For people who have never heard of NaNoWriMo both the concept and title are slightly WTF?
Firstly, NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel Writing Month and Camp NaNoWriMo is an off shoot of that. In basic terms, NaNoWriMo is when a bunch of people decide to write 50 000 words in the space of a month. Voluntarily. It happens every November so you have the build up to Christmas. If you are American you also have Thanksgiving to throw into the mix as well. People can take it pretty seriously and often use it to write a first draft for their novel with some going on to publication down the track. It can be tense with people going from excitement at the beginning to “I can’t do it” at the half way point and then amazement at finishing, even if writing 50 000 words hasn’t been achieved.
There is a lot of support along the way from the NaNoWriMo HQ as well as other Wrimo’s around the world.
Camp NaNoWriMo on the other hand is much more relaxed. There are two camp dates, one in April and one in July and they both last the month. Once you have signed up you set your own word count goal and then get assigned a cabin. You can be put into a cabin with up to 11 randoms or create a private cabin/be invited to one. You then get a private chat area for you and your bunk mates. It is entirely up to you how much you interact with each other.
It is important to note that you can opt out of being in a cabin if you wish. You’ll still get support from HQ but I think doing so is missing the importance of camp, support from other writers. It’s people who are trying to do the same thing you are, carving out time to complete their manuscript. There are the forums to talk to other people, but your bunk mates are there especially for you and HQ has picked them with that in mind.
Successfully writing 50 000 words in NaNoWriMo is known as winning and you get to print out a certificate at the end. Which is awesome. You also get to print a certificate if you reach your word count at camp. That is also awesome. Both also have graphs that show you your progress, great for times when you feel like you’re getting nowhere.
NaNoWriMo is great for creating discipline, 1667 words a day will get you to your goal and this is pretty much drummed into you. At camp you go as fast or as slow as you like. I think of it as NaNoWriMo is a marathon, you need to pace yourself, while camp is more along the lines of a morning run. Habit forming if kept up and possible to get better at with practice.
So which one is better? Personally I like both for two reasons. NaNoWriMo, in my experience, is great for getting that first draft completed while camp is excellent for revising and editing. So both have their place, but the important part is that you write everyday and form that habit. And that is exactly what I plan to do this July, a final edit of A Balance of Secrets, keeping that writing habit strong. Bring on the toasted marshmallows and camp fire!