Previously, I sang my praises of one of the most rigorous, challenging, and craft-molding experiences that I’ve ever participated in: Nanowrimo. It’s the annual event held each year internationally where writers of all ages, expertise, and genres come together with the goal of writing 50,000 words in only 30 days. Along with encouraging writers to push their limits, Nanowrimo also runs a fundraiser for writing programs that encourage the youth to pursue their own interests in writing. For some, the month of November is enough for them, but for those who may want to push things even further, there is the sister of Nanowrimo: Camp Nanowrimo!
Unlike Nanowrimo, which is placed within national novel writing month for which it is named, Camp takes place twice a year; in April during the spring, and in July during the summer. Camp isn’t nearly as popular as Nanowrimo, but I’ve found that Camp can offer an even more intimate experience than its predecessor.
- Summer vacation means more time to write.
An immediate benefit of writing during one of the Camp sessions rather than Nanowrimo is the season. During November, most people are busy with school, work, and preparing for the upcoming holiday season, and with the stress of purchasing gifts, finalizing vacation plans, and focusing on approaching finals, squeezing in time to write an entire novel can appear so unfeasible that many decide to quit before even getting started. During the spring and summer months, when most colleges are wrapping up classes, and some people are even out for break, time frees up and writers allow themselves to start focusing on their projects. Bringing those ideas that stacked up during the school year to Camp is a breeze.
- You get to have “cabin mates.”
Just like an actual camp, Camp Nanowrimo offers the option of having your own cabin filled with other writers who will be participating in the challenge. These people can be friends who you already know and request to be grouped up with, or complete strangers, who are writing in similar genres as you. With this built in community, writers gain access to a personalized writing group where you can ask for advice, participate in “word wars,” in which you compete to write the most words in a set amount of time, as well as encourage one another through your projects. Your cabin also has a collective cabin goal, which is the total words that must be reached by the end of camp, creating an extra incentive.
- You set the rules.
The standard rules of “winning” Nanowrimo is reaching 50k before the end of the thirtieth day, no exceptions. In Camp, you set your own word goals, whether that be a manageable 20k or an ambitious 100k. Camp allows you to adapt the challenge to your own needs. That includes writing second drafts, revising old work, and working on multiple projects at once, if you dare. Camp is where writers go to break all form of practicality.
What remains the same between these two challenges is the atmosphere of unbridled creativity it fosters. As a former participate of both, I can say that these are the types of experiences that really show you that writing is less thinking and more doing. It challenges you not only to push yourself to be active in your work, but to think less critically of what you’ve produced. When you’re working towards that final word count, you can’t make the mistake of editing yourself as you go and undermining what you’ve made so far; you have to keep going no matter what. It takes an extreme amount of discipline and trust in your own abilities to say to yourself, “I’ll go back later and make this all better,” and really believe yourself. The words that you write during Camp and Nanowrimo may not be the ones that end up in your final manuscript, but they are the ones that helped you journey closer to that end. And that’s something to be proud of.
If you’re interested in participating in Camp Nanowrimo, you can sign up at http://campnanowrimo.org/.
– Camera Martin