Camp NaNo 2021: Preparation

To prepare for a creative writing graduate program in 2022, I’m exploring process, building confidence, and searching for my productive stride, expecting a heavy workload.

My first step was a short story for a Reedsy contest (Forest of the Sorceress). This was fun and enlightening but one week isn’t enough for a finished piece, so I’m unlikely to participate again.

What drove me to be confident enough to publish that story? Haven’t a clue. Though I’m proud of the work, it could do with fresh eyes and a dozen more revisions.

So what can I do to continue my journey? Write more, of course! I’m now working seriously on a novel with the help of Camp NaNoWriMo.

What is Camp NaNoWriMo?

Camp NaNoWriMo is an event running two months a year as an offshoot of the original NaNoWriMo, short for National Novel Writing Month.

NaNoWriMo (or NaNo for short) is a challenge every November to write a novel, or at least 50,000 words which is more like half a novel, in 30 days.

Camp is a bit different in that the goals are flexible and, at least in July, you get an extra day.

The NaNoWriMo forums are filled with people who love writing, and the website hosts tools to track your word count and statistics.

I also use a spreadsheet on Google Docs to track and calculate more statistics through the month, but the NaNo website provides extra perks like badges, buddies, and groups.


I knew earlier this year that a Camp NaNo would happen in July, and was even considering participation, but somewhere along the line I forgot. My sister reminded me about the event with only a few days to spare.

After tossing around ideas about a new novel, revising City of Monsters (a 95k-word draft I wrote in December-January), or doing a short story collection, I settled on finishing a story I’ve been writing since my first NaNoWriMo in November of 2006. Or at least, starting to finish.

My goal is 1,000 words a day for a grand total of 31,000 words, which amounts to at most a third of a novel. I’m not fond of heavyweight doorstop epic fantasy, so my brand aims to fall under the 100k mark.

My usual NaNo is a deluge of words ready to overwhelm me with dread once I start to revise it. This month, I’ve set the goal low so I can outline, edit, and revise along the way. I know a final draft in one go is impossible, but I at least want to avoid the fear of further revisions.

Organization and Process

My current process involves three core tools: MediaWiki, Scrivener, and Microsoft Word.

I host a personal MediaWiki with all my worldbuilding notes. Many of the wiki pages are a chaotic, unedited mess of conflicting ideas, but it allows me a space to organize the worlds, characters, and events floating around in my head.

A wiki isn’t great for outlining or writing, but it’s super helpful for tracking ideas and looking up concepts in an attempt to maintain a consistent canon.

Scrivener is my outlining tool of choice. Although I’m not terribly fond of its word processing environment or overly complicated compilation tools, the outline view and index cards are essential.

I’m using labels and keywords to track scenes, and it’s nice to have chapter and scene synopses on index cards that I can rearrange visually. This is a work in progress since I’ve only begun to scratch the surface of the software’s power. I’ll be sure to bring it up in future blog posts.

I love Microsoft Word. It’s an amazing tool. A lot of small things appeals to me, like the controversial way it animates the motion of the writing cursor (it feels oddly natural to me) and the way it replaces double dashes with my favorite punctuation, the em-dash.

The editor helps guide good grammar and style as well as ensuring consistent spelling (particularly character names) and it’s convenient that I can use essentially the same tool online and off.

My main document is set up to look like an actual book as I write. Small pages, narrow margins, gorgeous Palatino Linotype at size 10.5, justified text, automatic hyphenation, and dropped chapter headings (I might write about how I did this; it was a bit awkward).

The comments feature has also been very helpful. When I stop writing, I leave a comment about where the story should go next, often pulling from the Scrivener synopsis with additional details.

Comments can also keep the story on track if there’s a long scene and I’m worried about getting lost in the details. And the nice thing about comments is they don’t count toward the word count, so my NaNo tracking is always honest.

How It’s Going

As I write this, I’ve finished three days of Camp NaNo with 4,114 words. That’s more than a day ahead of my goal for 1,000 words a day, which is great because I need some wiggle room in case I need to spend an entire day editing or rearranging what’s already there.

I’m still in the first chapter, which is getting a bit long, but I’m trying not to worry too much about those things. Revision might split the chapter in two. So far there are three scenes and I have one more planned before the chapter is done.

Before each scene I’ve revised the previous one, mostly cleanup and clarification. Some critical components of the first scene changed, though, so that revision was more major. The third scene remains unedited, so tomorrow(July 4) that’s where I start.

If you’re interested in learning more about Camp NaNoWriMo and the main NaNoWriMo event, check out the website here.

I will be posting weekly to explore various aspects of the creative process, such as plotting, character naming, writing tips, world building, random grammatical pedantry, and building magic systems.

Hope you’ll join me on this journey! If you want blog posts delivered to your inbox, sign up for my newsletter here.

What would you like to hear about? Please leave a comment with suggestions, and any thoughts you have on NaNo! If you prefer a private conversation, you can contact me here, and please follow me on Twitter if you’re into that sort of thing.

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