Camp NaNoWriMo ended on Monday. I wasn’t planning on taking the rest of the week off from writing but due to a family member’s health issue, I ended up doing just that. It was a good thing because I needed the break and my relative needed the love and support.
But during these last five days, I got the shakes. I felt antsy and restless. I wondered if I needed to exercise? Yep, that helped. But the feeling persisted. Is my blood sugar low? Yes, and eating helped. But still, I had the shakes. That’s when I realized it’s because I hadn’t written. Writing is such a habit now that if I don’t do it, I go into withdrawal. FRIENDS, THIS IS AWESOME.
If getting this no-writing-withdrawal was the only thing I got out of Camp NaNoWriMo, I’d consider that a TOTAL WIN, but that’s not the only thing I got from this month-long, virtual writing retreat experience. Let me share what else I received this past month by recapping the five game-changing things I did to prepare for camp this year.
#1 GAME-CHANGER: HOSTING MY OWN CABIN WAS AWESOME
Hosting my own cabin–the Badass Honey Badgers–was so worth it. I wanted to be with writers who like to support other writers, and receive support in return, and that’s exactly what happened. There were 15 of us and most of us posted updates regularly on the camp bulletin board and also gave each other support. I went online almost every day to see what my fellow campers had posted, and took time to respond back. Those few minutes I put in every day reaped excellent benefits. It kept everyone more engaged, and it kept me more engaged. One camper even said that she’d participated in Camp NaNoWriMo ten times (ten!) but she’d never been in a cabin that was this active and supportive. Thanks to Kat and all my campers for your honest updates, helpful thoughts, and kind encouragement. Write on, Honey Badgers!
#2 GAME-CHANGER: MY DAILY WRITING SCHEDULE KEPT ME ON TRACK
My Daily Writing Schedule included the day and date, my goal(s) for each day, and space to indicate whether I reached that goal. I’m glad I listened to myself and set realistic daily goals–writing 1-2 chapters per day worked out just right. Speaking of realistic, I had scheduled four days off but ended up taking off eight. Lesson learned. Whatever amount of time off you think you need, double it. Having a Daily Writing Schedule helped me so much that I just created another one for August and September. I’m happy to have discovered a writing tool that will now help me for the rest of the year.
#3 GAME-CHANGER: TRAINING BEFOREHAND HELPED A LOT
I set goals in my Daily Writing Schedule and started working on them more than a week before the start of camp. I did this because I knew that I needed to create a habit out of writing one chapter or more before I went to camp. It worked. Big thanks to my therapist for helping me get on the habit-forming bandwagon and also helping me strategize the best way to do that.
#4 GAME-CHANGER: NOT MAKING MORE COMMITMENTS WAS EASIER THAN I THOUGHT
“I can’t, I’m doing Camp NaNoWriMo” was my mantra for July, but I didn’t actually have to say it to anyone. I just kept it in mind and didn’t add anything new to my schedule. And while I tried to not plan more events or get-togethers for July, if I was finished with my writing for the day, I felt free to get together with friends on the fly. As you read under Game-Changer #2, I scheduled four days off, but ended up taking eight days off. I now know that it’s a good idea to schedule more days off than you think you need so that you don’t feel guilty when you do have to take time off. Next time, I’m going to schedule eight days off from the start.
#5 GAME-CHANGER: LOGIC AND DESIRE HELPED ME SET A MORE REALISTIC GOAL
Last year, I set 30,000 words as my goal for my first draft and I wrote 10,000 words. This year, my goal was to write/revise 35,250 words of my novel’s second draft and I ended up writing/revising 22,212 words. Am I disappointed I didn’t reach my goal? A little, but not much. The work I did helped me see what was right and wrong about Acts 1 and 2 of my novel. I now know what I need to do to write a much better, and more suspenseful, novel. Next year, I think I’ll be even better at setting my writing goal. That said, seven out of 15 of my fellow campers reached or exceeded their set goal, including my friends Edgy, Jeanie, and Sandy. (Read Jeanie’s great post about her camp experience here.) Go, Honey Badgers!
CAMP NANOWRIMO: GO OR NO GO NEXT YEAR?
To recap, I more than doubled the amount of words I wrote/revised last year at camp, discovered a writing tool that’s going to help me in the future, felt supported and encouraged by my cabin mates, and loved supporting and encouraging them as well. In fact, helping other writers gave me such a boost that I’m realizing even more that I need to incorporate it on a regular basis into my writing life. Most importantly, writing every day now feels like a habit. If I don’t write, I go into withdrawals. I’m thrilled about this. That’s five benefits in one month. Two or three would have convinced me, but five?! Heck yeah, Camp NaNoWriMo is a GO. Hope to see you there next year!
Peg Cheng is the author of The Contenders, a middle-grade novel centered on the question, can enemies become friends? She is currently writing another novel that is a re-imagining of the Snow White fairy tale set in 1980s Seattle. Peg is also a writing coach giving help, encouragement, and feedback to writers from all walks of life.