July is Camp NaNoWriMo and You Should Try It

If you’ve never heard of NaNoWriMo it stands for National Novel Writing Month, which is an event that takes place in November and spans the globe, challenging every writer who signs up to completing 50,000 words in a single month toward a writing project – or projects – of their choice.

National Novel Writing Month is a great idea that always seems to fall just a little shy of meeting an individual writer’s needs. Being part of a writing group is great, but it’s more of a pop-up community than an established writer’s circle. November starts and there’s lots of fresh faces and fingers eager to start typing, but by the end of the month it’s quiet and most people have gone back to their normal lives. There are thousands upon thousands of participants, but only a fraction of them manage to stick with the idea of writing 50k words in thirty days.

I have a soft spot for NaNo because I’ve been on the fringes of the Philadelphia community since 2002, and last year became one of three local Municipal Liaisons (NaNo’s term, ML, for their volunteer event coordinators). We were able to usher quite a few people across the finish line, and reached out to many afterwards with our “NaNo, Now What?” events that took place between February and April. Some of those writers are now started on the process of editing and getting beta readers, intending to find agents or to try their hand at self-publishing. To me, it doesn’t matter if one, zero, or a hundred of them end up published or if their writing just stays on their hard drives until the end of days. NaNo, to me, is about celebrating writing and self expression, which is something I’m proud to say comes up a lot in how we run Philadelphia’s NaNoWriMo community.

NaNoWriMo makes a big deal about being inclusive and open-minded. Fan-fiction, original works, poetry, non-fiction, everything is welcome and so are the people who write it. Philadelphia is diverse enough that there are writers here of so many different stripes, shapes, and color that you really feel like you’re part of something bigger. And while I can’t speak from personal experience about any of the other regions, I know that every ML is tasked with being warm, welcoming, and encouraging to everyone who comes to our events or finds themselves on our online community forums.

Every single person I’ve met – whether it be at the Kick-off party before the writing starts, at the write-ins where everyone brings laptops and notebooks, or at the TGIO (Thank Goodness It’s Over) where we round table how the month went and what we hope to do different next year – has been someone with an idea in their head that they felt the need to get out onto paper. It’s an amazing kind of creative energy to be around.

That all said, the reason for this post is the fact that it’s July, which means it’s Camp NaNoWriMo. Camp happens twice a year, and is basically NaNoWriMo Light – you can set your own word count and can be as ambitious or as modest as you need. For all it’s flaws, and the fact that many people have life interfere before they reach their goals, NaNo spreads encouragement freely and gets people creating. The camps are, I would argue, even more effective at it because everyone’s writing goals are tailored by their own ambitions. There are fewer in-person gatherings, but the cabins and the forums are open, letting you connect with other writers who are participating. There are also tools for keeping track of your word count, with an eye firmly focused on your writing goal, and places for you to fill in detail about your story and post an excerpt to get people interested in your writing.

The website to get more info is http://campnanowrimo.org/. I’ll likely do another post on all this before November, since I’ll be giving a NaNo Prep workshop in October (date TBA) and all the planning I do usually makes for at least a blog topic or two. Be aware that your mileage may vary, but if you’ve never done it, give it a try. There are lots of interesting motivational blog posts and videos put together by NaNo HQ, and on twitter there are word-sprint challenges to get your creative juices flowing. You can be as active or as orbital as you want, which is another one of the great things about the community as a whole.

For more about the main event, and to find your local region, check out http://nanowrimo.org

Have you ever participated in NaNoWriMo? Do you like the idea of in-person writer events? Do you think 50,000 words in a month is an appropriate writer challenge? Have you ever been part of a writer community, and what did you think about it if so? The comments are always open.

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