life and times of angel

Camp NaNoWriMo: A Study in Caffeine, Post-Its and (in)Sanity

Since 2006, I have embarked upon a quest of sheer terror, armed only with my wits, a healthy dose of panic and writing implements. Yes, dear readers, I am a NaNoWriMo veteran. Every November, I buckle down to attempt a 50,000 word story within 30 days for no prize other than the satisfaction of knowing that I wrote a novel. Success eluded me for quite some time, before I actually managed to finish a story last year.

Normally, I would be happy to allow myself a full 365 days to bask in that glory. But if the world’s ending this year, I might as well push myself to the furthest reaches of sanity and do NaNo not once, but twice.

Camp NaNoWriMo is tailored to those people who are unable, for one reason or another, to devote November to writing. It’s set over the course of two months, July and August, and you’re free to pick either to be your writing month. I’d initially planned to participate in July, but real life just doesn’t like it when I try to let the writing take over. August and its myriad opportunities for inspiration is definitely going to be a fun time to try this new project out.

And what a project it’s going to be–I don’t think I’ve ever been as prepared for NaNo as I am this year. After I decided in June that I would participate, I’ve been planning out my approach.

In the interest of taking “the road less traveled” so to speak,  I’m choosing to write my NaNovel out in a notebook, specifically a beautiful Moleskine. I’ve been saving it for a year now, and I like the premise I came up with for Camp NaNo enough to use it for this purpose. My writing implements betray my love of colours–I like writing out notes and changes in different colours to make revisions easier. Sticky notes are a staple of my writing process as well, and I’m madly in love with the London stickies that I found last week at Chapters. This year, I’m using coloured flags to mark off parts of the story that I might want to rewrite after NaNo/important events in the story. And of course, a highlighter to help me identify character traits as I write, for continuity purposes.

But as much as stickies, pens and pretty notebooks can support one while writing, inspiration and determination play key roles in getting one through the 30 days of mad writing. I have a few things I stick on my desk/in my notebook to remind me why I love writing during those difficult days. My favourite is a handwritten note on the back of a NaNo sticker from Chris Baty himself. When Chris tells you to do something, you march back and–okay, let’s be real. You scowl, shuffle reluctantly back to the notebook or laptop and push those words out into the world with very little confidence.

Six years of NaNo hasn’t shown me that it gets easier with time. In fact, it gets even harder sometimes (“Oh dear God, why did I do this to myself AGAIN?!”).  But there’s no easy way to write a novel, and there’s no easy way to be a writer. NaNoWriMo might be challenging, but it’s also ridiculously fun, and that’s what writing should be.


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16 replies »

  1. I only won it my first year, when I was still living in Japan…most likely because I had a LOT of down time at work. I’m a slower writer because I don’t like to write down words I *know* I’ll throw away or cheat by giving a character three names or something.

    I was reading Marissa’s entry about NaNo the other day and it got me thinking. If I’m a really good girl right now and finish the Bane of my Existence despite the fact that it’s contemporary (and, er, I keep quitting…), I can treat myself to being allowed to begin writing fantasy in November. I think that’s a nice goal to motivate me, yes?

    I forget, are we NaNo buddies?

    • You should definitely write some fantasy in November! Coming up with an entirely new world will add in lots of extra words for the WIP. And no, I don’t think we’re NaNo buddies yet! Shall DM you my username on Twitter 😀

  2. I’m doing this too!!! I’ve participated in the regular NaNo for about 5ish years and I’ve only won once, but I’m gonna rock Camp NaNo…I hope 🙂

  3. I finally did NaNo for the first time last Nov. Then I was crazy enough to take on June camp (as a rebel doing a rewrite) and now I’m doing it again for August (only got halfway through the rewrite). 3 months devoted to a single novel. I must be crazy.
    Have fun with all your pretty pens. I don’t think my hands would let me handwrite on that scale anymore…

  4. I want to try physically writing out a story, but for Nano with the whole word count thing it makes it difficult because…word count verification and stuff…

  5. I started my Camp NaNoWriMo story in a beautiful Moleskine notebook this year, too. But now I switched over to computer because I type so much faster so I can get down my thoughts so much quicker. But I still keep the notebook and carry it with me all the time because it’s a great way to get some words down when inspiration strikes while you’re on the road.
    Originally, I had planned to finish my NaNoWriMo story from 2010 (because a) although I reached 50k in time, the story never reached its ending and b) I gave up on NaNoWriMo 2011 after Day 4 or something) but now I came up with a totally new idea, so I guess the other thing will have to wait until November… 🙂

    Good luck to everyone! And keep writing!

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