Camp NaNo — aka the 50K Marathon


If you’re a writer, you’ve probably heard of NaNoWriMo, aka National Novel Writing Month. Basically, you write a 50,000 word book in one month along with a whole whackload of other people crazy enough to attempt the challenge. You update your word count each day, inching closer and closer to that seemingly unattainable goal. Finally, you reach the summit! 50,000 words! That’s an entire book! Or the first half of an entire book! Or the first eighth, if you’re George RR Martin or Stephen King! Your prize? 50,000 words of a book, plus a fancy certificate that you print and fill out yourself. NaNoWriMo rocks.

So what is Camp NaNo?

Camp NaNo is NaNoWriMo, but in the summer. You pick a month to do the challenge – either June or August this year (or both!) – sign up, and wait for June 1/August 1 to arrive. Then the fun starts. And by fun, I mean jaw-grinding stress and an increased reliance on expensive coffee shop beverages to retain even a semblance of functionality.

What else is different between NaNoWriMo and Camp NaNo?

Camp NaNo has a feature called Cabins, where they will match you up into “cabins” with other writers – sort of forcing you into a social support system. You can choose your cabin mates, they can be randomly assigned, or you can ask to be placed by age or genre. Not being in a cabin is also an option.

Have you ever done Camp NaNo, Michelle Proulx Official?

Just Michelle is fine. Shelli works too, if you’re feeling whimsical. And yes, I attempted it last year. I failed miserably, but that’s beside the point.

Then what is the point?

The point is that Camp NaNo is an awesome way to write a book, or at least get started on one. I’m not going to lie – cranking out 1667 words a day (50k/30) is really hard, especially when you know that what you’re writing is probably crap. You want to go back and change it, but you know that you can’t or else you’ll fall behind. That’s actually one of my favourite parts of NaNo – the fact that you can’t look back. It forces you to figure out new and inventive ways to deal with the situations you foolishly got your characters into.

So all NaNo books are terrible?

Of course not. I mean, yes, the first drafts are generally mediocre at best. But the point is that you’re writing. I, for example, have three different novel ideas floating around in my head right now that have yet to see the light of the monitor. Would you like to hear them?

Not really.

Fine. Anyway, left to my own devices, I might get around to writing one of these novels in a year or two. You know, once I get my current novel sorted out and published, and fix up the sequel, and finish the Hunger Games-esque story I’m halfway through writing, and get a real job, and move out of my mother’s apartment, etc.

I begin to comprehend.

Exactly. NaNo forces you to drop everything and spend an entire month creating something completely from scratch. This requires putting certain projects on the back burner, but I feel that it is usually worth it.

There’d better be some sort of success story in here…

I’ve “won” NaNo four times. The first book was terrible. It was a basic high school soap opera, until the lead male’s father was revealed as an evil Russian arms trader. When I stopped writing, the high school protagonists were about to fly off in an illegally purloined jet to take down the Chinese terrorist group “Red Fist”, who had acquired fifty nuclear bombs and were planning to drop them on the USA, one bomb for each state. Several of the characters also possessed hacking abilities roughly on par with Dade Murphy from Hackers.

That sounds mind-crushingly horrendous.

It was. The second attempt, in a complete reversal of events, was awesome. Six years later, it has become Imminent Danger and How to Fly Straight into It, the novel I am currently self-publishing. The third attempt has also turned into a finished book, although it needs major tweaking. The fourth had a cool premise, but didn’t hold up under scrutiny, so I’m in the process of re-imagining it.

So… what exactly is the point of this post?

I’m trying to explain to people that Camp NaNo is awesome, and that they should check out the Camp NaNo site and give it a try. Apparently I didn’t make that clear.

I know mud that is clearer than you.

Oooh, burn. So how about it, bloggers? Anyone doing Camp NaNo this summer? Anyone done NaNoWriMo in the past? I’m still on the fence about doing the June camp (only three days away!), so your opinions are greatly appreciated.

Peace out, bro.

You are not nearly cool enough to pull that phrase off.

Okay. How about: Peace out, A-bro-ham Lincoln?

Very historical. I approve.

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Categories: Writing | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 15 Comments

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15 thoughts on “Camp NaNo — aka the 50K Marathon

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  2. Funny! Yes, I am doing CampNaNo this year in June. I may also participate in August — I have so many book ideas floating around. I also like the fact that it helps to force you to write without looking back and revising. There’s not enough time to revise AND get 50,000 words down in 30 days. Now, you shouldn’t write crap just because you’re not editing it now — you’ll have to eventually edit! But it will help to train you to get the words down now and come back later to get them right.

    My cabin’s all setup and I’ve moved in and said hello. Waiting for the first night to see if we get s’mores or rice krispie treats…LOL. Hope to see you at camp!

    • Haha, yes, I may have been exaggerating about the “crap” part. I actually knew a friend who bolstered her word count by having the characters deliver lengthy soliloquies on semi-related topics. Her reasoning was “It will make me win NaNo, and then I can go back and cut it all out later”, although I personally think it was cheating 🙂

      I really want to go to camp, I’m just not sure if I’ll be able. I am currently re-editing my novel, and I have to get it done before Friday because I’m having a proof reading party on Sunday, which necessitates having a book for people to proof, lol. And then I have to incorporate all their proofs back into the novel, once I get the proofed copies back in 2 weeks. Although I suppose that still gives me 2 weeks! 50k in 14 days… sounds doable, right? 😛

  3. Yes I am doing Camp NaNo this June….and maybe August if I lose all grasp on my sanity. This will be my first camp NaNo. I’ve participated in classic NaNoWriMo twice now and even managed to win once. Can’t wait for Friday to roll around so I can get started

    • I was on the fence, but now I’m thinking of joining you. 1667 words a day really isn’t that bad, when you think about it 🙂 Good luck!!!

  4. I did regular NaNoWriMo in 2009 and I’m getting ready to self-publish that novel October 31 (I’m doing the final edits now, which is why I can’t Camp).

    I also did it last year and churned out 80,000+ words (while working full-time! I’m a writing machine!). I gave it to my pre-readers, and they wanted more, so I’m going to break it into two novels, flesh them both out a bit more, and publish the first one next year.

    So best of luck to you at Camp! I hope you get a good novel out of it.

    • Thanks! I’ve had an idea for a children’s novel floating around in my head for the past few days, so I might go with that. And I hear you on the editing! I’m actually going through final edits right now as well – 19 chapters in, 25 to go! – and I’m freaking out because my proof readers are coming over for a book editing bash on Sunday, and I’m nowhere near ready for them, lol. Best of luck 🙂

  5. Sean

    You’ve convinced me to try this. All I need is some idea, otherwise it will truly be unadulterated crap.

  6. Shira Windschitl

    I’m doing NaNo… and actually looking to hit my 50k words tonight. I am actually being a rebel this time around and doing a rewrite, which is going much faster than the original. I guess everything is easier when you know where it’s going.

    I don’t necessarily agree that everything written during NaNo is crap. I’m writing just as fast and as much as I do outside of NaNo, I just have a deadline that is more stringent. I like writing during NaNo for the moral support more than anything else. That and having people to complain to when my characters start doing horrible things that I didn’t agree to.

    • I may have been exaggerating about the “crap” part 🙂 A rewrite! How ambitious! Although if you’re 10 days in and at 50k, you can do pretty much whatever you want, can’t you? Also, congrats 🙂

      • Shira Windschitl

        Well, it’s pretty normal for me to write upwards of 2k words a day, so 1667 isn’t a challenge for me. Finishing a manuscript, however, is very much a challenge! In August, I’m writing an erotica!

  7. Pingback: NaNoWriMo Summer Camp | Emilia Jordan

  8. Pingback: And now … to cheat blatantly at Camp NaNoWriMo … | Michelle Proulx - The Blog

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