Camp NaNoWriMo 2020


When in January I made a huge list of things I wanted to do in 2020, I couldn’t have predicted that a pandemic would soon strike. This year up to now has both been the longest and the shortest year of my life. I usually have an ok grasp on the passing of time, but this year every week feels like a day and like three months. So about four weeks ago, I woke up feeling like it was April, but quickly realised that no, it was the first of July. Half of the year was over and I still had a book to write, according to my to do list. I decided to go camping.

“Camping?” I can hear the people who know me say, “But you hate camping!” I do. Thankfully Camp NaNoWriMo’s campground and cabins are 100% virtual. When signing up on the website, you can either join an existing cabin, or open your own cabin with friends or strangers. Due to my late registration, I decided to camp on my own this time. I also figured it fits the current state of the world, with all the self-quarantining due to Covid19.

For those wondering what NaNoWriMo stands for, it’s National Novel Writing Month. The main event, where participants write 50,000 in the month of November, started as a group of American friends (21 of them, according to lore) writing together in 1999. Throughout the years, it evolved into a national event, and then an international event. Why it’s still called NaNoWriMo and not InNoWriMo? I remember something about not wanting to lose brand recognition, already having lots of printed materials with the name on it, and the fact that NaNoWriMo just rolls of the tongue.

From 2011 on, two summer events take place every year in April and July, called Camp NaNoWriMo. You are allowed to set your own word goal during Camp, I think the suggested amount is 40,000 words. Having finished 5 NaNoWriMo’s I know exactly how many words 40,000 are: a bit less than 50,000 so a whole lot. The previous two times I partook in Camp NaNoWriMo I set a goal of 15,000 words, and I decided to do the same this time. As long as I would write at least 484 words a day, I’d be on schedule. I figured that would make for a relaxed writing experience, in so far as a writing experience can be relaxing. As some might know, I have a very difficult relationship with the writing process, so I was curious as to how things would pan out this time.

On day 1, I started off enthusiastically and wrote a lot of words. On day 2, I remembered that I actually HATE writing with every fiber of my being, and on day 3 I was on the brink of deleting everything I had written up to that point. Clearly, it all went swimmingly.

On day 9 I had written 14,052 words: I sorta kinda had a framework in which I will later place my story, and I also had some parts of the story written. It had also become clear what is still missing from the narrative, there’s things I need to decide on, and there’s stuff I need to research. This to do list ended up being about a thousand words, after which I got a certificate and this cool badge:

I love it.

How I’m going to proceed from here? Experience has taught me that the best course of action is to not look at anything I’ve written for at least 6 months. By that time I’ll have enough distance from the material and I’ll be able to decide if any of it makes any sense whatsoever. At that time I’ll decide if I’ll continue working on it, or just delete everything and forget all about it.

If it’s ever going to be published? Probably not. Getting published is a way more complex process than it seems. Questions like “Is there a market for this book?” (doubtful – ed.), “Does it fit into any of the current literary trends?” (no – ed.) and “Does the writer have a (preferably big) audience already?” (nope – ed.) come into play. On top of that, it really helps to know somebody who works at or with a publisher, as it is known that sending manuscripts out into the slush pile is a waste of printing paper and ink 99,9% of the times. Unless you’re The Next Big Literary Miracle maybe, but if I was, it’s safe to say that somebody would have figured that out by now. I’m also not going to self-publish or crowdfund my effort, as in both of those cases you need to already have a big audience/reach, and since basically only my mom reads my stuff I need to be realistic.

I understand that this raises some questions as to why I wrote the thing in the first place. Mostly because the idea for this story has been occupying space in my brain for at least the last 5 years. Now that it’s written down, I don’t have to think about it anymore, which opens up brain space for other creative thinking. It was a “I don’t want to write a book, which is why I’m writing a book, so I don’t have to write a book anymore” dynamic. *ticks “Write book” off of To Do List*