Down the Camp NaNo Rabbit Hole

Camp NaNo 2020 Banner

April showers bring May flowers. April days also bring NaNo words. (Yeah, I know, that one didn’t rhyme at all.) The first Camp NaNoWriMo session of 2020 is upon us, amidst a truly upended world.

For some that means the focus just isn’t there as the world deals with such a unprecedented stress to be putting words on a page. For others, like myself, that means we suddenly have all the time in the world to write while many of us are furloughed from our evil day jobs.

I’m finding myself pleasantly surprised and overly excited to suddenly have an entire month, plus a little, off work. Especially during a Camp NaNo month! For the first time in my life I get to experience what it’s like to have a full time job as a writer. I can get a taste of my true dream career, and I can make a solid effort to create a writing routine for myself for the first time. No interruptions for work. No being exhausted from crazy hours and draining customers. No outside distractions with the world on hold either now there’s nowhere to go but walking down my street. No trying to juggle work and college in order to still be able to fit in some writing time. (Which, let me just say, was completely failing.)

So what am I working on during the Great Pause?

Well. For what sounds and feels like the thousandth time, I am attempting to finish the rewritten, expanded novel version of Embermyst so that I can finally republish the once short story that was unveiled with Victory Tales Press almost four years ago now. I have made quite the ambitious goal for myself due to the no work situation. The plan is to spend at least two hours a day on weekdays working at the story, and an hour on weekend days. It equals out to a total of fifty-two hours of work for the whole month. (If I’m really honest with myself I would love to wrap up the whole novel through, potentially, first round edits by the end of the month.) I’m attempting, also, to make my work happen at a specific time and place — at least on weekdays — so that I hopefully fall into a standard routine. Part of that plan is just so I don’t fall completely out of whack and screw myself whenever the job situation reopens.

Since I decided I’m working by hours and not exclusively writing either, I’m tracking minutes instead of words this go round, despite the difficulties of the “new and improved” NaNoWriMo site that launched last November.

Yeah…

“New and improved.”

About that… It is definitely new, but I wouldn’t call it improved at all. There’s many features I loved or found motivating now missing or gone or changed in a way I no longer like. The site is not always the easiest to navigate anymore. It also glitches at times. And I am still so pissed half my past Camp NaNo stats in which I tracked pages or minutes are still not correct. Not to mention they don’t even have the normal tracking options for Camp up on the site yet. I have to use some conversion chart they made and count it as “words.”

Seriously, shouldn’t these have been the most important details to address in the last four months since November?? What have they been doing?? I see no other changes or fixes among the site to elicit what I’m deeming as disregard for the NaNo experience. Don’t even get me started on these new “writing groups” either.

No. Just… No. I want my normal cabins back!

Nevertheless, glitches, life, and woes aside, here we are back in the throes of Camp NaNoWriMo. Back down the rabbit hole we writers go where there’s plenty of snacks…and potentially toilet paper. We’ve been self isolating for a living here, people.

To all my fellow authors, are you participating in Camp this April despite the current state of the world? Why or why not? And if you have joined the madness what are you working on this month? Share your Camp adventure! Or misadventure if it so happens to be.

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.