What is Camp NaNoWriMo?

Goodbye, March. Hello, April and insanity! For those that already know what Camp NaNoWriMo is, welcome to another month of the madness. For those that don’t know or are new to the world that is NaNoWriMo I’m going to give you a crash course.

I know I’ve talked briefly about Camp NaNoWriMo and NaNoWriMo before on this blog, but those times have mainly been discussing my own successes, failures, or bouts of insanity among writing for these month long challenges. I’ve never talked too much about the challenge in general though.

So today I’m going to paint you the journey of Camp NaNo and all its perks.

camp nano banner

Camp NaNo is affiliated with the non-profit organization called NaNoWriMo — an acronym that stands for National Novel Writing Month. Perhaps many of you have heard of it, but I’m not here to talk about the big NaNo show perks. Not today at least.

Consider Camp NaNoWriMo a trial run of the big and bad NaNoWriMo. Whereas NaNo is a more cookie cutter challenge with a set goal and fewer options of what you’re writing, the Camp version allows you more flexibility on numerous levels. And is more fun in my opinion.

Camp happens twice a year — once in April, and then also in July. Unlike NaNoWriMo, you don’t have a set number goal of 50k, and you can choose from more than just a word count goal. You can make your own goal to fit your own lifestyle. Within Camp you have all these options to choose from in creating your goal: word count goal, page goal, line goal, hour goal, or minutes goal.

From there you choose any goal count from thirty to one million. (I’m not sure I’d suggest trying one million. That sounds impossibly hard.)

One of the best things about choosing your own goal that can be more than just a word count is it allows you to do more than just write. Take this for example:

Last year for July’s Camp NaNo session I choose a page count instead of word count. Wanna know why? Because I had finished writing the first draft of my novel in April’s session and needed some more motivation to edit. You heard me. Edit.

Camp NaNo is flexible enough that you can use your goal for editing instead of writing if you wish.

I choose a page count equivalent to so many chapters of my novel that I had to read through, edit, and make notes on for what needed changed or fixed. That month was the furthest progress, and most accurate progress, I have ever made on editing because it kept me moving without losing my focus. It worked out really well.

If you’re ever lacking motivation to get started the forces that run this month long retreat send out a Camp Care Package every day in your account mailbox (not your email). These Camp Care Packages range from pep talks, to writerly advice, daily challenges, and invites to word sprints, write-ins, and other goodies hosted on their YouTube and Twitter account.

And if you ever need more than those daily packages, their site has an awesome Writing Resources tab full of events, information on the Camp counselors, and lots and lots of Q&A’s for planning, characters, beginnings, scenes, and so much more.

On the side of great resources, since NaNoWriMo and its affiliated sessions are part of a non-profit organization you can win some great goodies from their sponsors by meeting your goal. Sponsors that include (but are not always limited to): Scrivener, Dabble, Scribophile, Storyist Software, She Writes University, and Litographs. Scrivener I know is a big sponsor of NaNoWriMo and its affiliations, and they offer a great discount on their software if you verify you met your goal. Though I’ve not tried the software myself I’ve heard it’s a great tool for writers.

Another great thing about Camp sessions, you don’t have to work on just a novel or novella for Camp NaNoWriMo. You can be writing a screen play, poetry, a short story, multiple short stories or poetry pieces, revisions, essays even. As long as you can fit a goal of hours, minutes, words, pages, or lines to what you want to work on, you can make it work for Camp sessions. That’s the true beauty of Camp NaNo.

However, there is one more perk to Camp that happens to be my favorite.

The cabins.

Cabins are Camp’s version of a small writing group full of buddies you can chat with about anything during your month long journey. You can have up to twenty people in a cabin, and there’s three different options for joining. There are two types of cabins: public and private.

Within the public cabins you have two options. In your cabin preferences you can select to be tossed into a random cabin with mates you don’t know anything about. Or you can choose to be filed into a cabin that meets a certain criteria of similar interests. Whether that interest is by age group, the same genre writing as you, and/or with similar goals as you. That part is totally up to you.

Private cabins are a little bit different. Any member can create their own private cabin, give it a name, and invite campers they know by their username. If you have friends who join you on this mad challenge private cabins are a perfect option to chat along with them and nag — or congratulate — them about their progress.

If you don’t want to be in a cabin that’s okay too. Camp does offer an option to elect out of being placed in a cabin so that you can hole yourself up on your own to write if that works best for you.

So there you have it! Camp NaNoWriMo’s perks and workings crash coursed in all its brilliant madness. Of course, there’s much more I could talk about for Camp NaNo, and their other affiliations — like NaPoWriMo and the Young Writer’s Program — but those are topics for another day.

Here’s to writing like mad for the month. If you’ve taken the plunge into the challenge, share how it’s going and what you’re working on in the comments below.

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