I’ve never been one for insane writing goals or intense, days-long sprints. I read blogs where an author claims to have written a novel in a month and roll my eyes. Even NaNoWriMo … I refused to participate because I thought 50,000 words in one month was ridiculous, pushing yourself and your story to the point of burnout.
But when my closest writing friends suggested participating in Camp, I shrugged my shoulders and said “Why not?” The great part about Camp is that you can set your own goals: words, pages, minutes, whatever. So I could actually pick something that fit with my process.
I am a creature of habit. So process is everything to me.
Who knew I’d be writing this novel entirely differently and challenging even myself?
I’ve been proved wrong, and shame on me for being so set in my ways. Camp has truly been a revolutionary experience for me. So I am here today to share three key lessons I’ve learned this July.
Don’t write before you are ready
DISCLOSURE: This is actually not my first time doing Camp. I participated this past April but failed miserably, barely reaching 5,000 words. And in retrospect, it was because my novel wasn’t fully cooked. Sure, I’d been thinking about it, researching, planning since last summer. I even took a trip to New Orleans—walking through the city, taking ghost tours, attending voodoo ceremonies—for research. But months later, it still wasn’t ready. I didn’t know my characters well enough. I didn’t have a clear vision of my plot. So when I sat down to write … I got nowhere.
It was only in June when the words started really coming. And I still didn’t know much. In fact, I started writing this novel with way less planning than I had for my first two. Usually I have a very complete outline, character profiles, etc. I didn’t have any of that yet.
But I finally understood its essence. And that was enough to start.
I use the Three Act Structure and The Hero’s Journey to write my novels, and I was able to finish drafting Act One and outline the first few chapters of Act Two in June. So I went into Camp with a plan. Little did I know, I’d accomplish much more than that.
By the way, you can learn more about my camp project here.
Never limit yourself
Before now, I’ve typically capped out at 1,000 to 1,250 words each day, and oftentimes, I’ve struggled to reach even that. So when I went into Camp this month, I assumed that would stay the same. Knowing that – due to travel and family visiting – I’d only really be able to write 22 out of 31 days, I made a goal of 20,000.
To my immense surprise, I hit that goal on Day 10. That’s right, I wrote 20,000 words in ten days. So much for my self-imposed limits! It’s true, the first few days, I did lose steam around my typical thousand. But then I started to pick up speed. And I realized that this story was bleeding from my fingers because I was sitting down to do the work EVERY.SINGLE.DAY. I was spending so much time with the story that it was there waiting for me with open arms each time I opened the file. By writing more often – and treating it like a challenge – I’ve been writing more daily than I’ve ever done before. So, I didn’t stop when I reached my goal. Instead, I actually doubled it, challenging myself to do even more. Yesterday I reached my updated goal of 40,000 words and will continue to write through the end of the month.
Competition and camaraderie breed success
But that’s not the only reason behind my uptick in word count. You see, I have three other fantastic cabin mates. And one in particular is absolutely killing it! I have no doubt she will meet her goal of 100K. But in those first few days, I was so impressed with her progress that it fueled my own.
You can say I’m a little competitive … and it’s true. But not only has Camp provided a healthy outlet for my competitive nature, it’s fostered a community of sharing, brainstorming and cheerleading that nurtures writing more than anything.
By surrounding yourself with people who have similar goals, their enthusiasm becomes your own. After all, that’s the main reasons behind Camp: drawing on your friendships for inspiration, motivation and accountability.
Represented by Rachel Ekstrom Courage at Folio Literary Management.
Check out all of Tauri’s great blog posts on her website and keep up with her in all her social places!