My first week at writers boot camp—cleverly disguised as an idyllic online summer camp, with cabins and marshmallows and even a lake—started off with a bang. But now, as I find myself thousands of words behind on my new manuscript at the end of Week Two, it’s turned into something more like a whimper. But I’m not discouraged. No sirree Bob!
For those who may not be familiar with Camp NaNoWriMo, it’s a one-month virtual writers marathon held each April and July. It’s related to the larger annual National Novel Writing Month in November, where you have thirty days to write 50,000 words. (That’s 1666 per day—notice anything ominous about those last three digits?) In the camp version, you can set your own goals, but I thought it would be inspiring to go for a midsummer Five-Oh-Thousand. Was that a mistake? Well, maybe. But when the writing gets tough, the tough get going, right? (Answer: Yes. Straight to the fridge for an ice cream break.)
Every night after Taps (you just 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 furious pace.
Camp NaNoWriMo isn’t supposed to be stressful, of course. It’s fun as well as productive. In addition to picking your own word count, you can set your own writing schedule. You can write at the crack of dawn (nooo, thank you, rooster fans) or anytime until the stroke of midnight. Some days, between my day job and procrastinating in just about whatever way I can think of, I don’t sit down to the keyboard until almost 11 pm. So I have to fudge the cut-off time just a teensy bit and write til the wee hours of the next morning. My cabinmates agreed that wasn’t cheating, really. The first day I only got in a thousand words—just 666 short. Hmm…(via Giphy)
Luckily, the word count is cumulative, so you can write however many words you want each day. And by the time July 31st rolls around (it comes up fast, trust me), you have a pretty decent chunk of a brand new, spanking manuscript. You might need to collapse and take the month of August off, of course, but at least you’ll have bragging rights.
There’s another incentive, too: In addition to nifty badges you can earn (yep, former Girl Scout here), there’s a little target graphic with an arrow that moves closer and closer toward the bullseye to show your outstanding 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 from the Hunger Games or actress/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 Week Three—time to glom myself to the keyboard and attempt to catch up on that elusive word count. The important thing is DON’T EVER GIVE UP!!!! Today my cabinmates and I are going to try to pound out as many words as the fastest writer in camp. If all else fails, we may just short sheet her bed.
Anyone else out there at writers camp this summer? Let us know—or share your favorite camp memory!