Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Pack Your Bags: Camp NaNoWriMo is in Session!

by David Field

If you’re a creative writer like me, you probably go through plenty of phases where you find it impossible to get any words on the page. I tend to make excuses for myself: “I had a stressful day, I’ll write tomorrow,” or “I’ll get some writing done when I have more free time,” or “I guess the writing juices aren’t flowing today.” In the end, though, it basically boils down to plain old writer’s block. The funny thing is, I have no shortage of ideas. I usually just wind up staring at a blinking cursor or an empty sheet of paper, too freaked out by the vast realm of possibilities to know where I could possibly begin.

The tools of a successful WriMo.
If you’re like me, never fear – there’s a surefire solution to those blank-page blues. Every November, creative writers from around the world come together to participate in National Novel Writing Month, a 30-day frenzy of nonstop literary goodness. The goal? To write 50,000 words in one month. It may seem like a daunting task, but the NaNo team has plenty of great tools to help you as you work your way towards the finish line. There are forums to talk over plot ideas with your fellow writers, pep talks from published authors with lots of great tips about the writing and revision process, and a handy-dandy graph that lets you keep track of your progress on a day-to-day basis.

The program has become so popular that in recent years, the NaNo team has offered two more opportunities to participate in the summer months, a program they’ve affectionately dubbed Camp NaNoWriMo. The challenge itself doesn’t change, but the website now sports a fun camping theme, where you can choose “cabin-mates” who share your creative interests and join the program directors for pep talks around the metaphoric campfire. The website banner perfectly sums up the spirit of Camp NaNoWriMo: “an idyllic writer’s retreat, smack-dab in the middle of your crazy life.”

What’s great about the summer program is that participants who might have found November too hectic can now take advantage of all the glorious free time that comes with summer vacation (when they’re not swimming or going to cookouts or, you know, actually camping). This year the April challenge has come and gone, but it’s not too late to prepare for July! You can head to the Camp NaNoWriMo website right now to choose a cabin, post a blurb for your novel, and chat with other campers. As soon as the clock strikes midnight on July 1st, you can start pounding out those 50,000 words.

To finish the challenge on time, you have to write an average of 1,667 words a day. It’s important to remember that this is an exercise in quality, not quantity – the goal is just to churn out as many words as you possibly can. After all, sloppy writing can always be revised, and it’s much easier to work on a second draft than to fill up that first blank page (at least in my opinion). So have fun with it! Find a comfortable spot to write in. Stock up on snacks you can munch on while you’re working. And encourage your friends to participate too. In my experience, there’s nothing more productive than writing dangerously with a group of fellow WriMos.

A NaNo success story.
When the month is over, you’ll have an actual finished novel. How cool is that? You can print out a fancy certificate to hang on your fridge or the wall of your dorm room to boast to your friends that you’re officially a novelist. Plus, what you do with that novel is up to you. Ever heard of The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern or Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen? Both started out as NaNo projects, and now they’re mainstream bestsellers. One was already adapted for the big screen and the other is in development as we speak. So just think – that could be you one day.

Have you ever tried NaNoWriMo for yourself? If so, did you meet your goals? And what kind of projects are you hoping to tackle this year? If you have any great NaNo stories, share them in the comments section, or join us @GodinePub on Twitter!

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