Camp Nanowrimo is better than Plain Old Nanowrimo

I am a huge Camp Nanowrimo fan. During Camp Nanowrimo you work in a cabin with a group of up to twelve writers for either the month of April or July. You can choose to create your own cabin and handpick writers from people you know in real life and people you’ve met from the general Nanowrimo boards. Or you can get the system to assign you randomly to a cabin based on certain criteria, like age or genre. I’ve done Camp Nano both ways in the past and both are pretty good.

There is a myth out there that Camp Nanowrimo requires you to share a physical copy of your writing so the internet can steal it forever. But that’s not true! Sharing your work is never obligatory. Even at the end when the system asks for evidence of the words you typed, you can copypasta a lorum ipsum template for the number of words required.

On the other hand, if you are looking for beta readers for your project, Camp Nano could be a great place to look! Some people in my cabin have decided to exchange their work, and, as far as I know, enjoyed the experience.

The main purpose of Camp Nano is to create a writing goal for either the Camp in April or July. Once in the cabin, you get to cheer on a group of writers as you all strive to meet your independent writing goals. It’s fun to learn about everyone’s different projects and their writing processes.

The standard Nanowrimo in November requires you to have a 50,000 word count goal. This is great if you have your life organized to start writing a novel in November, or if you tend to like to write your first drafts as quickly as possible.

For me, the November Nanowrimo rarely works. I’m either not ready to start something new in November, or worry risking carpal tunnel. Plus, it isn’t how I work. I can write 50,000 quick words no problem. And I guarantee I will have to rewrite them all as well.

Now, for Camp Nano, you don’t have to choose a 50,000 word count goal. You can choose a word count goal of your choice, which means it can be less than 50,000 words. And if you aren’t doing something measurable by word count, like planning or editing, you can choose to set a goal in either hours or minutes. Now, you can log the time you spent during the month working on your project. The versatility is great!

Also, unlike in November, Camp Nano gives you a message board in your cabin to chat to the other writers (of which there are 12 at most). This way, you get to know the people in your cabin much better than in a general message board open to everyone. You all can see each other’s project summaries and goals, and work as a group.

Plus did I mention that the Camp theme is kind of cute?

Good luck this April with meeting your Camp Nanowrimo goals!

Starting is the Hardest Part

I’ve been working on a new project. And I’m having to remind myself that it’s okay not to write it right the first time. Sometimes you have to write a project wrong to discover how to write it right. And sometimes ideas don’t come in a flash of inspiration. Sometimes they emerge slowly from a long fermentation process, bubble and burst.

Here’s a couple of things I’ve been working on as I shape my ideas and write my fledgling draft:

1) Characters need motivations. What is driving them throughout the story? What drives them through each scene? What do they want?

This applies to the main character most clearly, however minor characters also need motivations. They aren’t just a sounding board for the main character to talk to, or a nice object that takes up space in a scene. All characters need purpose.

2) Setting is basically a character too. It has personality. It contributes to the mood and atmosphere of each scene. It interacts with the characters and shapes the plot as well. If you can’t place where your characters are, you can’t place the story, and you have a bunch of characters wandering aimlessly in blank space.

Sometimes when you write a draft, you can’t fully know your characters and setting right away. Sometimes you learn about them through writing and through blocks and failures. Planning and writing a first draft requires some sort of balance between thinking hard about the players and plotting everything out, as well as giving a trial run and seeing where the writing takes you.