5 Things I Learned At Summer Camp

Hello again! As some of you may know, I did something kind of crazy last month: I participated in Camp NaNoWriMo. My goal was to write 50,000 (later changed to 20,000) words of a novel within 31 days.

I’m sure you are all wondering if I actually wrote 20,000 words, or just copy-and-pasted the same sentence several thousand times.

Did I write 20,000 words?


Did I fail?


Really? You originally had a goal of 50,000 words, then changed it to 20,000, and you still couldn’t achieve that goal? Sounds like failure to me.

Heck, Nick Miller was even able to finish Z is for Zombie.

While the above are both fantastic points, I beg to differ.

Because while I may not have reached 20,000 words or have finished a terrible zombie novel, I succeeded nonetheless.


Because he was so popular last time, I asked the ever wonderful Nick Miller (with special guest star Winston) to once again illustrate each of my points.

On that note, how did I succeed I may ask? Let me share you a few things I learned:



While I didn’t reach 20,000 words, I did hit wind up with just over 11,500. Eleven thousand, five hundred words that didn’t exist prior to July 1st. Words that created a world and characters and a story that before July 1st had not been granted life. Now, while their stories aren’t complete and some of their personalities are a little haphazard at the moment, they still exist. While various portions of the story are missing, like scene transitions and major plot points, I managed to write a beginning, a middle (albeit a murky middle), and an end. Which brings me to point 2.



Ideation is my strong suit. Great story ideas and concepts come to me as naturally as freckles on fair skin. What I struggle with is taking those self-proclaimed brilliant ideas and actually fleshing them out. Taking those winning thoughts and twisting them into a story is fine for the first couple of pages (as I have a tendency to write chronologically), and by page ten I give up because I have no idea what direction this so-called amazing story is headed. Outlines for research papers were never quite habit forming in school, which is why a majority of my projects mirrored my personal writing style. However this time, I broke from tradition and wrote sporadically and scene by scene. That change in behavior while completely uncomfortable was extremely freeing, and led to a fairly satisfying rough ending.



As mentioned above, I have a bad habit of writing chronologically (it’s right up there with my anxious habit of hair pulling and absentminded forgetfulness). I like building upon the momentum from the scene before, like a play. However, sometimes a story isn’t all about the build, and for someone that spends too much time agonizing over symbolism (I have a raggedy book of baby names and meanings from when I was kid that has been exasperated through and through from my early writing years while in search of the perfect protagonist name) I get caught up in the details too much and forget that the story has to move forward. So, for camp, I forced myself to write whatever came into mind. I gave my characters random names that fit for the time being, and kept plugging away. I wrote an introduction, and then wrote a random scene that probably will be placed somewhere in chapter nine. Then came a surprisingly inspired (but as mentioned above, rough) ending. However, after the ending I jumped right back into the realm of chapters two through six approximately, and wrote a boring though necessary description. Had I not done this, I would have barely hit 1100 words, let alone over 11,000.



I don’t have one of those glamorous writer lives where I spend all my time in a coffee shop or in an exotic country writing away to my heart’s content whenever it pleases me (at least not yet. I can continue to dream that will come someday 😉 I work a full-time, 8-5 Monday through Friday job that delves into editing and writing and story creation on a daily basis. Some may view that as the perfect job for someone who loves to write, and I do enjoy what I do-don’t get me wrong. However, staring at a computer screen after a long day of staring at an even bigger computer screen isn’t always the most desirable. On top of that, sometimes my job dries out my daily dose of creative juices, and the mischievous mistress of inspiration is nowhere to be found come 7:00 in the evening. One may suggest, “Well, just write on the weekends when you have off!”, which is a fantastic idea, it really is-until you factor in that friend you promised to help move, that errand you most desperately need to run, and that boyfriend you should probably pay attention to you since you know, you love him and what not. In short, I’m busy, but I pushed myself to find the time. I stayed up late and sacrificed sleep. I gave movies and television a break (quite easy during the summer months). I didn’t go out with friends for drinks, and I may have cut a phone conversation with La Boyfriend short on one or two occasions (thank you again, honey). I wrote when I didn’t have any sort of idea in my head, and I wrote when I didn’t want to. I wrote 1,000 words, and then 1,000 more. It was tiring, and exhausting, but while I didn’t hit 20,000-boy was it rewarding.



Most importantly, I got back to my roots on why I love writing in the first place. Aside from the obvious reasons like forcing my opinion on an unsuspecting reader (see what I did there? ;), what I really love about writing is simply being able to tell a story. Whatever that story may be, be it silly or serious or completely and utterly stupid. I love telling stories because it is fun to create worlds and characters and bring them into existence. It’s fun to explore scenarios and how they play out, and to vicariously go on adventures through your heroes that for some reason can’t take place in your world. I love writing, and while I didn’t get 20,000 words, I had fun creating the 11,500 that I did.

Overall, I am very glad I did Camp NaNoWriMo, and I look forward to competing again and hopefully hitting my goal.


However, even if I don’t, I know that at the very least it will force me to learn a thing or two, which ultimately is success either way.


The Shoe

Nick Miller flower power

P.S. Anyone have any fun Camp NaNoWriMo stories to share? Post them below in the comments-I would love to hear your results!