Camp NaNoWriMo – or how a pantser became a planner

I started “Prodigy” right on time for April’s Camp NaNoWriMo. If you’ve never heard of it: NaNoWriMo started off in the USA and originally aimed at getting people to commit to writing 50.000 words in one month (NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel Writing Month). The original NaNoWriMo still runs every year in November. It still has the 50,000 word target and it’s very much a fight you fight on your own.

For a few years, they have also started offering Camp NaNoWriMo, which has a social aspect as you end up in a chatroom (called your “cabin”) with 19 other people who also try their hands at writing and you can suffer together. Or complain about how horrible it is to write when your cat is sitting on your keyboard. Or share your devastation over writer’s block. It also has a much more loosely set aim. You can choose your own goal and you can either commit to work for a certain amount of hours each day or write a certain amount of words or a certain amount of pages. You can also choose whether you are writing or editing your stuff.

NaNoWriMo always struck me as too strict. But I decided to try Camp and set my goal to 30,000 words. I have always been a pantser. I had a vague idea for a story, then sat down and started writing it. From the beginning. And somewhere in the middle, I’d get stuck. Always. With Camp being limited to a month, I needed to up my game, so I got my hands on the “One Page Novel Spreadsheet” and several character sheets and worldbuilding spreadsheets and plotted out my whole story in about three days. Afterwards I followed the numbers on the spreadsheet which meant I wrote out of order for the first time in my life. And it worked. It worked so incredibly well!

What didn’t work half as well was the communication in my cabin. People introduced themselves, then vanished and never came back. Most of the people in my group never updated their word count and it felt like a very lonely place. I think the social aspect could be great if there are enough dedicated and enthusiastic people around to talk to, but for me, it was a lonely journey.

Would I recommend doing Camp or NaNoWriMo? Wholeheartedly! Because it forces you out of your comfort zone! It forces you to just get the damn thing written! It challenges you to push your boundaries! And it helped me to find out how much better and faster I could write with a little bit of preparation.

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