Recently, while perusing some different WordPress blogs, I came across this post on Michelle Proulx Official. It intrigued me because it’s all about NaNoWriMo in summer camp form.
So NaNoWriMo, for those who aren’t familiar, stands for National Novel Writing Month. It usually happens in November and lots and lots of writers set out to write 50,000 words that month. That’s 1,666.7 words a day. It’s a bit of a tall order but people do it. And people who don’t finish might still have twenty or thirty thousand more words than they would have without it. I’ve heard it’s fun, too. There are forums and neat little badges for blogs and websites so there’s a community feel of sorts. You’re all together in this mad rush, intense, working-your-ass-off epic quest (a little like taking organic chemistry). It’s kind of insane. And yet, it’s also really inspiring just to think about.
November never works for me anymore, even though I have some strong feelings about writing in cold, wintery months. Being a student means November is full of midterms, quizzes, reading huge textbooks, homework problems, labs, lab reports, writing assignments and preparing for finals, plus a job on top of all that. I’ve known others who’ve done NaNoWriMo with varying degrees of success, but I’ve never signed up.
This year though, there’s a summer camp option: Camp NaNoWriMo and this looks very appealing. It’s online, and you can just sign up, put your info in there, get “cabin assignments,” register the novel you’re working on, pick June or August and get started, then update your word count as you go. There are also some great blog articles about writers block, messages from camp staff about inspiration and the like. And of course, there are the camp badges.
This idea is really appealing to me. First of all, anything that sounds like summer camp, even a virtual one, has a lot of nostalgic connections. I’ve spent way more time than anyone should at camps–going to blind camps and programs as a teenager, working at blind camp, working at environmental ed camp, working at other camps, going to writers residency (which is kinda like writing camp)–so just the whole concept feels fun and summery and full of the rich imagery of the outdoors and the energy it infuses. And August is doable as all I have that month is work.
And what to write? Is it time to tackle, really tackle, the book I’ve been wanting to write about growing up with albinism, including lots of tales of blind camps and programs? Or would it be more fun to dive into one of the novel ideas that have been waiting for my attention for awhile? They’re less developed, which is a little scary but also exciting. I kinda like the idea of going into it blind, having no clear idea of where something is going, just experimenting and seeing what comes out, even if it’s totally unworkable. It might be a good way to really get past the inner critic, let the writing pour out so fast that really unexpected things might come out and take you to places you didn’t know existed. It just feels ripe for that type of writing experience. And it feels almost like a dare, and what is summer camp without that?
Luckily, there’s some time to make that decision, but I’m doing it this year. I’m signed up, committed. Time to see what this NaNoWriMo thing is all about, first-hand. I also just discovered ScriptFrenzy, which takes place in April, which in my world is not that different from November, but still would be worth trying. Anything to jumpstart and get some work done, right?
What about you? Have you ever tried NaNoWriMo? What was it like? Would you try it just for fun? Or take it more seriously? What would you write about? Would you have it planned out well in advance or would you wing it? Can you feel that summer camp energy coming in on the breeze? And most of all, do you double dare to give it a whirl?
Go for it! I’ve done NaNoWriMo 3 times, *won* it twice, and found it a wonderful excuse to tell my inner editor to go on a month-long cruise. It is very freeing to be able to write with abandon and not give a flying fig whether the words are *good*.
That said, I do not use NaNoWriMo to actually write the novel; rather, I use it as a time to prewrite the novel–write scenes, character sketches, try things on for size. Once I spent about 25,000 words writing a diary of my main character’s mother. While she herself barely figures in my finished novel, her mindset and the decisions she amde that led to her marriage and eventual birth of her son provided tremendous fodder for my eventual story.
My advice is to not be wedded to final words but to use the time to explore your characters, your plot, your idea. Have fun! Peace…
Ooooh, great advice. The more I think about it, the more I’m leaning towards delving into the fiction project which is the least realized of any of them, and so the prewriting, character development, plot tinkering, working on some scenes approach would be perfect. I kinda want to just have FUN with it if it’s going to be that many words.
Is the mother you journaled for the one I think it is?
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I think you’ll enjoy it! I think so many people get so bogged down in making it perfect from the start that they…well…fail to start!
Hey run4joy, that makes a lot of sense. I think that maybe the whole point of NaNoWriMo, or at least one of its benefits, is that it’s a good excuse to ignore the inner censor, to forget about being perfect and just WRITE.
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