It’s Day 8 of Camp NaNoWriMo and you know what I’ve realized?
NaNoWriMo doesn’t work for me.
It works for other people.
But it doesn’t work for me.
And that’s totally cool with me.
It’s cool because by going through this, I’m discovering the kind of writer I am.
I still support the concept of NaNoWriMo. I love the camaraderie and collective energy of thousands of other people around the world trying to write and complete their novel (or other writing project) in one month. I like seeing all the tweets from writers struggling and triumphing over their fears and doubts, and getting the words on the page. That is all very cool.
What doesn’t work for me are the word counts. The bean counting. The quantitative indicators of success. For some people, it’s very motivating to log in how many words you write each day and to see the line go up on your handy Camp NaNoWriMo project stats graph. But for me, it has had the opposite effect.
When I started writing full-time back in February, I often did not meet my word count goals for the day. And even if I wrote something that I liked, I felt disappointed at the end of the day that I didn’t meet my word count. After a while, I realized the word count goal was hindering me, not helping me. What does it matter how many words I write per day? I realized that the number of words does not indicate or validate the quality of my work.
So, I let the whole word count thing go.
Then I thought, maybe I should try setting page count goals?
Tried it. It didn’t work either.
Then, I realized that I’m someone who loves finishing things. So, I tried finishing one chapter each time I sat down to write.
It didn’t matter if the chapter was 200 words or 2,000 words, if I finished it, and it was what I wanted to write that day, then I had met my goal and I felt good.
The Chapter Model helped me finally get into a groove where I was writing a chapter a day. Right before I started Camp NaNoWriMo, I had finished Act 1 of SEVEN DUDES and 20 chapters. But this past week, I went back to the Word Count Model and it hung me up. After eight days of Camp NaNoWriMo, I’d written just three chapters and a total of 3139 words. I felt down and disappointed, just like I did when I first started writing full-time five months ago.
The NaNoWriMo model works for some people.
It just doesn’t work for me.
I’m letting the Word Count model go. But I’m not dropping out of camp all together. I like finishing things, remember?
I’m still going to post my word count every day on my Camp NaNoWriMo project page, I’m just not going to judge it or feel the need to reach my word count goal. I’m also going to continue conversing with my cabin mates (five out of twelve of us have been actively posting and chatting) online because it’s encouraging and fun.
But will I do Camp NaNoWriMo again?
And that’s totally cool with me.
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 the founder of Prelaw Guru, a law school application consulting company, and the author of The No B.S. Guides for prelaw students.
Jelly beans photo by FotoDB.de.