You’re probably familiar with National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo. This is a challenge for writers who want to complete a novel but often don’t have the time. NaNo challenges you to write a novel (defined as 50,000 words) in thirty days.
That’s the “traditional” form of NaNo. Lots of people do more non-traditional challenges—such as editing their novel or writing something shorter or longer. You’re also not supposed to work on something you already have underway—you’re supposed to start fresh.
NaNoWriMo happens in November, but the organization has grown to hold two more annual events, known as “Camp.”
What Is Camp NaNoWriMo?
Camp NaNoWriMo events happen twice a year, and they grew out of the popularity of the original event in November. November is still the “big” one—it’s the only one known as NaNoWriMo. Camp events happen twice annually, in April and July.
Camp is much less formal than NaNoWriMo, although all the events are really “at your own pace.” The two Camp NaNoWriMo events encourage participants to throw rules to the wind.
That means you can do the 50k in thirty days challenge, but you can also choose to do almost anything. Working on shorter projects or editing is fair game for Camp, whereas that’s considered being “rebellious” in November.
Camp also doesn’t discourage working on already underway-projects. In short, Camp is really up to you. Goals and rules are a lot more flexible during the two camp events.
Some people absolutely stick with the NaNoWriMo format for the camp events. Others are much more rebellious. And plenty of people don’t bother participating in either April or July.
I’ve Done Camps Before
I’ve definitely participated in both NaNoWriMo itself and camp events in both April and July. While I’m a fairly speedy writer—50k in a month isn’t exactly a problem—I don’t mind the “challenge” aspect of them.
For the most part, I like sticking with the traditional NaNoWriMo format. I’ve played with goals in the past, working on more than one project, using the opportunity to work on existing projects, or otherwise “rebelling,” but I often have the goal of “finishing this damn draft”—which often sticks to the “write a novel in thirty days” goal.
I’ve not been great about actually completing Camp or NaNoWriMo in the last few years. While the events have helped me in the past, and they’re a great way to encourage writers to be more social, I usually start out with great aspirations.
Then partway through, I have to pull.
November last year was not great for me in terms of my mental health. There was a lot going on; while I’m doing better now, I am still wrestling with whether it’s worth my time to keep publishing in this environment.
In short: it’s a tough, unrewarding environment which is only becoming more challenging. And that makes it tough to stay motivated.
What Goes Wrong?
I’m okay with publishing being a loss-leader. But fuck if it’s not draining sometimes. You pour months of time and effort into a book, for what feels like crickets sometimes.
So, it can be tough to keep perspective, and the current environment is making that even harder to do.
I’ve struggled with burn out in the past, so it’s something I have to watch very carefully. (Some folks suggests it takes years to recover from burn out. That means if you’ve burnt out once, you remain at high risk of relapse, possibly for decades.)
I’ve tried to keep that in mind when it comes to stuff like Camp NaNoWriMo and even NaNo proper. If completing this goal is going to destroy me, then why am I doing it? Why am I jumping through these hoops for something that’s supposed to be “fun”?
So, I’ve been a lot more willing to pull from NaNo events in the last couple of years. Which is a good thing—it shows I’m learning from my past mistakes.
This can make me a bit … haphazard, sure. But it makes me a lot happier, and if I’m writing for fun, why am I doing anything that’s making me miserable?
And that’s where I’ve had to pull my NaNo goals in the past few years: it just wasn’t working. I was making myself miserable, and there’s just no point in that.
I Was Writing Pretty Well in Early 2023
That leads me to my decision on the most recent Camp NaNoWriMo event. As April approached, I decided I wasn’t even going to try.
As I said, I can be a pretty speedy writer when I want to be—I’ve definitely written 100k or 85k in a month in the past. Provided the inspiration is there, I can crank words. (Time is also a huge help, but when the writing is going well, it’s often less of a concern.)
In fact, I’ve been cranking words pretty well recently—I wrote a 50k manuscript in January, have clocked nearly 60k on another since January, and I wrote nearly 30k on yet another manuscript last month, in addition to mucking around with some short stories and writing these blogs, which average around 2,000 words each.
In short: I’ve written somewhere in the vicinity of 180,000 words since the year kicked off, or around 45,000 words a month on average. A 50k novel in thirty days doesn’t really scare me; I know I can get that many words out. The question is whether I can net it all on one project or if it’s divvied up.
Camp NaNoWriMo Adds Pressure
Camp creates a kind of external pressure that doesn’t need to exist. Some people absolutely hate NaNo for that reason—and it’s valid. They’re not the sort of people who are motivated by time-based goals. In fact, they might wilt under that kind of pressure. Normally, I’m motivated by them, but when push comes to shove, something has to give—and NaNo is not an “important” goal in a lot of ways.
Like, yeah, doing it is fun, participating is great, and I like completing drafts. Don’t get me wrong on that.
There’s the whole hierarchy of human needs. Camp goals can’t be a concern unless I’m fulfilling those needs at the bottom of the pyramid. At least, that’s how it is for me.
So, I looked at Camp this year and said “I don’t need that pressure.” It’s an optional stressor—why bother taking it on?
I Already Had Enough Stressors
I’ve mentioned this before, but I’m getting married in early May. I already work a 60-hour a week job, in addition to being the “primary” homemaker. Since January, I’ve been doing more, as my partner took on another job. (Despite that, I am also still the breadwinner, so yay!)
My partner is not a details person; I am, so leaving it to him was not an option. I’d just be more stressed, because the entire operation would be disorganized. I probably would have swept in to deal with it at some point, just for my own peace of mind.
So, I figured April was going to be busy. I’m planning to be away for most of May, so there’s also the fact I’ve needed to prep the business for that. April’s been a bit of a mess on the work front anyway.
April is also a huge month on the social front; it is Birthday Season in my family. It got to the point where we just do one huge combined birthday celebration, because we were doing birthdays every bloody weekend. (There’s my dad, my brother, my cousin, my uncle, my aunt, my niece, and my other niece.) Now add Easter on top of that. Oh, and a photoshoot. And wedding deadlines.
So, work’s a mess, my social calendar is crammed, and I’m looking at not just Camp but all my publishing activities like “… no.”
Finally: Rare Flower
Add to all of this disaster mix that Editor and I finally got Rare Flower moving again.
Why not just make editing Rare Flower my Camp NaNoWriMo project then?
I didn’t want to put pressure on myself to get them done. I knew it was going to be a pretty involved revision session. There was quite a bit to do. In fact, even with the book in pages now, I’m anticipating there will still be more to do.
It’s had a pretty troubled history. It was actually my April Camp NaNoWriMo project for a couple of years in a row. This would have been its third year, which would actually be kind of fitting.
In 2021, I began drafting the book. It underwent a couple of mutations before I finally set it aside. In 2022, I picked it back up, with the intention of creating a final draft. I definitely got closer, but I still worked on it in July last year as well, before I finally sent it to Editor and it got stuck in a void.
So I wasn’t surprised it needed further revision, not at all. I do think it’s a much better book with a stronger story. I also shoved the pub date back to September this year, because I knew it was A Problem book, and I wanted to give it time.
That’s why I didn’t want to make it my Camp project for April. That puts pressure on it, a timeline, a deadline—and this book just doesn’t do deadlines and timelines.
The good news? I have the book in pages and I’m taking it to Rome with me for proofing.
What about Camp NaNoWriMo in July?
I might try Camp in July, but we’ll see. The wedding stuff will all be behind me, which is lovely. But from about May through to October is “busy season” at my house. My partner’s career kicks into high gear. With him working a new job as well, we’ll see what the balance looks like.
Summer also gets busy for me, often with a mix of social events, travel, and my job. (Summer is often super busy in publishing!) My own books are often layered on top of that, so in summer my writing time often declines, as I’m knee-deep in editing, typesetting, and proofreading for books coming out.
So, Camp in July seems much more feasible, but I’m not sure. I know, at that point, I’ll have some more books I’m working on in other capacities—editing and proofing and such—so I may not think there’s time to do a “Camp” project, no matter how I want to define it.
I do want to keep writing and get back to writing, and I think my publishing activities are going to pick up in the coming months—I’m hoping to have a string of good news for you readers, and I want to keep writing so I can keep the good news machine going.
But we’ll have to see when July rolls around—maybe Camp NaNoWriMo is in the cards then. It definitely wasn’t in April, and I think I made the right decision.