Write What You Want; How I Won (But Really Lost) Camp NaNoWriMo

I lost at Camp NaNo this year, guys.

Well, technically, I “won.” I have my word count validated and the winner’s goodies secured. And in all fairness to myself, I did write the 20,000 words I marked down as my goal (after a slight adjustment to my word goal that I felt was necessary to keep my morale going). But it’s not like my past NaNo victories because I don’t feel like I won.

It’s not like last November when I reached that final word of the month and did a triumphant air-punch, then popped open a bottle of champagne to celebrate. This month I hit my goal, validated the word count on Camp NaNo’s site, and then shrugged and continued on with my day.

How I Did Camp NaNo This Month

It’s not that I’ve become disenchanted with NaNoWriMo’s quantity-over-quality approach to writing. I still think that participating in the various NaNo events is the single most wonderful thing I do for my writing.

But this month was not a typical month in the life of Taylor. This month was challenging – and while I thrive on challenges, I find that my writing suffers while I’m focusing on other areas of my life that are in flux.

So instead of sitting down at the computer each day and opening up my Camp NaNo project with the enthusiasm of a child who wakes at 6am on Christmas morning, I met my writing with a sense of disdain and self-loathing. I’d churn out a thousand words just to be done with my project for the day so I could tend to other areas of my life.

And after a week of writing, I realized that I didn’t even want to be working on my Camp NaNo project. I had a million other stories in my head that I would have rather started writing. But I’d already committed myself to the project and decided to just push through to my 20k words.

What that resulted in was a bunch of limp prose and poorly formed plots.

Essentially, I feel like I wrote a bunch of crap just to “win.”

When I look at what I produced this month, I’m in no way proud of it. This isn’t even a story I look at and say: “It needs a lot of work, but with some intense editing and revision, it’ll be good.” No, this is something I look at and say: “I can do absolutely nothing with this.”

How I Should Have Done Camp NaNo This Month

Looking back on this month, I’m tempted to say that I shouldn’t have even done Camp NaNo at all. That I should have focused exclusively on the other areas of my life that needed tending to. But I’m of the belief that a disciplined writer sits down and writes every day, even when they don’t feel inspired to do so. Even when producing each word is as painful as pulling teeth.

But I’m also of the belief that when you’re inspired and truly interested in your writing, the quality of your work skyrockets.

I guess what it comes down to is this: there are times when you need to push through with a piece and times when you need to let it sit and bake a bit more.

Thinking about it, I probably should have stopped partway through Camp NaNo and focused on other stories that I was more inspired by rather than focusing on this one for the sake of winning.

Sure, I can get the “Camp NaNo 2014 Winner” badge and cash in on some of their other goodies now, but at what cost? I spent hours this month writing something I hated and that I doubt I’ll ever come back to.

Technically, I won Camp Nano. But I feel like I lost it.

What I Learned From Camp NaNo This Month

While it’s important to stick with projects when they get difficult, you have to be in touch with your inner writer and gauge what the best use of your time is. If I had switched gears part way through Camp NaNo, I may not have come out of it a “winner,” but I probably would have come away with a piece of writing I was proud of and wanted to continue working with.

So my writing advice today boils down to this: while goals are important, don’t let them run or ruin your writing. Write what you want to write. Write something because it you love it. Write something because it makes you want to get out of bed early and stay up late to get more words down. Write for yourself, not for the “win,” and you’ll come out ahead.


How was your Camp NaNo experience this month? Did you win? Lose? Not even participate? Most importantly, what did you learn? Tell us in the comments below!

2 thoughts on “Write What You Want; How I Won (But Really Lost) Camp NaNoWriMo

  1. Well said! I totally agree, you should write something you love and write it for yourself, to make yourself happy. I don’t participate in NaNo but I think your advice can be applied to whenever your writing. I here a lot of writers say to love what you are writing because you are going to have to read it a thousand times.

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