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Campfires, fireflies, novels, oh my!

When Camp NaNoWriMo first began (2011) I was having the time of my life working at an actual summer camp in the USA. This may not be all that impressive for any Americans reading this but as someone from the wet rock that is the UK, it was a whole new world of excitement that we just don’t have the chance to experience here! We have nothing which matches summer camps in the States. And it’s sad, really, ‘cause they’re amazing.

I remember being disappointed that I couldn’t take part in Camp NaNoWriMo the first time it opened. I briefly toyed with the idea of writing a novel whilst at camp but I very quickly learnt that wasn’t going to happen (16 hour working days most days a week with limited access to a computer, there was no way I was writing a novel!) But camp itself made up for it. And I was excited to be part of Camp NaNoWriMo this year because I couldn’t go back to regular camp and figured it would be the next best thing.

With this in mind, I armed myself with rebelling and writing some short stories for June Camp. And I bailed at just over 12K.

What I learnt very quickly, and this was backed up by other veterans who tried camp this year, is that I have subconsciously trained my brain to only write novels in November. I have in fact completely trained it to do certain things with regards to a novel from around June onwards. In June/July I come up with an idea, then spend the summer letting is simmer and around August/September I’ll get a main character’s name and a title. As an experienced pantser, this is my “planning” for November and then I’ll hammer out a novel from November 1st. And because of this training, writing anything of length and at speed in June just didn’t happen. I really and truly struggled for the first time in 10 years. It was a strange experience but I enjoyed trying. Unfortunately, I have no ideas for August and so will not be trying camp again this year. I have some other projects to work on.

In the short time I did Camp NaNoWriMo, I did pick up some things though:
–           If you are a veteran NaNo-er, camp will probably be very hard (see above).
–           Camp is different to NaNo in that the number of participants is considerably lower. Just be aware of that, if you’re used to the bigger event in November.
–           Make friends with your cabin. Check in daily just to update your word count or just to encourage your cabinmates! They are your camp family and your immediate support circle.
–           Use the Camp NaNoWriMo section of the forum for support outside of your cabin. It’s just like the NaNoWriMo forums! Only a smaller and cosier section.
–           Set up virtual write-ins with your cabinmates if you can. Unless you’re lucky, it’s unlikely you’ll find official NaNo write-ins for camp and if you find it difficult keeping up momentum without regular meetings, virtual write-ins are the way to go.
–           Camp word count bar is an archery target! This means the bow edges nearer to the centre with every word count update. As someone who failed to get a real bow anywhere near a real target at real camp last year, I can tell you that watching the virtual arrow move is quite exciting! But to get it to move, you need to be writing.

If you have never tried NaNoWriMo before and this is your first time:
–           Write.
–           Keep writing.
–           Don’t look back. (i.e. Don’t edit. At all. Editing is banned for August.)
–           See the above hints.
–           Above all, enjoy yourself. NaNoWriMo is a lot of fun.

And finally:
–           Camp NaNoWriMo is just a mini version of NaNoWriMo. This means there are NO losers. Whatever you achieve this month is exactly that; an achievement. And it’s something you should be proud of.

Now, who wants s’mores?

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