Camp NaNoWriMo 2017: Reflections

Camp NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) is a 30-day challenge to complete a writing goal, using the momentum of the community to help motivate and support writers in achieving their aims.

While the main NaNoWriMo happens in November and is set at a 50,000-word goal across the month, the two ‘camps’ in April and July allow you to set your own goals. Instead of general forums and ‘buddies’ you have picked, there are cabins you can invite buddies to, or be sorted randomly into.

Last year, I failed to meet my annual writing goal for the first time.

In 2014, I surpassed 10,000 words a month for 8 of the 12 months.
In 2015, I passed 104,000 words across the year.
In 2016, I failed to hit 100,000 words: only reaching 5,000 words for 4 months of the year.

Noticing this pattern, I decided to re-focus on what has worked in the past: completing NaNoWriMo was the main saviour of 2015 and 2016. Equally, having a monthly or quarterly goal rather than a daily one works best for me and my writing style.

But by the end of March 2017, I was nearly 13,000 words behind on my 25,000-word aim. Enter, Camp NaNo.

First Camp

The group of Southampton WriMos I attended write-ins with in November posted about the camp in the Facebook group, and I jumped in on a whim at the end of the first day; on April 1st. They invited me to their cabin, and I set a small goal of 5000 words: double February and March’s achievements. However, looking at my overall goal for the year, I decided to re-focus on my annual 100,000 aim: 8,334 a month.

I passed this goal on April 29th, a day early thanks to a day of writing over 2,000 words. This is the kind of motivation the NaNo events can bring, and I let that motivation carry my energy across the end of the month.

It also reminded me that I find the NaNo challenges very difficult unless I have a story outline. For some people, a blank slate is great for letting the creativity flow. If I need to write a specific amount a day, I need a plan of some description.

Having a cabin of people I knew (at least a little) from the Southampton write-ins was most helpful, and starting a new project was another positive. but without a clear storyline to follow, my characters became whiny as I ummed and erred about different decisions they might make, and within two weeks, I’d lost all motivation.

But I continued to write towards the goal, focusing on my descriptive passages to ensure the exercise could still benefit me.

Have you tried Camp NaNo before? How did you find it?

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