Camp NaNoWriMo: How to find an active cabin

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For those who don’t know, NaNoWriMo is an annual writing event. You can learn more about on their website here. Camp NaNoWriMo is an twice annual offshoot event featuring virtual “cabins” with up to 20 participants. Learn more here.

I’ve participated in Camp NaNoWriMo seven times now. In the past, I’ve had both cabins that were active and others that were inactive. I’ve found cabin activity critical to staying motivated.

The NaNoWriMo forms have some good tips for finding cabin mates, but today I’m sharing some things I personally have found result in an active cabin.

Disclaimer: This is only what has worked for me, and most of this post is speaking in general terms. No doubt there are exceptions, and your results may vary.

Bluejay Feather

Private cabins are more active.

The camp NaNoWriMo website allows users to choose to not get put in a cabin, get sorted with other campers based on private criteria, or create/be invited to a private cabin.

Many people who plan to participate in Camp NaNo won’t write a single word. It’s like new years resolutions. Many people don’t complete their goals. Therefore, the best bet for an active cabin is to meet other enthusiastic people on the NaNoWriMo Finding cabin mates forum.

The earlier you join a cabin the better.

Some people will join camp late. However, in general, more active people will be excited to find a cabin as soon as possible. This leads to a greater chance of more active members if you start looking early in the month.

Barriers to entry lead to more active members.

This mostly applies to those who are starting their own cabin by looking for people in the forums. The forums allow people to specify criteria for the participants they’re looking for.

By barriers to entry I mean specify certain criteria. This can be anything from an age range to a specific genre or time zone.

Specifying you’re looking for people who have done something  that requires them to have taken action at one point, like winning NaNoWriMo/Camp NaNoWriMo in a previous year, can be even more effective because it requires people to have a track record of active participation.

Just make sure these barriers to entry are not so high as to be unattainable by the majority of people because that could lead to a lack of interest.

Overestimate the number of people you want.

20 people seems like a lot, but it’s likely some people will disappear throughout the month. Yes, even following these tips. So, add more people than you think you’ll want to your cabin. This will allow you to have enough people left to stay motivated at the end of the month.

Bluejay Feather

Have you participated in Camp NaNoWriMo or NaNoWriMo? Are you participating in July? Do you have any tips?

Share your thoughts in the comments below!

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Camp NaNoWriMo Day 10: On First Drafts and Imperfection

Camp Nano Graph Day 10I mentioned in my April wrap-up that I am participating in Camp NaNoWriMo this month. If you don’t know what Camp NaNoWriMo is, but would like to find out I suggest you either read my post about the event, or visit the event’s website. The event is almost exactly a third of the way through so I thought it would be the perfect time to update blog readers on my writing process.

My current word count is 16,685 words which, as shown in my progress graph, is far ahead of my 30K word goal. I’ve thought of raising my word count goal, but decided not to. I’m keeping my original goal because my main project for this session is a rewrite that I expect to be complete at around 70,000 words, but when I started the session 35,000 of those words had already been written.

As my main goal for the month is not to write a certain number of words but to finish this draft, I want to keep my word count goal low enough that I won’t have words remaining towards my goal when the draft is finished. There is also the fact that this is the longest I’ve ever seen the whole cabin meet its overall goal and I enjoy helping to keep it that way.

It seems odd to write a post about first drafts when my focus for the event is a rewrite, but I have much more experience with my own first drafts than I do edited drafts. Like most other aspects of writing there is no wrong way to write a first draft. There are simply ways that work and ways that don’t. Perhaps the most frustrating part of all this is that some ways that work for others do not work for you. I have, however, noticed trends.

This session my Camp “cabin” is made up of twelve participants of which four including myself have finished a novel length first draft before. What I’ve noticed fairly consistently in this session, past events, and in talking with fellow writers is that those who finish something tend to be the ones who come to terms with the fact that their first draft doesn’t need to be perfect. This is not the only factor, of course, other factors include how much enthusiasm someone has for their idea and where writing fits into their priorities, but these aspects are much harder to measure than a persons tendency to go back and rewrite the first chapter fifty times before chapter two is finished.

There are plenty of successful novelists who edit while writing a first draft, and they are not wrong to do so. Most of these writers have managed to find a balance between making their writing the best it can be the first time around and getting words on paper. To finish a first draft finding finding this balance between quality and quantity is a must.

Camp Nanowrimo: April

Note: Image provided by campnanowrimo.org.

For those who don’t know November is National Novel Writing Month, better known as NaNoWriMo for short. During November writers of various skill levels from all over the world attempt the seemingly impossible– writing a novel (or at least the first 50,000 words) in a single thirty day period.

Writing 50,000 words in one month can be daunting for a number of reasons. Sometimes November is simply a busy month and work or school get in the way. Camp NaNoWriMo is the solution.

Camp is a more relaxed version of the main event in which participants can chose their own word count goals. Participants don’t have to write a novel either. There are people writing everything from scripts to memoirs to graphic novels. Feel free to edit or rewrite a novel for this event. The general rule for line edits is that an hour of editing counts for 1,000 words written according to the @nanowrimo Twitter page.

This event would not be complete without a summer camp theme. This year participants are sorted into a virtual “cabin” of twelve members. Participants can chose to be sorted randomly or chose cabin members based on the criteria of age or genre.

Cabin members receive an overall cabin word count goal and a “cabin forum” which is private to members of that specific cabin. There are also the camp forums over at nanowrimo.org which allow participants to get motivation from outside their cabin.

The next camp season starts in two days on the first of April, but it’s not two late to join. If April isn’t a good time then there is always the July session. Register at campnanowrimo.org.

The only major criteria to participate on the main site is that you must be 13 years of age or older. Under 13? No problem! Participate in the young writers version at ywp.nanowrimo.org.

Are you participating in Camp this April? Then comment below and share your experience or expectations!