Hacking Camp NaNoWriMo

Camp-Participant-2015-Twitter-ProfilePerhaps you have heard of NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month). Perhaps, you are not snarky and you have not thought derisively, Oh yeah, 30 days to write a novel, that’ll be real high quality.

Camp NaNoWriMo, is lesser known, less glam than big sis, NaNoWriMo. Camp sets her sights on smaller goals, not a brand new novel in thirty days, but half a novel. Less. If November’s NaNoWriMo is the Barbie of the family, Camp is Skipper. (For those of you who did not play with dolls, you can tell them apart by their feet: Barbie’s are ramped, the better to slide into her fab stilettos. Skipper’s feet are, well, normal.)

Billed as “An idyllic writer’s retreat smack-dab in the middle of your crazy life,” Camp NaNoWriMo is a fat target for cynics like me. However, maybe I was just desperate enough to finally finish my novel that I put all that aside. I spent April in the cabin. On the first of June I’ll sign up for July. Considering your own virtual cabin?

First off, know this: On June 30th, guaranteed, Your boss will add a gigunda new project to your bulging portfolio. Your children will become unruly (or unrulier, as the case may be). Your favorite TV character will die; you will be unexpectedly inconsolable. Your computer will freeze up, get the black screen of death and die.

None of that matters. On July 1 enter your virtual cabin, slap on your bug spray and ignore that infernal banging on your virtual door. Churn out the words.

Nifty Features

  • It’s free. (Donations optional.)
  • Camaraderie (as much or as little as you want). Your cabin sleeps a total of 12. I knew about 1/3 of my bunkmates going in and felt as if I knew the rest by the end.
  • People sent each other kind, encouraging messages. Brief, too.
  • Externally motivated? You’ll love the spreadsheet. Input the day’s word count, Excel instantly populates box after box. Words per hour. Words to go to meet today’s goal. Your month’s goal. Percentages.
  • Stupid camp slogans, one of which is, “Get lost. Write.” Call me crazy, but each morning I grabbed a cup of coffee, visualized my virtual lake and dock, and in five minutes I transitioned out of my crazy life and into my novel. I got lost. I wrote. On the best days, it felt like vacation.
  • Sustained, daily effort means all those pesky issues you’ve been ignoring—the missing crucial scene; the blind fool character that nod to Shakespeare’s jesters, that allusion to how we’re all blind and foolish, really has to go, which means pulling that thread out of 273 pages without unraveling the whole sweater—all those things, you will finally deal with. Or half of them.
  • My Goal? 25,000 words in 30 days. Completed? 28,685. The magic spreadsheet tells me I made 115% progress.

Rules for Virtual Camping

  • Adapt to suit. Half my bunkmates worked on a revision rather than a new novel. Most of us set lower word count goals than recommended.
  • Ditch the guilt about…everything.
  • MAKE YOUR GOAL every day. Set your goal as low as you have to, but make the goal. Record your word count in the little box on the Excel spreadsheet. Watch the sheet instantly populate! 7% of goal reached. 83%. You wrote 8 words an hour. Or 703. Gloat.

It Will Cost You. What I gave up:

  • Sleep (1-3 hours per day for 30 days).
  • Volunteering. For anything. Including for my son’s school. Even when the really nice parent, whom I would enjoy working with made a really nice request, I still said, No. I still feel squirmy about that.
  • 7 vacation mornings. Because I am an early riser, I was able to get my work done (usually) before anyone missed me. Did I feel resentful that I didn’t get to sleep in on vacation? Yes. Did I miss lazing about with my family in that goofy margin time where so much that’s funny and real happens? Yes.

Want to Go?

Sign Up in June; Write in July. See ya around the campfire.

Who knows, after two camps, maybe I’ll even sign up for November’s NaNoWriMo, the Barbie version. I’ll make my own rules though. And I’m not wearing the shoes.

 

7 comments

  1. Carol D

    Great post, Lisa. As someone who signed up and then dropped out before the camp even began, I am now officially very sorry to have missed the opportunity. Does it run every month?

  2. Lisa Birk

    The only way to make NaNoWriMo work, in my opinion, is to break the rules to suit, and Michelle you are a model rule-breaker. Meantime Liz, I want a lifetime supply of NoMoGuiltWoe.

  3. elle

    I had set Sept 10 to be the day I reached 105,000 words on my novel’s first draft (at almost 70K right now.) But with Camp NaNo starting in 2 days, I am going to take the giant leap to getting to 105K by July 30, even though I have 5 days that I’ll be in the mountains and not writing. Gah!

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