It’s the end of April, and I’ve just finished ‘Camp Nanowrimo’.

It’s hard to describe what Nanowrimo is all about. You just need to sign up and have a go. This is how it is described on their website:  “National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) is a fun, seat-of-your-pants approach to creative writing. On November 1, participants begin working towards the goal of writing a 50,000-word novel by 11:59 PM on November 30.Valuing enthusiasm, determination, and a deadline, NaNoWriMo is for anyone who has ever thought about writing a novel.”

It was from a writers’ group in Inverness that I first heard about Nanowrimo, and it sounded fun. You join up with a worldwide group of enthusiastic writers, all committed to putting as many words on the page as possible in one month, but the aim is to equal or exceed 50,000 words

The first year I tried I got to about 24,000 words before I realised that I didn’t know where I was going with that book, and abandoned the attempt. However those 24,000 words were not wasted – the idea would not go away and eventually I picked it up again and reworked it. I’ve now completed a full second draft of that book – Albatross.

Next year I was ready. I spent most of October doing a detailed plan for the book, and so on 1st November I was itching to start. After that it was 1,666 words a day. Boy was that hard. But I persevered, and by the end of the month, despite illnesses, family crises, long journeys – all sorts of obstacles – I had “won” and I had my 50,000 words. They were rough. They were patchy in places. But it was something to work with. Having 50k of rough words is so much better than having nothing to work with. By June the following year I had re-written, edited and polished those words and I now had a completed 78,000 word novel – Tombstone.

Once you have “won” Nanowrimo, you can join in other events, one of which is the April camp. This is slightly different in that you set your own goals. You are also invited to imagine you are camping out, writing, and so you join in cabins with other writers. You can choose your bunk mates, be assigned to random strangers, or ask to be bunked up with particular types of people (for instance other YA writers). Then you can chat to your cabin mates, and encourage each other. The goals for the cabin are added together so you are contributing to a cabin target as well as your own.

I set myself the slightly ridiculous target of 70,000. I was hoping to re-write an existing novel, and thought that was entirely possible, as it was not going to be “new words”. However, once I started, I discovered that I was going off in an entirely new direction, and was indeed writing “new words.” I only achieved 58,000 words. What am I saying – only? To me that was fantastic, and would not have happened without those targets.

So Nanowrimo is great if you are the kind of person who loves targets. And which writer  doesn’t? If you could go from nothing to first draft in a month, wouldn’t you be pleased? And you do it along side a whole bunch of friendly, enthusiastic writers. What’s not to like?




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