Thursday, June 16, 2011

Camp NaNoWriMo (and why you don't have to wait)

There's been a lot of discussion lately about Camp NaNoWriMo - a summer camp version of National Novel Writing Month (which I failed spectacularly at last November due to a lot of college work and various other things flying around in my head...). The details are still sketchy, but from what I can gather, here's what we've got so far:
  • There will be a new site for the camp experience.
  • The challenge isn't set in stone to 50,000 in 30 days, like NaNoWriMo normally is; the exact words I've read are, "It's not limited to months with 30 days, I'll tell you that much." I gather from that that rather than the event being a month long challenge, it's a summer challenge. You stick around for as long as you want. You don't just pop along for a month and then go away until November (or do two months in a row...). But like I said, it's not set in stone.
  • There is no free printed copy of your book when you "win"; the sponsors have to offer that, and so far they haven't.
So, that's what we know about Camp NaNoWriMo. That's not why I'm writing, today, though. No, I'm writing to discourage people from waiting for the event to start before they write. They can squeeze 50,000 words out in a month, right? So why not keep writing throughout the year? Why do people need the site to keep writing?

They like the community experience, right?

They like the way the website keeps track of their novel as they go along?

So why not just do that themselves? There are these new things called Blogger, Wordpress, Twitter and Facebook that allow people to tell their friends how they're doing. People want a community? There are loads there. There are writing forums dedicated to regular people writing whatever they want. I ran one for two years. Last summer I wrote about 60,000 words. I didn't need NaNoWriMo to get me to do that. I just wrote, and I posted stuff on Facebook to say how I was doing.

This summer? Well, I'm not waiting for Camp NaNoWriMo. I've already started to write a book, and I'm enjoying it. If I finish it in time to "go to Camp", then I will. But I won't organise when I write around a single time of the year. And do you know why? Because I like writing. I like to do whenever I feel like it, and not just as part of some challenge. My first and third novels that I completed were done outside of NaNoWriMo. My novellas were written last summer. My current book is being written despite Camp NaNoWriMo on the horizon.

And you know what? I'm not the only one who writes like this. I'm not the only person who writes because they enjoy to write, and who does it whenever they get the time, not when a website tells me to. One of my college friends texted me the other day to say she'd stayed up all night writing half her book. Darren Shan, popular children's author, writes a minimum of ten pages a day. Most authors on the bookshelves all around the world wrote their books when they wanted to, when they had the time, and not when a website told them to write. If everyone waited to write then, then there wouldn't be so many books in the world.

I'm not downplaying the importance of NaNoWriMo, of course. I'll still enter, if I find my time not-so-consumed this year. I'll do my best to write a book in a month, like everyone else. And that'll be for the fun, for the competition. But that doesn't mean I'll stop writing once NaNoWriMo is done, never to write for the next eleven months until it starts again. No, when I stop writing after NaNoWriMo, it'll be because I'm preparing stuff for teaching practice and putting the finishing touches on my final assignments for the semester. But once I'm free of all that work, I'll be writing away again. It's my hobby, all year 'round. And, you know, hopefully it'll be my job. Most people don't just work for a single month, then edit a few months later, then call it a day. Most writers can't afford to do that. They have to write continuously just to buy food to put on their tables.

Write for fun, all the time. Sell for money whenever you can. Don't get trapped in a cycle of writing and editing whenever a website tells you to. But, if you must, take advantage of the encouragement to get the writing done. It's still a worthwhile task, so long as it's not your only one.


jesse said...

"And you know what? I'm not the only one who writes like this. I'm not the only person who writes because they enjoy to write, and who does it whenever they get the time, not when a website tells me to."

I think this is a bit condescending toward the people who do nanowrimo. I've encountered this attitude before. I think I understand it, but I also think it disregards the fact that other people are different then you. You could be saying 'write now, write anytime, always.' in a motivational manner. Instead you imply that these people are letting a website control their lives.

I love writing, I enjoy doing it. Yet, I don't do it. I start and then don't keep going. I forget and feel guilty. I write from time to time but apart from nanowrimo I haven't managed to commit to a sustained project. Nanowrimo is fun and exciting, and it taught me a huge amount about writing and character development. I thrive in a structured environment. I'm not good at setting my own goals. This is why, in spite of the fact that I love it, I will never be a successful writer. Not to say that everyone does Nanowrimo for this reason, but don't imagine that everyone is like you.

Paul Carroll said...

Okay... wow. Um, hi Jesse. Didn't mean to sound condescending. You pretty much summed up what I'd meant with your 'write now, write anytime, always' point.

Yes, other people are different than me. I think I learned that a long time ago, in many areas of life. However, when it comes to writing, I failed to make the distinction between people who write for pleasure and people who want to write for a living. That's what I'm definitely missing in this post. What makes only writing when NaNo says so a bad thing is when you plan on making a living from writing. So, people who are like me - or more successful - couldn't get away with only writing during NaNoWriMo, because they'd need to do a lot more work throughout the rest of the year.

I hope you don't think I was putting NaNoWriMo down, though. I love NaNo, because it gives that extra encouragement to get people to write and, like you've said, sets them a goal they can't do themselves (for whatever reason). And I have to admit, it taught me a lot about writing that, despite having written a lot of stuff before my first attempt at NaNoWriMo, I hadn't picked up along the way. Pacing, for instance... (If I showed you my first NaNo novel compared to the first book I ever wrote, the difference might just kill you... not literally.)

Anyway, I hope that's cleared the air a bit. You're perfectly right in pointing out those things, so I thank you very much for the comment. Sorry if I offended you in any way with my somewhat narrow-minded post (yes, I did just refer to my own post as somewhat narrow-minded, and no, I'm not being ironic.)

Take care,
Paul. :)

jesse said...

You didn't offend me. The word 'condescending' might have been slightly too strong. You just put me in arguing mode, but being a philosophy student that is a normal state of being.

Are you allowed to call yourself narrow-minded? I think that breaks the fourth wall. :P

Paul Carroll said...

Ha, I think I may have picked up that habit of breaking the fourth wall from Saved by the Bell and Ferris Bueller's Day Off.

Oh I get that arguing mode! It's great when the other person doesn't know how to respond!

Vikk Simmons said...

Enjoyed reading your take on the whole NaNoWriMo experience. I write all the year, too, but I enjoy the ramping up and working through the month en masse. Adds a bit of excitement to an otherwise unexciting endeavor. (Unexciting as far as involvement with others but exciting with the process).

I'm using the summer camp as planning time. A little extra push to get it done.