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Camp Nano

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Val Healy

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While booking my daughter into her summer camp recently, I noticed a new email from the organisers of National Novel Writing Month introducing their writing schedule for the summer. After reading the email and while my sanity had temporally left the building, I signed myself up. Yes, that’s right; I’m off to Camp NaNoWriMo for the month of June. Based on November’s National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), Camp NaNoWriMo provides the online support, tracking tools, and hard deadline to help you write the rough draft of your novel in a month… other than November!

Camp NaNoWriMo was established in 2011 as a project of the Office of Letters and Light, the non-profit parent company for National Novel Writing Month. 2012 Camp sessions will take place in June and August. It has the same goal as NaNoWriMo in that you have to complete 50,000 words in 30 days but the whole feel of the website and setup has a more relaxed attitude to reaching your goal than that of the big mumma in November.

Once you sign up and you can use your log in details from the main website, you are invited to set up your camper profile and decide whether you wish to participate as part of a cabin. You can opt out of a cabin, or you can invite friends to join and write with you or you can be mad like me and opt for the ‘surprise me’ option. This is where the organisers will match you up with 4 to 6 other participants where possible within your time zone.

Once cabins are assigned the idea is that you will have your own private forum and message boards to help, cajole and challenge each other to reach the end. Reading some of the forums about last year’s Camp, some people were lucky to be assigned cabin members that posted and participated with each other and some were not so lucky. They were matched up with participates that either left half way through or didn’t participate with the group in any way. Also once you were assigned a cabin even if all the other participants left, you could not be moved to another one.

The Cabin is a fun feature exclusive to the camp and who knows, I might get lucky in my Cabin (in the writing sense, of course) and be matched up with veteran wrimos’ who know all the inside tricks to finishing on time. There were 256,618 participants that took part in the November 2011 session with 36,843 of them winners, reaching the 50K target. Yeah for me, I was one of them!! However at Camp Nanowrimo in 2011, there were 12, 875 participants over the two months with only 1,755 reaching the end goal, so camp is a much more intimate affair.

As a new writer, I am still trying to ‘find myself’, and although children’s fiction is my main focus, I like to challenge myself for Nanowrimo by writing adult fiction. Nanowrimo appeals to me for two reasons.  I come from a finance background and deadlines were a big part of my working life. By having a hard deadline like 30 days and my innate competitive strike, failure is not an option. I know what I have to do to win! I set deadlines for my writing all the time, but they are my deadlines and usually get moved out when life intervenes. When I’m doing nanowrimo however, I prioritise the other way around and the writing comes first. The other thing that appeals to me about Nanowrimo is the whole concept of how you write. Quality is obviously better than just quantity but the idea is that you get a 1st draft down without editing, procrastination over characters or plot and you just write. It takes away spending half your writing time, editing and re-reading over what you have written and worrying if it’s good enough. Well you can’t in 30 days because you simply don’t have the time to waste.

Last time, I wrote mainstream fiction but this year I’m turning to crime. No I’m not planning on plagiarising someone else’s story or running off with all the donations. I am going to try my hand at writing the crime novel that’s been floating around my head. I love crime. I should really change that sentence; I love crime novels, so I want to see if I have what it takes to write crime too. For me, this is all experience as a beginner to see what fits for me and hopefully help me find my own all elusive ‘voice’ as a writer.

I got up at 5.30am every day during the month of November, and this is a habit I have kept up afterwards. This is one good thing I found that works and I will be sticking to it again for June. It’s a great feeling to have your word count completed before breakfast. Now that the mornings are bright and warm, there is no excuse for not getting up early. The silence in the house and the early morning birds singing make a wonderful ambience to write in.

I will again try to get my word count up in the 1st week while I am still all excited about the month ahead and I feel like I know what I am doing. I managed to get ahead with my word count early on in November and this proved for me to be the difference between winning and losing. As the month went on and the enthusiasm wavered, I had this additional word count to fall back on. This time I also have a plan of my novel instead of wandering aimlessly around my brain on that 1st morning without a clue what to write. I have been plotting out the novel this week and next week, I am going to meet my characters. I hope we will get on well and like November, that they take me off in directions I never imagined.

So with that in mind, I’m off to start packing now. Sleeping bag –check. Marshmallows-check. Words to Kam-ba-yah-check. All copies of the Blair Witch Project hided- check. Well I’m ready to pitch my virtual tent, check back in a few weeks, to see how my camping is going and wish me luck!

About the author

(c) Val Healy May 2012

  • The Dark Room: A thrilling new novel from the number one Irish Times bestselling author of Keep Your Eyes on Me
  • allianceindependentauthors.org

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