. It is available to buy on her website through jenhugheswriter.com/shop.
If you enjoy her work, you can find more on her website jenhugheswriter.com. Or you can follow her Facebook (Jen Hughes Writing) or Instagram (@jenhugheswriting)