Camp NaNoWriMo – over 70,000 words!

22 Jun

I crossed 70k today, and I am a happy camper (literally!)! This wasn’t one of those days where the words flowed and I wrote my 3500 in an hour or two. This was the day when I got a hundred emails, my kids wanted to talk to me, I had the munchies, it was sunny and I was enjoying the view in my sunroom, I was daydreaming about the beach, I checked the news every thirty minutes in case some catastrophic world event happened and I didn’t know about it instantaneously… And, of course, it was possible that all of my Facebook friends had glad Friday tidings that I needed to know about asap. Seriously, this is what happened.

But I did get my 3400+ words written in about three hours, and just updated my Camp NaNoWriMo word count. I also found, much to my surprise, that someone in my cabin had posted yesterday. Since it had been 10 days since anyone but me had, I hadn’t even checked yesterday. Go figure! We still have a cabin that’s dead as a doornail, and if the camp is depending on us for any camp-like activities, everyone else is going to be sorely disappointed. But it was nice to know that someone was still hanging in there, anyway.

So the best things about Camp NaNo?

  • A deadline hanging over my head
  • Watching people meet their goals
  • Reading all the encouragement someone gets if they start a “desperate writer” thread – we are all cheering for each other, even with the summer camp more relaxed feel
  • the idea of the cabins

The things that are not as great as in November?

  • The reality of cabins. We don’t have cabins in November, but our region rocks.
  • No regional component
  • Not a lot of actual conversation on the forums, just a lot of posting (like Twitter)
  • The days are so nice it’s hard to want to be inside – in November it’s pretty easy!

But the NaNo format works for me, as I’ve said before. I have always been a “project” person. I don’t just clean out the pantry, I take a 3lb hammer, demolish it, and build it back. I don’t just clean my office, I go through boxes of papers and put up shelving and redecorate. (Consequently, things get done rather sporadically, rather than regularly!) NaNo is like that – if you’re a project person, or like an adrenaline rush, it’s fabulous. If you write fast on top of those things, it’s tailor made for you. However, if you are a ponderer, if you like to mull over word choices, if you type slowly or find your comfort zone more in the 800-1000 words a day, then NaNo isn’t for you AS IT’S DESIGNED. BUT, and hear me out, consider joining as a rebel.

What is a NaNo rebel, you ask? Well, you can do a lot of things and be considered a rebel (I’m kind of list happy tonight, sorry):

  • Write 50k words, but something other than a novel (ie a memoir, fan fiction, non-fiction)
  • Write on a WIP (work in progress) rather than an original-to-this-NaNo novel
  • Write a screenplay, or other Script Frenzy type work, which will be shorter than 50k but complete – stage play, graphic novel, tv series episodes, etc
  • Set a goal lower than 50k

Now, in November, most rebels fall into the top 3 in the list above. In November you have over 250,000 people engaging in “30 days and nights of literary abandon” and for the most part they’re working to the 50k or completed work goals. But for the Camps, a lot of people have set lower goals of 10,000 or 25,000 or whatever they think they can fit into the summer month where the weather is nice and the kids are out of school, or they themselves are out of school (there are a lot of teens doing Camp NaNo).  And you know what? That 10,000 or 25,000 is more than they had when they started. So what if it’s not 50k, they wrote something.

There are a good number of criticisms on the internet about NaNo, and I have to say that I find them discouraging when they come from other writers. The single biggest one reminds me of the single biggest comment we get as homeschoolers. That is, “What about socialization?” My kids call it the “s word”. And that is possibly the stupidest question to ever ask of a homeschooling family (helpful hint there), because homeschool kids tend to be highly involved in activities they like, tend to be incredibly comfortable talking to people of all ages, and tend to have much less issues with the typical teen stuff than other kids.

OK, so what is the NaNo equivalent? I read this same theme three times today, on three different sites (blogs). It is that most NaNo novels are crap. And somehow that’s a bad thing. As a commenter on one of these sites noted, most art people do, especially when they’re just learning, is crap, but nobody stands around the art supply store and says “STOP DOING THAT, YOU’RE RUINING IT FOR THE REST OF US!” (I know this to be true, as an artist who occasionally paints crap myself.) Yet somehow, rather than celebrating that people are writing, or trying to write, 50k words of a first draft, fully accepting that they will indeed write crap, and that that’s OK, people criticize.

Now first of all, and forgive my pet peeve, but what the heck does someone in Uganda writing a novel in 30 days, perhaps badly, have to do with you in the first place? For that matter, if your neighbor is a WriMo, it still has absolutely nothing to do with you. If you are a successful writer of fabulous literary fiction, it still has nothing to do with you. Zero, zip, nada. Secondly, if you are a writer, you know how hard it can be to start, especially at the beginning. Hey, you’re putting yourself onto that page, and that’s a scary thing. Plus writing a whole novel, with characters and plots and settings, is damn hard. Especially if you’re a young person without a lot of life experience. So the fact that someone started, that they may even persevere for a whole month and get those 50k words written, is cause for celebration from everybody, and most especially from other writers.

And thirdly, it seems that most non WriMos assume that everyone doing NaNoWriMo is going to try to become an indie author and self publish, somehow polluting the indie gene pool, or even worse, try to get an agent or publisher. I’ve been on the forums a lot (too much, I’m sure), and I can tell you that the vast majority of the people doing it are doing it for the challenge, for the personal satisfaction of saying they wrote the first draft of a novel, and virtually no one is talking about publishing. Sure, there are forums for “novel aftercare” and “life after NaNo”, and there are a small number of people (like me) who were experienced writers already and who produced something that, upon reading and editing, is worth publication. And sure, there are a few who have delusions of grandeur, but is that unique to NaNo?  Quite frankly, some God-awful books get published, by legacy publishers, all the time. I have a book on my nightstand, a trade paperback so it cost me probably $13-15, that’s terrible, and I just can’t finish it. So that’s not a NaNo issue, that’s a human nature issue… And guess what, it still has nothing to do with you, or any other writer out there.

Our job as writers is to write, for ourselves, for our readers, for readers we don’t have but want to reach. Perhaps our goal is the next great literary novel that will taught in colleges for years to come. Go for it! My goal is to write entertaining books with great, unique plots and characters, great dialogue, that appeals to people and gives them entertainment. I, personally, LOVE books. I am addicted to books. I have bought tens of thousands of books in my life (when we moved to this house, I gave over 3000 books to a local school’s library because we weren’t going to have room for them here). Sure, I like “quality” books – JRR Tolkein and CS Lewis and The Count of Monte Cristo and Sherlock Holmes. Some Shakespeare. Some Dostoyevsky. But what I really love, what I read over and over when I’m out of new things, are books that entertain me. (Yep, I’m admitting it!) Martha Grimes, Dick Francis, John MacDonald, Janet Evanovich, The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency books, Stephen Lawhead, James Rollins… I want good characters, I want (above almost all else) great dialogue, I want quirky or unique plots and situations. I want to read and fall into that world for awhile, and miss it when it’s gone. It doesn’t have to be a literary classic, it has to be fun.

All that to say… If NaNo gets people writing, whether it’s great or crap, they’re writing, and that’s better than what they were doing before. I feel the same way about the visual arts. I’ve been in art classes with some people with pretty much zero talent, but they had an absolute blast in the class, loved splooging paint on the paper, and whose enthusiasm was worth way more than their finished product. They got joy from it. They started to find their lost spirit of creativity. They had fun. And honestly, do we have so much of those things in our lives that we can afford to squash them in ourselves or others?

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