Climbing the Mountain – Camp NaNoWriMo Recap

I am so out of practice, honestly.

I’ve been floating between projects for the past year, unable to produce much of anything for all of them in the process. 2020 was no joke. I know I’ve said this before, but I still maintain that. But, then again, I’ve said that before about other years, too.

A couple of Novembers ago, I wrote Why I’m Not Doing NaNoWriMo, a post discussing NaNo and self-care. I still maintain my stance on this, too, and I don’t plan or anticipate doing NaNoWriMo 2021, but Camp NaNoWriMo is a slightly different monster. I’ve been trying to get back into writing for a while. All previous attempts the last year or so have failed, but now I’m on the other side of April, a little more excited about my projects than I was before. I can’t call this a comeback – not yet – but I’m still optimistic about returning to a routine.

And routine really is what I need.

To recap, I initially set out to write 10,000 words of my dark fantasy novel, Those Who Emerge from Ashes. I call this draft six, but there’s a lot about this attempt that is wildly different than its predecessors. I spent most of March outlining and planning things out, and on April 1st, I took off running. The result was better than anticipated. I crossed the 10k word goal by day 13, then 15k on the 21st. By then, my trajectory was slowly. I hoped I could finish the month out with 20k, but left myself with a more conservative goal of 18k. A good thing, too, as I ended the month with 18,993 words to my name.

I also had three minor goals to maintain alongside this one. First, a discord server I’m in challenged us to write at least 20 minutes a day. While I didn’t keep official track of this goal, I definitely maintained that. Second, I challenged myself to write every single day. This, again, I maintained, ending my sessions with clocking my new count into the NaNoWriMo website. Lastly, I challenged myself to write at least 350 words a day. I fell short on the very last day, but otherwise maintained this – with some close calls. I won’t give myself flack for the last day. At that point, I’d already hit all of my other goals and really did need a break.

I think it really helped to shift some of the major plot elements and reconstruct this project. 80% of the last draft has not made it into the new one so far, and a lot of the remaining 20% has been heavily altered to match these new circumstances. I can’t say it’s a new story, though, when a lot of the main idea remains the same. That said, the newness is part of what made this draft so appealing. I found new arcs and scenes to be excited about. This draft won’t be the final one, I know, but I’m starting to feel like it’s the first major step to how I’ve always envisioned this story.

This post is getting a bit long. I’m going to end it with some small excerpts of my favorite parts from this month, but first… Did you do Camp NaNo? What was your result? How’re you feeling about your project now? Feel free to discuss what you did in the comments!

And now, some of my favorite bits from Those Who Emerge from Ashes.

Chapter Three
There was a scar on the inside of her arm. As a younger acolyte, she had once gone foraging in the woods under strict supervision. Monsters had come from the shadows and overwhelmed her small group. Maka was the only acolyte left standing from it. Everyone else had died in bloody heaps. Maka had bled, too.
Scholar Selene had tried everything to scrub the memory from Maka’s brain, and for the longest time, Maka thought she had succeeded. Now, there was no denying what she was.
Without thinking of the consequences, Maka dashed across the desk, grasped the athame, and sliced into her palm.
Apprentice Maka, how dare—“
Blood rushed down her arm. She couldn’t clench her fingers. The athame fell with a thud on the carpet, all but forgotten as pain lanced through her. Where she had expected garnet liquid to stain her coat and the carpet, it was instead a shimmering gold.

Chapter Four
There wasn’t time to think. Dakota closed the distance between her and the train. She wouldn’t be able to board, but there was an empty carrier car sweeping by now. She took a breath and lunged.
For several heart-stopping moments, she hung from the rail, clinging for dear life. Shouts of alarm chased her. She thought she felt something tugging at her coat, but then it was gone again. Huffing, she fought the urge to look down to the tracks and tugged for dear life.
Another pause as she flew through open air, then Dakota collided with the train car floor. She rolled with a moan, panting. Through her thick cloud of air, the tall figures stared, seeming to realize it was too late to stop her. One of the figures, the most decorated of them all, pressed their lips into a thin line before turning away.

Chapter Seven
Dakota stared at her cards until she went cross-eyed, but they still didn’t make sense.
She blamed it on the train. The rails rattled beneath her. Riding along had been smooth so far, save the vicious winds tearing at her from all sides. She’d found a small pocket of the car, which was more an open box than anything, where the wind hadn’t yet ripped everything apart. It was here her divination cards lay now, smooth to the touch and made from linen. Three such cards stared back at her now.
She tapped the first card, depicting five thin sticks clashing together. The suit of rods, for travel and opportunity and chance. This specific card spoke to conflicts, but of what? There were many avenues, she thought, it could apply to.
The accompanying cards cleared up nothing.
The second card featured a figure with no face, arms spread wide to the sky above them. A thin curved scratch shaped the moon. Pinprick circles were the stars. From what she could recall, this card spoke to religious wisdom, which was especially odd to her considering she had never been a spiritual individual.
Meanwhile, the third card was the outline of two figures on opposing ends of the linen, connected by their outstretched hands. Though they appeared to mirror each other, Dakota had studied this deck enough to notice the subtle differences. The Twins spoke to choices, though it could speak to relationships as well. She traced the face of one of the figures, though no true face existed, and frowned.

Chapter Nine
A few things happened in rapid succession. Dakota shot out a hand, murderous thoughts racing through her head. Something in the back of her mind snapped. The wind around them whipped into a sudden frenzy. Dayan slipped and the cards exploded from their hands and fluttered in all directions. With a yelp, Dakota dashed forward to recover them all. They made slow descents like leaves in the autumn. It took her a couple of minutes to gather them all.
Dakota counted them under her breath. Seventy-three cards in total – or, there should’ve been. She came close once, twice, then a third time, brow creasing first in confusion and then in anger.
“Missing something?”
She met Dayan’s gaze for half a second before lunging for the card in their grip. Three Vahnic wine bowls, as dark as the night sky, flashed on the card’s surface. Friendship and celebration.

Chapter Ten
Damn Maka. Damn the Scholars. Damn everything.

Author: draconako

Alex is a queer writer, game-maker, and mountain of incomprehensible goo living in the Pacific Northwest. When they aren’t being paid to manage insurance accounts, they’re researching whatever interests them, reading from their arsenal of books, playing video games, or spending time with their partner. They can be reached at @draconako on most of the internet or at

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