Okay, so maybe my first couple of days at writer’s boot camp–cleverly disguised as an idyllic online summer camp, with cabins and marshmallows and a lake–didn’t start off with a bang. But it wasn’t exactly a whimper, either.
For those who may not be familiar with Camp NaNoWriMo, it’s a one-month virtual writer’s marathon held each April and July. It is related to the larger annual National Novel Writing Month in November, where you have 30 days to write 50,000 words. (That’s 1666 per day–notice anything ominous about those last 3 digits?)
Here’s a clever, adorable map created by our Chick friend and writer Tammy Barker. I have it up in my office for inspiration (thank you so much for sharing it with us, @Hestia_Athena!)
(Art credit: Tammy Barker)
Every night after Taps (you can hum it to yourself), campers post their word counts for the day. And unless you specified a preference for a private cabin, you’re sharing a bunkhouse with up to 19 other writers. Cabinmates share cheers and group sprints and write-ins—and there’s always plenty of encouragement for those campers who have a little (ahem) trouble getting started…or keeping up the frantic pace.
Camp NaNoWriMo isn’t supposed to be stressful, of course. It’s fun as well as productive. Writers pick their own word count goals and set their own writing schedules. They can write at the crack of dawn (noooo, thank you, rooster fans) or anytime until the stroke of midnight. On Day One, I was so busy at work that I didn’t sit down to the keyboard until almost 11 pm. So I fudged the cut-off time a little and wrote til 1:30 am. My very understanding fellow Chick, Marla, assured me that wasn’t cheating, really. I did get in about a thousand words—just 666 or so short. Hmm…
Day 2 was pretty much a repeat of Day 1 (Note to self: Fourth of July Weekend is NOT a relaxing holiday in the real estate biz). And that night I was off to the fireworks (see, that’s where the bang comes in!) with my long-suffering word-widower (that’s the male equivalent of “golf widow” for writers’ spouses). I thought a beer and chocolate ice cream might help boost my productivity when I got home. I was wrong. But the point is: DON’T EVER GIVE UP!!!!!
The word count is cumulative, so you can write however many words you want each day. But by the time July 31st rolls around (and it comes up fast, trust me), you have 50,000 words toward a spanking new manuscript. That’s a pretty decent chunk, if you ask me. You might need to collapse and take the month of August off, though.
Oh, and there’s another incentive, too: In addition to cute badges you can earn (yep, former Girl Scout here), there’s a little target graphic with an arrow that moves closer toward the bullseye as you progress. As it happens, my favorite activity at actual summer camp (next to reading my way through the Nancy Drew library) was Archery. I’m not Katniss or actress-turned-Olympian Geena Davis, but I might work a quiver full of arrows into a murder mystery sometime. That’s me on the far right.
So now it’s Day Three– time to get back to the keyboard and try to catch up. Today my Chick cabinmate Cynthia and I are going to try to pound out as many words as Keenan, the fastest writer in our cabin. If all else fails, we may just short sheet her bed.
Anyone else out there at writer’s camp this summer? Let us know–or share a fun camp story!