One Week Until Camp NaNo

Who’s doing April’s Camp NaNoWriMo this year?

(You can’t see me, but imagine I’m lifting one hand high into the air, waving it about like Hermione Granger when she’s got  the answer to a question and isn’t getting called upon.)

National Novel Writing Month and its related Camp sessions across the year are not a format that works for everyone. Some people simply write at a slower and more consistent pace. These are the variety of people who seem to do well with the “write every day” adage–or at least, they do better with it than I do. At this stage in my life, with my current schedule and the time I can devote to it, NaNoWriMo works for me. I can chip away at projects for a good part of the year, writing here, editing there, outlining and developing in the off-months. I build up a store of creative energy which I let out in a big burst–the month of write-a-thon which is the NaNo format.

Again, this doesn’t work for everyone. But it works for me. What’s more, I’ve set myself up for a lot of excitement this time around, so I’m not just a little hyped for Camp NaNo. I’m a lot hyped. Exponentially hyped. Hype^10. MegaHype.

Basically, I’m pretty ready to get writing.

Now, here’s the thing: I’ve done NaNoWriMo and related events for years, now. My first NaNoWriMo was 2010, my freshman year of college, and I’ve at least attempted NaNo ever since. I am by no means the most experienced person on the subject (Elli, who introduced me to NaNo, had been doing the event since she was 13, I believe, if that gives you any indication), but I can say a thing or two about how the event works. For those of you not in the know, here’s the run-down of some Camp NaNoWriMo basics!

While NaNoWriMo proper takes place during the month of November, and has a set goal word count of 50,000 words (unless you sign up as a Young Writer). 30 days, 50,000 words. Camp NaNoWriMo is a little different. It takes place in April and July, encompasses 31 days, and you can set your own goals. This year, you can select word count, page count, line count, or minutes/hours spent.

You record your daily progress in a little box up at the top, and it puts all that information in a bar graph on your Stats page. I personally visit that page often. It lets me see my progress and, frankly, it keeps me honest about how much I still have to do, or where I might be able to take a break, or build a buffer. It’s an excellent planning tool, and great for motivation–because all your friends can see it if you have or haven’t written.

(Smell the quiet judgment in the air! Ah, I love being held accountable.)

You can also set up a cabin, which essentially acts as a mini chat page. You can set up a cabin a few ways. You either set your preferences to a public cabin, where you can be randomly sorted or sorted based off of similar goals/interests, or you can form a private cabin, where you invite users you may already know.

The past couple years, cabin-wise, I’ve opted for the second option. I’ve really only done this because I have formed some lovely writer friends whose opinions I really trust. We’ve already shared about our projects and often shared with each other leading up to the event. I’m invested in their projects and we know what the other one is up to. I personally like that connection and camaraderie, and I think it can lead to a more lowkey and supportive cabin during the month of writing.

But, again, that’s me. Some people are gung-ho on making new friends during these events, and all the more power to you if you’re that kind of person!

Camper Info is where you fill out, well, you’re info. About you! Name, where you live, writing music, favorite books, the like. You fill out as much or as little as you like. On your Projects page is where you announce what you’re doing that month. You write the title of the thing, if you have one, set your goals, and then, boom! You can also write up a synopsis and provide an excerpt in the hopes of catching the interest of anyone poking about.

There’s forums on which to chat about the trials and tribulations, places to get prompts, who your protagonist or hero might be–all that good stuff.

It’s really something of a hub of writerly-types. I will confess I do not spend much time browsing forums and the like, myself, but I’m really into the writing part of it, and the part where it’s a bunch of writers casually watching each others’ writing progress. It helps keep me honest. It motivates me. I’m not a terrifically competitive person, but if I notice that Kat has written 2k today and I’m at a measly 500 words, you bet your butt I’m going to look at her progress and say, “Ding dang it I’m not falling behind, today! I can do that too!”

Again, I’m hardly the most experienced person to talk to on this matter, but I have been around the block once or twice. I can provide you with a few tips, if this seems like a thing you may want to take on.

So! Some sagely advice:

  • Set reasonable goals. Have you never written more than 1,000 words in a day? Maybe plan your goal to accommodate that. Often, NaNoWriMo will help you learn to write more, and faster, but don’t set a goal you can’t reach and will ultimately feel defeated by.
  • Build up a buffer when you can! I’m serious. When you have an extra hour and some inspiration to write, keep writing. When something serious comes up halfway through the month or you fall into a three-day-long writer’s block, you’ll have extra words to fall back on.
  • Expect a slump. If I recall correctly, NaNoWriMo typically refers to the Second-Week Slump, when your story stops looking as shiny and your fresh inspiration starts to fade. It’s okay, this is natural. Don’t worry about it being perfect. Just keep writing!
  • Get writer friends, and reach out to them! I get the most (and some of my best) work done when I enlist my friends. “Hey, do you want to take a half an hour where we both write like crazy and report back?” Knowing that someone else is working can be hugely motivating to work, yourself–and you can both touch base afterwards.
  • Reward yourself. Cup of tea when you’ve hit your word count for the day, ten minutes to take in the sunshine after you edit your pages… whatever works for you, just make sure that you’re being kind to yourself.
  • On that note! Please make sure to take breaks, stretch, and take care of yourself! Typing for long and intensive stretches can put a lot of strain on your wrists and otherwise muck up your arms. There’s eyestrain to consider, there’s your back which will thank you for a good stretch.
  • And because it’s so important: Here is a set of exercises you can do to help your hands, wrists, and arms.
  • Have fun. Honestly. I mean it. You’re in it because you like to write, because writing fulfills something in you, because this story is dying to be told. You gotta have fun with it. Don’t spend a month making yourself feel miserable. Love your project, love yourself, and have a good time!

And with that little bit of knowledge, all I can really do is wish you some very happy writing going forward. When next you see me, I will be deep in the throes of Camp NaNoWriMo, and should have an update from day 2 in the writing trenches.

Until then, keep writing, my lovelies! Be good to yourselves, and write on, as ever!

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